After two easy pregnancies and two babies that arrived a couple weeks early, You my darling Alice gave me a whole new understanding for the word patience. Lets throw in a international pandemic and lockdown into the mix as another factor we were faced with. I vividly remember walking (well lets be honest, waddling) the quiet, deserted streets, 39 weeks and three days pregnant, having tried every other trick in the book to get things moving, thinking ‘why are you taking so long?’ ‘Your siblings had been born by now.’ When my mind started drifting off to my studies, my time at RIE® foundations, my beliefs…
“When they are ready.” “IN time not ON time.”
Every child is different, unique, they do things in their own way in their own time, something I preach to colleagues, friends and parents, so why should this not apply in pregnancy too? After all you are still a living being, just being kept safe and warm until YOU are ready, so why rush and try make you come out when YOU were not ready. I relaxed and stopped trying to make you do something that you were not ready to do. After all a journey earth side after nine (long) months inside needs all the rest and preparation you can get. You were born three days later, right at home, with your family ready to greet you. What a calm but quick entrance you made, born into a very strange time in our world. Our precious lockdown baby.
From the moment you were born I spoke to you, and I listened to you too. I found myself talking about everything that I was going to do, what WE were going to do. I observed, and observed and observed every little response, every movement and sound that you made in our moments together. I watch and keep still as you stare at my face, at the blank white wall, and the crack of light from the slightly open curtain. And I learnt. I came to know that when your legs start kicking alternately that it means you are getting tired, that when you turn your head to the side that you are hungry. The words of Janet Lansburys acted as a guide for me “Diapering, feeding, bathing, and bed time are prime opportunities to deepen the connection that refuels our child’s body and soul.” I cherish these moments just the two of us. I talk to you and wait for your response. The consistency of this approach helps you to know what to expect. You always smile in response to my words letting me know that you hear me. You may not understand my words just yet, but you will soon start to make the connections between my words and my actions.
You never cry except for that moment when you took your first breath in this world. This was strange and new to me after your two siblings who seemed to cry all the time as infants and I never knew what exactly they needed. A few weeks in I realised that by slowing down and observing and really getting to know you I was able to meet your needs before you had to cry out for them. I remember a reading from RIE Foundations referring to a relationship as a dance, “partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.” This was us, dancing together through each day, and we took each day as it came, not expecting every day to be the same, but responding to your needs as they presented themselves.
“What infants need is the opportunity and time to take in and figure out the world around you.” – Magda Gerber.
You are now two months old and much more alert. I make sure to give you your own space too, uncluttered, uninterrupted time on the floor. Time and space unsupported by my arms when I know you are fed, warm, dry and not tired, so that you can feel the ground beneath you, to move your head, arms and legs freely. This is your time to come to trust and feel comfortable in these moments of independence. You are so happy and content at these times. I love watching you take in the world around you. Sometimes you just take everything in with your eyes, lying completely still. Other times I watch as you spend time lifting your legs up and down. Your latest task is lifting them both up and rolling yourself onto your side. Would you have achieved this if I had never given you this freedom and space on the floor? You haven’t quite mastered your arms/hands just yet, but each day I see you working on this. Each day you are faster and more accurate at getting your hands to your mouth or bringing them together and clasping them together. These movements which previously went unnoticed now fill my day and I love watching you unfold and discover your body and the world around you. The wise words from Magda “An infant always learns. The less we interfere with the natural process of learning, the more we can observe how much infants learn all the time.”
For many lockdown was hard, the idea of being cooped up and stuck inside for weeks was scary and I don’t blame them. At first so was I. the thought of being alone without my family and friends to help with the older children and a new baby. I however, chose to find the positive and look at it as a gift. We were given the time and space as a family to have our baby and bond with You. To slow down and really appreciate everything we had, to be in the moment rather than rushing around for school drop offs, appointments, birthday parties etc, or having people over to meet you, and have you passed from person to person. I have always practiced slowing down in my interactions with children, but Lockdown gave me the opportunity to work on this, to slow down even more. That originally scary time in all of our lives is now replaced with all of these other precious memories.
We still have a long journey ahead of us my girl and I am so excited to watch you continue to unfold in YOUR own time and in YOUR own way. Going forward life is slowly starting to resume the busy hustle and bustle of school and kindy drop offs, coffee groups, playdates and birthday parties. Family and friends are longing to meet you and I am excited to introduce you to them too. Whilst some things like school and kindy drop offs have to happen and coffee groups/play dates are important for myself and your siblings, I am determined to make sure that our quiet days are spent somewhere where I can continue these respectful practices and continue to deepen our relationship. We are lucky that most of our family and friends are familiar with the way we choose to raise you and I am happy to share this with anyone who is not. As you get older I am keen to attend and eventually start up our own parenting group where we can share our journey with other parents, as for now, I am happy to soak up all that you are and watch you blossom. Now at just over 2 months old Alice you are still such a calm, content, and happy baby. I truly credit that to the slower paced life that you were born into and the calm and respectful care you receive that I am so passionate about and have learnt from the RIE approach.
April is a mother of two based in Auckland, New Zealand. She was a NZITC Scholarship recipient attending RIE® Foundations™ in 2019 with RIE® Associate Sharon Smith.