I spent a couple of hours this morning with Zilas, who is now all of eight weeks old. As I sat with his mum in their beautiful garden on a sunny Sunday morning, he lay asleep in a sling she wore around her. Mum said that Zilas is still finding it difficult to spend any great length of time by himself when he is awake, or to soothe himself when he is upset. Both she and Dad are conscious of not offering the breast every time he cries, and thoughtfully consider such questions as “What ways can we introduce to Zilas to soothe himself?” and “How can we respond to his psychological needs and not just his physical ones”?
Luckily they have the assistance of their 3 year old, Trinity, who readily takes on real responsibilities. Mum gives her precise instructions before going into the shower for instance, such as “call me when Zilas is really crying, not just grumbling”. Trinity maintains a watchful eye and shouts out to Mum when she thinks “O-kay, all hell is breaking loose and my finger puppets and books aren’t working with him!” Mum left the shower this morning with conditioner still in her hair, a comical-only-in-retrospect moment that many mothers will identify with!
Trinity seems to have a delightful relationship with Zilas. No sign of sibling rivalry yet, which I know was a concern Mum had, before the birth, though Dad was more relaxed about it. They’ve been sensitive about how Zilas has been introduced into the family so that Trinity doesn’t feel like he is taking something away from her, rather that he is bringing something to her. Mum once said to me that she always gives Zilas to Trinity when she asks to hold him, as if to say “Zilas is part of our family, and so are you. Only I can feed him, but we can all love and care for him, and certainly you may hold him”. Mum and Dad have also consciously taken care to avoid saying “be careful” to Trinity, reasoning that she will always hold the baby as carefully as she can. I thought that was so trusting of them. I think Trinity values that trust and that it does something precious for her.
Anyway, coming back to this morning. Midway through a light breakfast, Zilas started to wake, and Mum took him out of his sling. He looked upwards, perhaps at the dancing shadows of the leaves on the sunlit wall, opening and closing his mouth, yawning occasionally. I do enjoy those early morning yawns myself – its the kind of yawn that I only have after a good night’s sleep. I asked him if he had slept well, and if he had any dreams, and what he had dreamt about. He seemed to be saying “Excuse me for appearing impolite, but its far too early in the morning for this kind of conversation!”
A garden is always a lovely place for a baby. I noticed he stopped crying when he heard the seagulls, perhaps just a coincidence, perhaps not.
As I held him and stood under a tree, watching him drift in and out of sleep, crying a little, watching a little, it struck me how there are no magic tricks for a crying baby. There are a few obvious things to try, but sometimes those don’t work. The hardest thing to do in that situation is to be gentle and patient with both baby and oneself. If we can use moments like these to get to know our baby better, by being present and observant, then we have a better chance of understanding them. I believe it is more important to get to know our baby better than to “try anything” to stop them crying. Watching mum holding her crying baby and talking quietly to him, I was reminded that a gentle and loving stillness nourishes the soul of both parent and baby, and creates a habit of communication that both of them will value all their lives.