It Really Does Take A village – Allison Harris NCTMB,LMT,CD
“Our greatest biological gifts are the power of relationships and the brain’s malleability.” Dr. Bruce Perry – Child Trauma Academy
In a presentation by Dr. Bruce Perry, based on his book “Born for Love – Why Empathy is Important and Essential”, he spoke of the importance of positive, loving, relational experiences to support the brain growth and development of our children. Dr. Perry compared the difference between the larger, extended family interactions of hunter-gatherer societies, to the impoverished relational interactions our modern society affords our children, and the negative effects this has on brain growth, and overall development, as well as mind body health throughout life. In times past, our children were surrounded by a loving network of familial and community caregivers, of all ages, who nurtured, supported, educated, and loved them. Today children spend less time with extended family or community, more time with people they don’t know, and or alone at home while parents are at work, being comforted and entertained by technological devices. In what he termed “modern tribalism”, Dr Perry said the ways in which society separates and compartmentalizes itself has resulted in material wealth, yet a “poverty of social relationships”, and that “a healthy human being is a related human being.” Dr. Perry’s research has proven that the way our modern culture functions induces a state of social and cultural neglect in our children, and he feels the growing number of high risk categories of childhood dysfunction is directly related to what he calls an “ impoverishment of relationships.”
As I listened to Dr. Perry’s presentation, I could not help extrapolating his findings to the relational and community impoverishment our society is creating surrounding new parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood. As we prepare for, give birth and become new mothers, we need community, we need people to teach and model good mothering skills, and to support us as we seek to develop our own parenting style. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, and our children as well, when we fill our time during pregnancy, with run away to-do lists of material things we think we must acquire before the baby is born, rather than a to-do list of community building, relational, familial, and new mother support, for when our child is born. This starts with things like deciding you don’t have time to take an 8 to 6 week childbirth education class series, simply two or three hours a week. We don’t have time anymore to devote a couple hours a week to learning about one of the most important events in our lives, the birth of our precious child. What is wrong with this picture? We don’t have time to spend a few hours a week with other expectant couples, learning about birth, newborn care, breastfeeding, and maybe even forming new and lasting friendships that will support us as we become, and learn how to be parents. We choose instead to take a one day intensive, or a 4 hour class that is supposed to tell us all we need to know to give birth to and care for our baby. Or, we watch a video, or take a brief, online, childbirth ed class, yet these condensed classes leave out the most important elements we need as expectant parents. What is being left out and lost is human closeness, psychological, emotional and social support, companionship, friendship, and community building. We are allowing our materialistic, over consuming society to turn us into mindless consumer drones, driven ever harder and faster so as to place spending money, earning more and more money to keep spending, and acquiring material things, above what really matters in our lives, in order to feed a runaway, dysfunctional, comodifying, and exploitative, capitalistic economy. Are you really willing to allow this lunatic, societal drive toward ever increasing GNP to dictate your pregnancy, birth, family and parenting values, and how much time you spend learning to prepare for and develop these?
Our American values and priorities have become really off base, pushed by ever increasing societal time pressures, that we have to find a way to say no to. We have to get back to what is really important, unless we want our precious children to learn and grow up to being driven by these same pressures, and skewed values, and also have their growth and development negatively impacted by them. Your child’s future is in your hands and it starts with decisions you make in pregnancy. One of the most important things you need to consider as you face impending parenthood is, what is top priority on your preparation for new baby list? Is your list filled with material possessions, monetary acquisition, choices that are socially acceptable, impressive to others, and status driven, or are they loving, compassionate, mindful, relational, and community building? In other words, are they things that will support ourselves, our child, and our family toward complete health of body, mind, and spirit, rather than just feeding the twisted, societally driven push to spend our lives acquiring material wealth? What is wealth in your heart then, things, or family and people. When you were a child what did you care about most, that your dad worked so many hours he was hardly home, but he was able to buy a big, shiny, new car that made the neighbors think he must be somebody, or that he took time to go to, and or coach your little league games, or spend the afternoon having a great time together at a family picnic? This is the time for you to think about and answer these important questions. What do you want your baby to grow up to value, empty material possessions, or values and wealth created by love, joy, closeness, compassion, community, friendship, and family ties? The choice is yours, and it begins well before your child is born.
My humble recommendation, start with canceling that one day intensive childbirth education class, and sign up instead for a six or eight week class series, check out some new mom support groups, investigate one of the free breastfeeding groups offered at the Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington, join a pregnancy yoga class and meet other moms, go have lunch with some of your expectant or new mom friends . I promise, you will gain so much more from relationship building, and surrounding yourself with a healthy supportive new parent community, than you will buying out the big box, baby store, or installing new kitchen counter tops.