A year ago my world fell apart when I was told that my baby’s heart had stopped beating. I was 11 weeks pregnant and Dexter was looking forward to having a little sister or brother. I had experienced a rare complication called a Partial Molar Pregnancy, which made extremely ill and meant I had to be tested for cancer cells every two weeks. The trauma was felt by all of us.
I feel fine about it now, it was a difficult time but we got through it but as the year anniversary approached all of the old feelings came up…and not just for me, Dexter remembered. He didn’t talk about it and wasn’t even aware what he was remembering, but I knew exactly what was going on.
Just before I found out the baby had died, Dexter started saying he was losing me. Afterwards I was really poorly so spent a lot of time in bed whilst I was waiting to miscarry. Everything changed for Dexter, I couldn’t take him to nursery or put him to bed and he started to say he’d lost me…it was heart breaking. As we approached the year anniversary, Dexter started having dreams where he had lost me. He would run into my bedroom in the morning screaming because he couldn’t find me in his dream. He now has separation anxiety and was inconsolable on a walk with my family whilst I went food shopping, whereas he would have always been fine. So how has he remembered?
When we experience trauma, we are unable to process all of the difficult emotions that we experience at the time and they are held in our bodies energetically. These feelings are then triggered either by a similar experience, similar emotion or an emotional trigger such as physical sensation, smell or time. The emotions come back up in the same way they did in the original experience…so last week I felt overcome with grief and Dexter was terrified of losing me.
I have seen this again and again in Little Ones through my work, where difficult events have affected their sleep for years. Little Ones who experienced a difficult birth (like Dexter who couldn’t bear to have his head touched where the forceps were) remember the emotions and physical sensation they experienced, as at birth they are unable to process the fear, shock and pain.
I have worked with a 7 year old who would always stop sleeping 6 weeks before her birthday. Her Mum couldn’t work out what was going on, so we traced back to 6 weeks before she gave birth when Mum lost her Gran and was devastated…she remembered the grief. I’ve worked with babies who are terrified to go in their cot since ‘gentle’ sleep coaches encouraged their parents to use Controlled Crying, which they just couldn’t handle. This then creates a negative association with sleep and the cot as those difficult emotions get stuck.
So, when I was made aware of the TV programme Three Day Nanny on Channel 4, I was horrified. I hate to see Little Ones upset and don’t watch programmes like this but I thought I should as I intend to complain to Ofcom. In case you haven’t seen it, this is a programme about a Nanny who goes into people’s homes to sort out ‘problem children’ within three days. This kind of quick fix is never going to be kind to Little Ones and this was no exception. The little girl had been sleeping in bed with her Mum for 18 months (approximately when she hit the separation anxiety stage at 18 months). The approach that was taken was to put her in a pitch black room with the door shut and a stair gate on the door and leave her.
She screamed for 30 minutes, terrified of the dark and tried to climb over the stair gate to get to her Mum. According to the Nanny and the Narrator, this ‘problem child’ was playing her Mum and just needed to learn to go to sleep herself…like all strong willed children do. Yes she needed boundaries and if things weren’t working co sleeping then things needed to change, but this is unnecessary. This is a trauma that this little girl will hold…yes she went to sleep ok the next night because she had given up. She had been shown that when she screams and cries, no one will come. In the same way that Dexter remembered the fear of losing me and my client remembered grief, this little girl will remember this.
Things got pretty heated on my Facebook page yesterday as I expressed my view on the programme. I was accused of being judgemental with parents (they got deleted and banned). So, just to set the record straight…I am not judging any parent, who out of months or years of sleep deprivation, is desperate enough to try this. My issue is with the Health Professionals who advise it, with the Nannies and Sleep Coaches who say that inflicting this on a child is the only way…there is always a reason why Little Ones are struggling and there is always a gentle way to help them. If you have tried this, I can help you find a more gentle way. If you feel that your Little One has trauma that is stuck, energy work is the perfect solution…for both of you. Feel free to get in touch with me if you feel I can help