Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Consequences of Punishing for Feeling

A common aspect of punitive parenting includes wanting to mold or control the child's feelings.

Take a moment to think about scenarios where the child is punished for feeling an emotion. She might be shamed, attacked, physically hurt (spankings, slappings, pinchings, etc) or verbally hurt (teased, mocked, degraded, etc).

"Stop crying. You're okay. That clown isn't scary."

"Shut up. I don't care if you're angry. My house, my rules."

"Give Aunt Mary a kiss. She's family."

"Don't you dare growl at that man! He was just being nice."

Oh, knock off the tears. It was just a little tumble. Stop being a baby."

"What do you mean, you aren't hungry? Do you know how hard your dad works to put food on the table?"

"Get back into your bed right this second. There is nothing to be scared about."

In all of these examples, the child feels an emotion and is acting on that emotion. The parents might not want the child to express an emotion a certain way, but through accident or on purpose, the parent ends up punishing the child for feeling the emotion. The child learns that some emotions are welcome and some are prohibited. Notice that guidance on how to process, express or relieve the "offending" emotion is rarely present. The child is left with few options...repress, dismiss or detach. None of these are healthy, in addition to losing out on learning opportunities.

What are examples of unconditional parenting, where the child is guided without being punished for the underlying emotion (or want/need)?

"I hear you crying. Are you scared of the clown? Let's step into the other room to talk about this."

"You're feeling angry about my decision. Do you want to share your thoughts?" (Notice that the decision is concrete. It's not up for debate, although per your decision, it can be open for discussion. This is especially helpful w/ older children, who can learn valuable resolution and team skills that will help them in their careers and relationships).

"Aunt Mary wants to give you a kiss. No? Okay, Aunt Mary, I'm sure she'll warm up to you over time. Thank you for respecting her boundaries."

"That man looked like he was being nice to you, but you growled at him. Did something feel wrong to you? It's okay to feel worried about someone, but we don't growl at people. Next time squeeze my hand when you feel worried about someone."

"Ouch! That tumble looked painful. Want a hug?"

"If your tummy is saying it's not hungry, then I will put your veggies in the fridge for later."

"Why are you out of bed? You say you feel scared. Let's double check the room and make sure we turned on the nightlight."

Here is an excerpt from "Awakening Intuition" by Mona Lisa Schulz that does a good job summarizing how a punitive paradigm can set the stage for a life of detachment and repression. These harsh scripts are given to us in childhood and become the story of our life unless we work very hard to replace them. As parents, we can work hard to never give them to our own children:

"All too often, however, we don't recognize our own feelings. We walk around feeling sad without really even knowing that sadness is the name of what we feel and without knowing why we feel the way we do.

Say you're a child and you're walking down the street with your mother when you run into an uncle on your father's side of the family whom you don't like because once, when you were alone with him, he touched you in a way you knew wasn't good. "Oh, honey, here's Uncle Ned," your mother says. "Shake hands with Uncle Ned." Instead of shaking his hand, of course, you shake your head, pull back, and try to hide behind your mother.

You're full of fear of this person who you know instinctively has violated you in some way, and you're also angry at being forced to greet him now as though nothing ever happened. But you can't put a name to your feeling, because you are a child and the language of your emotions isn't yet fully developed. "I hate him!" you cry. Your mother, embarrassed, scolds you. "Of course you don't hate Uncle Ned! He's a wonderful man," she says. "Now, you be good and shake his hand right now!"

The emotions you're feeling are being invalidated on the spot. So you begin at that moment to comprehend a particular language of emotions. You know that every time you see this man, your flesh crawls, your heart skips a beat, and you go cold all over. And then you begin to unplug from your emotional intuition network. Your emotions are there to protect you, but you're being taught not to hear or heed them.

This happens repeatedly in our lives. You have no right to be angry, we're told as children, because look at what you have--you have food, you have clothing, think of all the starving children in Africa. You shouldn't be angry, you should be grateful. So you quickly learn to bottle up your anger or to turn it aside. Instead you hang out with some other emotion, such as shame."

Want to learn more about parenting without shame, without fear, without punishment? Check out these resources. All links open to a new window.

Gavin's book gives concrete advice on how to get back in touch with OUR intuition for our children's sake:

Tricky people, not strangers, are the ones to worry about:

Can I have a hug? [This article might have some small pieces that are not entirely acceptable, but overall provides examples on other things to do during awkward greetings instead of outright coerce your child.]

Obedience, at what cost?

When children feel bad:

And my blog post here is a list of even more parenting resources:

Copyright Eva L.

When we acknowledge and affirm our children and their emotions, including the bad emotions, we can then guide them to healthy, effective expressions. This will give our children the skills they need to be authentic in their relationships. So ask yourself: do you want forced obedience from your child? Do you want your child to hug someone while feeling shaky inside? Do you want your child to smile outside while crying inside? What is the goal in your parenting?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Twin Birth Story

The Birth of Atlee and Maisy McClung

Copyright Wendy 2012

Preface: For each of my children I have written a birth story. Each has been unique with its own triumphs and low points. Reading this any birth advocate might think my intention is to brag about how I fought “the maternity system” and won. Truthfully, that wasn’t my intention when I wrote this. I am just recalling the events of my birth as they impressed upon my brain and heart. The fact that I did have to fight for the birth I felt was safest and most beneficial for myself and my babies was disappointing (although not unexpected) but I’m happy with my decision to do so. 

Typical Friday nights at our home consist of controlled chaos, fun, and then a calm feeling as we bond with and then shuffle our children to bed. January 20th 2012 was no exception as the younger two were having a boxing match in the living room and I was occupied with sitting on my birth ball in an effort to open my pelvis and change the “bottlenecking situation” of two baby heads competing for first place. Earlier that morning I had a non-stress test and I had been contracting on the monitor. The nurse told me “You have that look in your eyes.” I knew the look she was referring to…a glassy eyed, tired look that mamas get before they give birth. I had been refusing induction because I trusted that my body knew when it was supposed to give birth. The average length of a twin pregnancy was 36 weeks and at 38 weeks was pressured to have an induction, which I refused. So at 39 weeks and 4 days I was patiently waiting for labor to start. It happened that my doctor was out of town until Sunday so it was a good reason to try to hold off a couple more days. He was willing to help me have a home birth like setting and I knew his presence at my birth would make a huge difference.

Once the kids were down for the night my husband decided to stay up with his buddy and hang out in the living room. I went to bed with the same thought I had every night…that if tonight was the night I’d better rest up. Besides, I had a wicked stomach ache that was making me feel run down. A couple hours later my husband joined me and started playing with his Nintendo 3DS in bed. I told him that he had better not stay up too late because tonight could be the night. He finally shut off his game at 1:30am.

At 2am I had a contraction that woke me out of my sleep. I thought it was possible that my water had broken so I rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. No sooner did I walk past the footboard that I felt a gush that confirmed my suspicion. Chris was sleeping soundly and I said the words that he had been waiting to hear for weeks: “Chris, my water broke.” In firefighter fashion Chris jumped out of bed in one single motion. Immediately he started loading up the car, half awake. His brother came over to stay with the kids and I calmly gave last minute instructions to my very sleepy husband. I felt some contractions, but nothing regular. I knew I could wait to go to the hospital but my gut was telling me that this labor was going to pick up speed quickly. I called my doulas and they headed to the hospital. I called the hospital and informed them I was coming. Chris helped me into the car and took off at a snail’s pace as not to jar me during contractions. With a smile I reassured him he could go faster. The car ride was spent calling family to let them know we were headed to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital and I was wheeled up to Labor and Delivery. Luckily, I was able to get into a Labor room right away instead of having to go to triage. I grabbed a birth ball and some coconut water to drink and started rocking away. My friend Ana was assigned to be my nurse. I was fortunate to have someone who already knew my thoughts and feelings on birth to help care for me. My doulas, Jen and Jessica arrived less than 15 minutes after I got to the hospital. My mom arrived shortly after that. During this time I was going through the admission process and my contractions were starting to pick up. I sat on a birth ball as the nurses attempted to get a good tracing of the babies’ heartbeats. In order to get them on the monitor I had to lean back so they could reach under my enormous belly. It was very difficult to achieve and my labor was beginning to intensify. I knew that this was part of giving birth in a hospital and I hoped that once they got a baseline they would leave so I could labor in peace.

 I ended up back in the bed for an admitting cervical exam and to verify my water broke (duh) and I was at 4cm and 90% effaced. Chris was at my side holding me tightly and loving on me. I felt so much comfort when he pressed his forehead to mine. At this point I was feeling the need to move around but I was told I needed to have an ultrasound to locate baby B and verify her position. I also met the attending doctor on call, who didn’t seem too opinionated either way about my birth plan. I told him what was most important to me and he said it sounded reasonable. I really missed my doctor but told myself that this was the way my birth was meant to go and that it would be okay. My contractions were incredibly intense at this point, lasting over two minutes with only ten second breaks in between. Some of them ended with back pain. Every time the ultrasound wand would touch my belly to try and verify where Baby B was I’d be unable to handle the sensation and it made me upset.

 I told the staff that the babies were both head down prior to labor starting and I felt that this procedure was unnecessary. I tried to stay in my zone but I was being overwhelmed by the prodding and unable to cope with the intensity I was experiencing. Being upset turned into being frustrated and I started being very vocal about my displeasure that my desire to be left alone was being ignored. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be left alone when I was obviously in transitional labor and needed to fully focus. I remember saying, “This is why I didn’t want to come here!” and, “I miss my birth tub.” I cried, “Why won’t they just leave me alone?” I even growled at the staff in my moment of sheer frustration in hopes it would get the message across. I just wanted to be heard. I was losing my composure and my primal side was taking over.

 Finally, the staff left the room and I was able to listen to my body without interference. The first thing I did was rip off the monitors. Hospital policies be damned, I just needed relief! Then I turned around and got on my hands and knees. When I did that my intense contractions became more tolerable and I had a huge gush of water release from me and felt intense pressure like I was going to need to push soon. At this point I believe that Maisy (twin B) moved up out of the way and allowed Atlee to come down and get into position. My body knew what it needed to do and I had to listen to it or labor wasn’t going to be effective.

 I bit the pillow as each contraction surged over me. I knew the urge to push was coming soon. The staff came back in and I’m sure they were not happy that I was no longer in an optimal position for monitoring or ultrasounds. I don’t remember much about the moments that followed except trying to communicate how close I was to pushing. I don’t think that the residents knew what to think as my doulas, mom, and husband tried to express to them how fast I’d deliver if I got the urge to push. I actually debated for a short time just giving birth in the L&D room and catching my own babies, and then decided the chaos it would cause was too stressful.

 Finally I got Ana’s attention and said “If you want me in the OR for this delivery we need to move now.” Someone suggested a cervical exam and I said “No, if you check me they will come out. We need to go.” I refused to get back upright in the bed so they threw a blanket over my naked bottom and wheeled me to the OR. I am sure I scared the people waiting in the hall, but I tried to stay in my zone as I said “goodbye” to my doulas and mom and faced birthing my babies in the last place I really wanted to be.

The OR was just what I expected…cold and sterile with lots of unfamiliar faces. I spotted the attending doctor and residents behind their masks. They asked me to move to the OR table and I refused. There was no way I could possibly push on that table! So the bed was broken down for me and I begrudgingly put my legs up. To be honest though I was so tired of fighting and I was ready to be done so I just did the best I could to get into a comfortable position. The attending had the ultrasound machine and the next words out of his mouth changed the climate of the whole room: “Baby B is breech.”

 Immediately, without having any discussion with me I began to be prepped for a c-section. “What do you mean she’s breech?” I challenged him. He had to show me on the monitor her head up near my ribs to make me believe him. He started giving orders for a c-section and I immediately said “No, we are not doing that.” This turned into a bit of a standoff as I could tell that the attending didn’t feel comfortable delivering a breech baby and I did. My husband put his foot down hard and said, “We aren’t doing a c-section!” I asked what her heart rate was and nobody paid attention to me. I asked five more times before I was told by the resident “136.” I knew this was a normal heart rate and that likely once Baby A was delivered that she would turn and go head down. So I further argued against the procedure and the attending said, “Let me do my job.”

 At this moment I was so exhausted, fully dilated, but ready to battle. Then I saw the NICU team on the other side of the window and Mama Bear reared her ugly head. “No!” I said with authority, “They do not need to be assessed by the NICU team! They are full term at 39 weeks and I am a NICU RT! They are coming straight to me! You are NOT taking my babies from me!” Nobody argued with me, I don’t think they knew what to do with me anymore. The attending got on the phone to get permission to deliver baby A from a high risk doctor. The whole time this was going on I was amazed at the zoo it had become. I was just giving birth for goodness sakes and I knew exactly what to do. Why was everyone else acting like I was a ticking time bomb? I longed for my gentle birth at home in the water.

I was checked and found to have an anterior lip of cervix left so I told the resident that I was going to push and she was going to move it out of the way. She was concerned about using Betadine on me to sterilize the area and I told her, “Birth isn’t sterile.” The attending started to argue with me about tearing my cervix and I completely ignored him. I was ready to get this over with. I pushed once and once the head passed my cervix I pushed once more and he was crowning. I asked if he had hair and I was told he did. The next contraction I pushed again and he emerged and was placed on my chest, all warm and wet and crying.

 The cord clamping was delayed per my request and I looked at my precious little boy. I was so relieved he was finally in my arms. I heard Chris say, “Hi, Son!” and I glanced over and saw him crying with joy. For a few moments I forgot where I was, I just wanted to look him over and meet my sweet little love bug. My first thought was that he looked like Chris. He didn’t look like a newborn as much as he looked like a sweet little man, so alert and inquisitive. After minutes passed and we had some bonding time I requested that dad hold his son for the first time. Chris was so over the moon, it was the happiest I’d ever seen him. He talked to his wide eyed boy and immediately started taking pictures of him on his iPhone and putting them on Facebook. Atlee Jacob Kal-El McClung had arrived safely into my arms at 6:20am on Jaunary 21st, 2012.

The ultrasound following Atlee’s birth revealed that Baby B had successfully turned head-down and was safely making her way down. So we waited, and waited…and waited! The residents sat and tried to stay awake. It was like we hit the eye of the storm and there was nothing anyone could do but wait. I looked up to the window and the NICU team was still there. In fact, a former co-worker was looking at me through the window and smiling. I sheepishly smiled back as if to say, “Yeah, it’s me making trouble in here. Who else did you expect?” The resident would periodically check me and I finally said, “You don’t have to check me, I will tell you when she’s there.” Finally, after 40 minutes of waiting I felt pressure and my baby was ready to be born. I was grateful for the break but ready to be done with labor. What I didn’t anticipate was having to have a few powerful contractions to reopen my cervix again as it had started closing. I felt the urge to push slowly come over me and gave a good push, another good push and the resident told me to slow down but I couldn’t. I felt my darling daughter placed on my chest, warm and gurgling. Maisy Nobelle McClung was born at 7:01am, 41 minutes after her brother. She was less than a few minutes old when she crawled down and latched right on and started nursing. Her eyes big and alert, her fuzzy head perfectly round, she was the smallest of all of my babies, but my fastest to find her mama’s milk!

Happy, exhausted, and triumphant I was wheeled out of the OR with both of my babies. A nurse later told me that she had never in her 30 years of working in L&D seen a mom of twins leave with her babies in her arms. I nursed Maisy all the way back to my room. Atlee joined his sister, nursing like a champ. I couldn’t believe I had just given birth to twin naturally in the hospital. It was probably my hardest birth, but not because I had a hard labor but because I had to fight so hard to have a normal birth. What I cared about most was giving my babies a gentle, safe birth and I felt that I had accomplished that. Of course I couldn’t have had a better advocate and support than my husband. Chris was the most loving, caring, and protective husband I could have asked for. He even shed some tears for my frustration. I am so thankful to be his wife and the mother of his children.

Despite being twins Atlee and Maisy couldn’t be more different. They look completely different, act different, and even feel different when you pick them up. However they seem to be familiar with one another and I believe they were meant to balance each other out. I know I have said this before, but now my family is complete. Twins was a nice way to end things…sort of like going out with a bang. I’m happy to be a mom of seven and I wouldn’t change one single thing about my life. I am immeasurably blessed.