We are born little mammals. Like dolphins and whales, cats and dogs, cows and horses. We birth live young who nurse at our breasts (mammary glands). Our babies are little mammals designed only to live in connection with their mammalian mothers and others. Left alone, a human baby simply cannot survive.
A baby in her mother’s womb is never hungry, thirsty, cold or alone. Her needs are met without ever needing to be expressed.
When this child is born, she will experience temperature changes, hunger, thirst, brighter lights, a dry-land environment, all for the very first time. This can be jarring and disorienting for a baby.
Soothing and familiar are Mom’s heartbeat, her smell, the voices of family and friends, warmth, skin-to-skin contact, dim or no lighting, Mom’s breast. All of this helps to re-orient a baby to her changing environment.
She may cry because something just doesn’t feel right. We often want to ‘fix’ a crying baby. And often we can. It can be as simple as a diaper change, a warm bath or a breast full of warm milk. But sometimes our crying babies can’t be ‘fixed’. They CAN be loved, nurtured, held, revered and listened to. But sometimes they just need to tell us what is going on. And we are, after all, their very closest friends.
It can be difficult to “listen” to a crying baby if you yourself have stored, unexpressed grief and sorrow that you have not allowed yourself to experience. Emotions are designed to be in motion, moving, flowing, changing like a river. Babies know this. Many adults are more like dams than rivers, with years of unexpressed, stagnant sorrow, anger or frustration tightly held and packed in. The emotions that we have not allowed ourselves to experience and set free are often the ones that we have a hard time holding space for our partners.
So what can we do if we find ourselves in this space, ill resourced to provide presence to the ones who need it most?
First, and foremost, B-R-E-A-T-H-E
Take a deep inhale through your nose. Fill your lungs full with air.
Hold this fullness for a few seconds.
Slowly, but fully, exhale, emptying all the air from your lungs.
Hold the emptiness for a few seconds.
Repeat five times.
Try this right now. Notice how you feel before and afterwards. Try it next time you feel “stuck”. Let me know what happens. Now that you have created space inside yourself, allow yourself to LISTEN. Listen to yourself, your wisest, most wonderful self. Tap in to your inner wisdom. Listen with an open heart. Be present for yourself. Be. See what happens. Watch what unfolds.
Learning to hold space for ourselves, our partners, our friends, our children, might seem difficult at first, but will soon become as easy as breathing. When we are not obsessing about “fixing” or changing what is going on, we can simply be, and witness, with graceful, loving presence.
Non-judgmental listening and presence is truly the greatest gift of love.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, which is why it is called the ‘present’.
Image Credit: Christina DeHoff