There is something very wrong with the way modern Americans raise children. But talking about this is like explaining water to a fish. My daughter was born with birth trauma and I got no help with her difficulties from anyone, from a pediatrician, to friends to my husband to help me figure out what was wrong and how to heal it. So I went looking at other cultures that don't have the issues we have with health, well-being, anxiety, depression and addiction. What I found for the most part is that the children in indigenous cultures had a much more integral part to play in their societies and were thus more committed and involved. That mattered, they were competently mentored, and they were successful. Their world made sense, their insides matched the outside world. My personal sense of contentment was disturbed by the waste and despair around me, but when I became a parent I went on a mission. I wanted passionately to be a good mother. I read a lot of child psychology books, and became frustrated. None of it made any sense to me, beyond a surface level. If I can't understand why a child has a troubling behavior, such as colic, tantrums or sleep difficulties, then why should I take a psychologist's word for it on how to treat those difficulties? Why aren't they looking at the children of cultures that don't have those issues? As far as I was concerned such remedies were shots in the dark that allowed enough peace and adjustment in families to put up with the underlying tension, but weren't zeroing in on the core causes. These conditions are treated as normal and natural, because they are widespread in our society. Within a society as profoundly dysfunctional as ours, we could be normalizing behavior that is not healthy or natural. There are so many contradictions out there also. I read in books or magazines everything from parent-child co-sleeping to letting a baby cry for up to an hour in a crib. In the end, I had to follow my intuition, balancing the needs of myself, my husband and my child. I am the kind of person who needs to deeply understand why something is the way it is. The reason has to make logical sense and also satisfy my intuition that the reason is right in a fundamentally satisfying and beautiful way. I was ripe for reading the book "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff. This book really resonated with me, as it fit my own basic assumptions. I would have loved to have followed the advice the book gave to the letter, but it was already too late….. my daughter was already six months old.
Jean Liedloff spent over two years living with the Yequana, an Amazonian Indian tribe. The tribe adopted her as one of their own. These were a people who lived with almost no coercion amongst themselves. The book describes how she slowly came to realize that these people were quite different from us, industrial age civilized people. They seemed to be more social, spending most of their time in a state of contentment or joy. She said they "felt comfortable in their own skin". She slowly changed her views about the potential of human nature and realized that modern civilized man has lost something, his innate sense of rightness, and thus happiness. Through observing the way infants and children were born and raised, she began to understand how such a difference was brought about.
"For millions of years newborn babies have been held close to their mothers from the moment of their birth. Some babies of the last few hundred generations may have been deprived of this all-important experience but that has not lessened each new baby's expectation that he will be in his rightful place…… From birth, continuum infants are taken everywhere….During the in-arms phase, the time between birth and the voluntary commencement of crawling, a baby is receiving experience and with it fulfilling his innate expectations, graduating to new expectations or desires and then fulfilling them in turn….. At night, his mother sleeps beside him….His life, full of action is consistent with the lives lived by millions of his predecessors, and meets the expectations of his nature."
My own daughter's birth was a frightening experience, as she almost died by being choked by her umbilical cord. My midwife told me had we not been monitoring her, and known of her distress, she would have been born dead. There was evidence that she had spent a considerable amount of time, probably several weeks, in great distress in the womb. She had lost weight, and their was old meconium staining, and deterioration of the umbilical cord. I was going to deliver her at a birthing center, with a mid-wife, but as soon as I started to try pushing, the midwife detected distress, and I spent the next twenty minutes on my hands and knees going by ambulance to a hospital, where a doctor examined me, and took me into the delivery room where he used forceps to pull her out. She had to be resuscitated, and I got to hold her briefly before she was taken to the ICU. I was told that all throughout the night, they were drawing blood once an hour to monitor her blood sugar. Apparently in high-stress births, it is a risk. I think I was in shock for awhile, and then had a case of the baby blues. My confidence was shaken from the very beginning. I had some difficulty getting her to start nursing, though I was very determined for this to work out, and she soon became interested. She proved to be a perfect baby, she slept through the night right from the start, and she almost never cried. She also exerted tremendous effort to learn. She was crawling at five months and walking at nine months, working extraordinarily hard at these activities. She had an air of desperation about her. She was also almost inappropriately jovial. I took her for her six month pictures and she laughed and smiled at the toys the photographer shook at her. All the other babies were shrieking. I was proud of her at the time, but carried a lot of anxiety. I sensed, but did not know that she and I had not connected properly, and there was something amiss, it was just a feeling. When she would nurse, I would look at her mystified, as her eyes seemed to hold secrets. I called her "my little cat". If I had had any experience with babies, I would have been much more alarmed. I realize now that her ability to feel and to communicate her feelings, wants and needs were already impaired, and had been since birth, and possibly before. There were other troubling things about her that bothered me but I chalked it up to my ineptness, or her youth, such as when she was challenged, or stressed, or strapped into a seat of some kind, she would shake, and hold her breath. When I would try to cajole her out of this trance, she would be annoyed with me. Also, she was not at all cuddly, refusing to ride in a "snuggly" from the very beginning. She wouldn't cry, just push against me with her arms and legs, and strain her neck and head away from me. She was comfortable in a loose hold, and would let me carry her on my hip or in my arms. She also craved attention all of the time, becoming agitated when I would sit her down to play by herself. When she turned one, I returned to my job, part-time. I have always been a single-focus person, and I found working very stressful, as I had a hard time leaving my job at a set time and I was also ridden with guilt by leaving her at a babysitter. She cried every morning when I left for work, and it tore me apart. When I discovered I was pregnant again, the first thing I did was quit my job and I spent a nice relaxing summer with my girl. She seemed to really flourish, within weeks of my staying home she had a growth spurt and started talking in sentences. My sense of dread was growing as quickly as my belly. I asked myself "how can I ever nurture two babies? 100% of my time is taken up with this little one!" The early fall brought little brother. I hope I never again endure the level of stress I was under after he was born. After reading "The Continuum Concept" and other books of it's ilk I was determined to hold him as much as possible, and indeed he did spend a great deal of time in a snugly, but I had a very needy not quite two-year-old as well and I tried to keep her entertained and happy. I was spending every possible waking moment trying to attend to the needs of one child or the other but it wasn't working. She was going down right before my eyes. If you have never seen a depressed two-year-old, it is a sad sight, and I was frantic ….. I didn't know what to do! I just wished that someone had been studying the Continuum Concept and had looked into the problem of healing the trauma of children who had not had Continuum-type infancies. My daughter had no interest in her books or toys. She tried to disrupt any activity between my infant son and me. I remember standing up to nurse him so she couldn't hit him, and I put him in a playpen, thinking he would be safe there and she started to throw toys in at him. I had a real problem. So did my daughter. My husband turned into a workaholic, as home was not a real pleasant place to be! My daughter developed a real difficulty in going to sleep and her appetite was depressed. I was just plowing through one day at a time, trying to do my best to fulfill the needs of both of these children and failing. I was neglecting everything else. The house was in shambles, I wasn't taking care of my appearance or maintaining a good relationship with my husband. I was desperately just trying to survive. One day in late February a friend of mine who like me was searching for a way to deal with our children brought me a book, by a psychiatrist named Martha G. Welch M..D., entitled "Holding Time". Martha Welch describes research with autistic children and had developed a method to help them release anxiety, and she moved to working with attachment disorders. The method consisted of the mother of the child holding the child firmly. The child's legs are wrapped around the mother's waist and his or her arms underneath the mother's arms. The mother then talks to the child about her feelings, and tries to get the child to talk about her feelings. The child thus confronts the anger and grief associated with the relationship with the mother and has an extreme tantrum. The secure hold allows the mother to prevent the child from hurting herself or the mother. Dr. Welch describes that these tantrums usually run for about an hour, then the child calms, and enters a denial phase. If the mother can gently get the child to look her in the eye, and if the mother shares her own genuine grief, then the child can achieve a breakthrough, embracing the mother with intense happiness and love, and is healed of emotional problems. Dr. Welch calls this happening a "resolution".
One of the premises of "The Continuum Concept" is that a child raised without any coercion will be a child free from trauma. The child will be innately social because that is her nature. This book, "Holding Time" is absolute coercion. A child is forced to be held closely to his mother against his will! At first I rejected the idea. One time my daughter sat on my lap, and then as was usual for her she wanted to jump right back off again, but I held onto her for an extra thirty seconds. She struggled and fussed, and then I let her down. She turned around and looked at me and hesitated before she ran off. Later, she said "Thank you for holding me, Mommy". I was intrigued. The next time she had a tantrum I picked her up and held her in that secure hold and she screamed her lungs out for about ten minutes and promptly fell asleep. She was exhausted, but her anxieties were preventing her from napping. At this point, I was sold. I figured there was a point where a parent absolutely has to step in and coerce when the child is suffering from trauma-induced attachment anxieties, and their impulses stuck in a trauma vortex. I felt that at last I had my key, the method to heal a child with protective psychological blocks, and thus were not "continuum" children. I saw a path to helping my daughter, and I was filled with hope and determination. I never achieved a resolution with her, but she had many "minor" resolutions and she went through a tremendous amount of healing. She came up to me and held my face between her hands and gave me a heart-felt "I love you". It was so amazing to watch the transformation, as her laugh became infectious and genuine, and her eyes become unguarded. I was astounded at how a two-year old could precisely communicate her feelings, once some of the protective blocks started to come down. Since I had been so intimately involved with her for her entire life, it was like unraveling her mind in a backward timeline fashion. First she told me how sad she was that she lost one of her stuffed bears. Then she talked to me about how bad she felt about Winnie the Pooh, since he fell out of the honey tree and he bumped himself ( a movie she had been watching with no external sign of distress). At about the same time she started reacting more normally to any hurts she had, crying when she got bumped, etc. My guess is she since she had been so traumatized by pain and fear in the hospital when she was born and was being cared for afterwards, she had erected blocks to protect her from the trauma. No one had cared about her pain then, so she learned at that time to not expect it. As these protective barriers began to crumble and she become more normal in her reactions, so much about her behavior that had mystified me started to clear up. One example is that she had refused to wear mittens in cold weather, throwing a huge screaming fit if I tried to put them on. Even when her hands would be red with cold she seemed happier with no mittens. She expressed an active dislike for trains. After a resolution from a holding time, when we sat cuddling and talking, she told me quite out of the blue that she didn't like trains because they took Mommy away. I was astounded. Nine months before, I had taken a train to go visit a friend. I spent the night with my friend, and returned the next day. My husband had brought her to the train station to wave "bye-bye". This was the only night I had spent away from her since birth. She remembered and was disturbed for that long! These kinds of experiences had so baffled and worried me - I can't describe the relief I felt as these mysteries were resolved. Another thing that baffled me about my daughter was her behavior to acquaintances and strangers. There was actually an odd contradiction in her behavior. On one hand she seemed very happy and charming with them, letting them hold her and letting them carry her around. On the other hand, she could not relax with them and ask them if she needed anything. During the time she was at a babysitters, I would come to pick her up and occasionally find her sitting rigidly, holding her breath. She must have felt very insecure there, especially since she never asked anyone for any help. Between holding sessions, she was showing amazing improvements. She would try things such as building blocks into a tower that she would never attempt before. She had fewer tantrums, and would allow me to fuss over her, to fix her hair, and allow me to dress her without a huge struggle . Her self-esteem was soaring. She became proud of herself. During this time period I took her to a playgroup we had been going to for some time, and one of the other parents said "where is your daughter?" I pointed to her contentedly playing, with combed hair tied with a ribbon, and a nice dress on. She didn't even look like the same little girl! She was so much happier and much more affectionate. She even became less aggressive to her little brother. When other mothers of warring siblings ask me how did I get my kids to get along, I am at a loss to describe all of this to them. I usually say something lame like "just lucky I guess". I feel that our whole family was amazingly blessed. This was not the end of the story, however. She never had the "final" resolution. She never got down to the bottom of her resistance. At this point, judging by my time-line she was wrestling with the big one, the birth trauma. Also, when I started to hold her in that way, instead of tantrumming, she started to choke, even though there was nothing physical near her neck. I just freaked out at this and figured I was getting in over my head and for the most part quit the holding time, though I did occasionally use it briefly when it is obvious one of my kids is bursting with anxiety and tantrums. I generally just do it until they express whatever it is they are having trouble dealing with and then let them go. It is such a powerful use of the maternal tie, and though it did great good in my family I sensed that there is a potential for a great deal of damage that could be done with it as well. It is a tool to be used with great respect and very sparingly, I felt.
I began to see the extent of the trauma that had happened to her both in the womb and at her birth. All of a sudden many different pieces began falling into place and I started to picture a model of human emotional development, and how our world models are being formed from before the time we are born. Newborns are wide open to emotional shocks that affect their subsequent ability to feel and learn and as I started examining this model …… I entered in retrospect what was probably a psychotic state. You can well imagine how going through an experience like this with someone to whom you are so closely connected is not going to leave you untouched. I was doing some tremendous block processing on my own. I have always thought it is unconscionable to ever show anger to a small child (still do) but I sure had stored up plenty of it (I've dedicated my life to you for the last two years and you are still screwed up!!!!) So, though I wasn't yelling at my children, or hitting them or anything, our relationship was adversely affected by my unacknowledged anger. The sense of warm joy in just being together was fleeting and I was faking it much too often. I wasn't really WITH my daughter. I was suffering from depression brought about largely by having all these repressed feelings I was refusing to deal with. Nobody wants a martyr for a mother! As I was beginning to understand the depths of her pain and sorrow and anger, my own anger at her pretty much evaporated, now I was wrestling with devastating guilt, and incredible grief. So anyway, back to this psychosis ……. I was formulating this model of emotional development for humans, and my mind kept spinning different scenarios, for every person, child and adult that I had ever known, or heard of. I was running their life stories through my model. All of their suffering was becoming clear to me. I couldn't find any exceptions to this model, all of the evidence fit. I started looking at it from a historical perspective….. and as my mind fixated on these scenarios of misunderstandings and suffering and torture of millions of children I stopped sleeping at night, my mind just kept spinning these stories. I spent my days just holding my children and crying with them. I started hearing voices, … a voice told me that what I was doing was impossible, I could not save my children, they were doomed, all of society was against me, and if I persisted then I would lose everything, my husband, my friends, family …. I would be all alone. Well, I told these voices in my head to go to hell, that I saw a clear path to save my daughter and that they could have her over my dead body. I was determined, with a rock-solid assurance I was doing the right thing - I intended to do everything in my power to save her. I could hear the wailing and crying of millions of people suffering and could clearly see the insanity of the people in my world. I felt a tender love for all of these folks that don't even know that they are half insane, when a lot of their vitality has been eclipsed , tortured into withdrawal by pain and fear suffered in babyhood that no one can consciously remember. I felt like the lone sane person in the world ….. you can't imagine the fear this generated in me! I started to see that to save my own children, then I would have to transform a whole lot more people, so that they would have a sane world to live in. For the first time in my life the song "The Impossible Dream" started to make sense to me. Needless to say, after four nights of not sleeping I was not in great shape. Physically I was wrecked. My sinuses were completely clogged, and my lungs were very congested. I was talking in whispers, because my throat was so tight. My husband was very alarmed and was threatening to get me some "help" … I laughed this off, and kept thinking to myself.. . If I could just get my daughter to have a resolution it will all be okay….. I had ceased to function. No groceries had gotten bought, and no laundry got done that week. It was now the first week in March, a Tuesday morning, and my husband got up and he was getting ready to go to work. He couldn't find any clean socks and this made him extremely angry. He is the type of guy who never shows anger. I'd never ever known him to be angry, but I was more insightful this morning. He thought he would make this into a joke, and he started to throw the dirty clothes around. She laughed and started to throw the clothes also. I sat on the edge of the bed holding the baby, stone-faced. My husband said, "Come on, it's funny, why don't you throw some clothes also, see she thinks it is funny!" and I responded "You just don't get it do you, she doesn't think it is funny, she is terrified. She laughs when she is scared to death and she is scared to death of your anger". ( This knowledge just "came" to me) That did it. He literally exploded…. With a cry of absolute despair he left the bedroom, slamming the door and then he proceeded to destroy the house. He ripped curtains off the walls, he threw things down the stairs, I'd never seen anyone go berserk like that before. His explosion, and the release of his anger freed something tremendous in me! It was at that moment that I had an experience of enlightenment! This experience came with feelings of such perfect joy and peace, I remember thinking afterward "so that's what I'm supposed to feel like!" This experience was multidimensional. It was physical. I felt a tremendous amount of energy coursing through my body and with the energy came healing. My sinuses cleared instantly, and my lungs cleared out and started working perfectly again. I watched this instant healing with amazement. It was intellectual. The final puzzle piece dropped into place. It was "eureka" , of course! I saw a vision of a perfect star-like light that was a human soul, what every child starts out with that is slowly blocked off from her conscious knowing as her physical brain "learns" things, how anything negative is a result of misunderstanding and faulty brain programming that we can re-program! I even saw how to model this process on a computer! Spiritual knowledge was revealed to me, I "knew" it in an instant, and am still to this day learning in a linear conscious fashion what was revealed to me in that instant. I also felt like a ton of stuff went blowing by me and I didn't pick up on most of it. This was the beginning of a remarkable time when a spiritual guide started to have conversations with me. In retrospect, this guide must have been with me through the hell part also, or I don't see how on my own I would have had the courage and faith to have persevered. I learned first hand that one has to go through hell before you get to heaven. I also understood about why mystics have talked about "for all eternity". In a mystical consciousness, within that one instant, you sense forever and ever, and are forever changed. I guess that was also what was meant by being "born-again" to see with the eyes of a child. It was amazing that these forgotten teachings from a Christian upbringing were springing to life for me. I had never "got it" before, looking at it in a logical way. I had conversations with the spirit guide about many things including Jesus, the movie " Sophie's Choice" and about being a good mother. My daughter likes to play "bear cave", where she covers her head with a blanket and pretends to be in a cave. She and my husband were sitting with their heads under a blanket and she excitedly called for me to come join them. The voice in my head told me "Go over there, there is a nice surprise for you….." so with some excitement I walked over and we got under the blanket also ( was carrying the baby, as usual). The whole family was there is semi-darkness and I remember looking from shining face to shining face, everyone was very happy. Then I saw rays of light stretching from each person to each other person. The web of family connections was as plain as day to me, the rays looked like laser lights of a golden-red color, some seemed stronger than others, but each of us were connected to all of the others. It was incredibly cool, and I said to my husband "did you see that?" He said "no". I was obviously in an altered state of consciousness, though I was still very much in control in normal consciousness, it was living a life of duality where I could see from either perspective at will, spiritual, or physical. It was an incredible time that I will never forget. I felt like I had broken through a barrier, and I was talking back to people left on the other side, and I so wanted to grab them and pull them through with me! What I quickly realized was that I was doing nothing more but convincing people that I was nuts, so I quickly learned to keep it to myself. I remember feeling a tremendous sense of urgency that I had to write a book and get this information out to "save the world". My spirit guide gently informed me that my job was to simply take the best care I could of my family, let the rest of it go. Since that time I have been doing a great deal of reading and I realized that much of the spiritual insights I had been given are quite well known and have been published. Before my experience though, I would have thought it was all nonsense. I was plugged into the collective unconscious, and I could recognize pieces of my vision in other people's writings, though it is interesting that each person transmits these visions through their own personal filters. It helped me realize that once I thought about these issues with my logical mind there was danger of distortion. I lost the altered state of consciousness after about six weeks, but have retained all kinds of blessings from that time, such as the ability to be detached and more unselfish, and patient. I had a spiritual view of life, so much less stressful, and joyful, the change can't really be described! I am more open to my intuition, and dreams and have more balance and perspective. The many “spiritual” experiences that I had had previously to this experience I had never connected with, since they didn’t fit into my world view. They now immediately took on tremendous significance, as I realized how every moment in my life had lead up to that moment. I turned my attention to understanding on an intellectual level what I had learned on a spiritual level, and took the first steps on my spiritual path.