From Maternal Love to Holding Presence: Cultivating a Deep Connection with Your Child
In the field of child development, the concept of presence is often considered a cornerstone of nurturing and bonding with a newborn.
But what does it mean to be truly present for a baby? And are there different levels of presence that can be observed and practiced?
From my experience as a mother, a doula, and a perinatal somatic practitioner, I’ve identified and experienced three distinct levels of presence that can be experienced in every parent-baby relationship. These levels, ranging from the instinctive to the deeply introspective, offer a glimpse into the deep connection that can emerge between a parent and their child.
Level 1: Maternal Love
The first level of presence is perhaps the most primal and instinctive: the overwhelming love and adoration that a parent feels for their newborn. This level of presence is often described as a feeling of being "lost in the gaze" of the baby, mesmerized by their tiny features and the innocence of their expression.
It's a level of presence that is often accompanied by a sense of wonder and awe, as the parent marvels at the miracle of life unfolding before them. It's a moment of pure connection, devoid of any thoughts or distractions, where the parent exists solely in the presence of their little baby.
Level 2: Maternal Musing
As the baby grows and develops, the parent's presence evolves into a more thoughtful and observant state. This second level of presence is characterized by a deepening understanding of the baby's cues and needs. The parent begins to notice subtle changes in the baby's movements, facial expressions, and vocalizations, which provide clues about their state of being.
This level of presence involves a process of musing, where the parent contemplates the baby's needs and experiences. They might wonder if the baby is tired, hungry, or simply seeking comfort. This reflective state deepens the connection between the parent and child, creating a sense of empathy and understanding.
Level 3: Holding Presence
The third and most profound level of presence involves a deep and embodied connection with the baby. This level is often described as a feeling of "oneness" with the child, where the parent's physical and emotional state mirrors the babies’.
In this state of holding presence, the parent is attuned to the baby's subtle emotional shifts, whether it's a hint of agitation or a glimmer of contentment. They might feel a surge of energy or a sense of calmness in their own bodies, mirroring the baby's internal state.
This level of presence is often experienced during times of stress or discomfort for the baby. The parent becomes a container of calm, offering a sense of stability and support to the child. It's a powerful demonstration of unconditional love and acceptance, as it requires the parent to look at his/her own triggered emotions, and hold him/herself together in order to hold space for the baby.
Cultivating Presence: The Role of Self-Awareness
While these three levels of presence can arise naturally, they can also be intentionally applied through conscious practice. One key element is self-awareness, the ability to tune into one's own thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.
By paying attention to their inner experience, parents can become more attuned to the subtle cues of their baby, fostering a deeper connection. This heightened awareness can also help parents identify unresolved issues from their own past, which may be influencing their interactions with their child, and is a process that is paramount for any parent wanting to heal wounds from their past, and build a better relationship with their children.
In essence, presence is a journey of self-discovery, as parents navigate their own emotions and experiences while simultaneously supporting the emotional well-being of their child. It's a reciprocal dance, where both parent and child learn and grow together.
The three levels of presence – maternal love, maternal musing, and holding presence – offer a roadmap for deeper connection and understanding between parents and their children. By cultivating these levels of presence, parents can create a nurturing environment where their babies can thrive physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Hi, I'm Alex!
I'm a Perinatal Somatic Coach and a Doula, whose great passion is the power of compassion and emotional holding. My dream is to ensure that parents and babies don't go through difficult birth experiences without being given the chance to heal right from the start.
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