Connie and Tony came to the office for a well baby check for their nine-month-old son, Oliver. He was fussy from teething, but otherwise doing well and meeting his milestones. The parents, on the other hand, spoke of being exhausted from frequent waking, which had strained their once harmonious relationship. We talked about ways to improve the situation and I gave the parents a “prescription'” to go out on a date once a month—just the two of them.
Nowadays, many families embrace the model of Attachment Parenting (AP), which focuses on forming strong healthy bonds between parents and their children. In honoring their children’s emotional and physical needs, parents help to build a foundation for a lifetime. In trying to be devoted parents, however, the parent to parent bond and connection can be neglected.
According to AP, parents are encouraged “to treat their children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model their interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.” Unfortunately, while attending to daily activities, many couples struggle with finding time to consider one another’s thoughts and feelings. It is a common tendency to take each other for granted. As a child’s first role models are usually his or her parents, it is important that the parents also display acts of kindness, respect and dignity for one another.
There are many joys that come with a new baby. Everyone’s emotions run high as life adjusts to breastfeeding, bonding, lack of sleep and sex. Once baby comes, the relationship is now forever changed. Naturally, an infant requires love and attention, but after the excitement settles, many parents are left in a state of confusion as their roles and relationship become re-defined, again and again.
From reading the latest research to attending classes, expectant couples spend many hours preparing for birth and baby. It seems that we prepare more for our newborns than for our relationship, which is meant to last a lifetime. Compared to the past, when young parents had support from family as well as deep-rooted customs and traditions, many contemporary couples take their vows without any preparation or guidance. Nowadays when difficulties arise, we possess few resources, and it is not surprising then that the divorce rate is nearly 50%.
When baby is born, couples may encounter new challenges regarding finances, religion, household chores, raising children, gender roles, and family values. Although there may have been discussion about these things beforehand, a couple may not really know how they will respond until they become parents.
MODELING A CARING RELATIONSHIP
Attachment Parenting and child-rearing philosophies help guide parents and offer resources for the well-being of our children, as well as for the whole family. They are meant to be adapted to meet the family’s needs. One of the important lessons we can learn from our children is that many things in life do not go as originally planned. It is important that parents remain flexible, strive for balance, and enjoy the experience.
Ultimately, children learn by modeling nearly everything from their parents. According to the ancient proverb, “Give your children two things: roots and wings.” Being a parent is an immense responsibility, yet is extremely rewarding to participate in building a foundation for the next generation with the aim of raising children who act with kindness, respect and dignity for themselves and others. For this reason, your relationship as a couple is important for you, but also as a model for your children.
EVERYDAY TIPS FOR RELATIONSHIPS
1. Communication. Be slow to anger, and quick to listen. Listen more than speak. Consider the 95/5 rule: offer positive comments 95% of the time and constructive criticism 5%. As human beings, our tendency is to point the finger and blame others, especially our spouse. On a daily basis, we often have unreal expectations about how our spouse should or shouldn’t make us feel.
2. Consideration. Charity begins at home. Psychologist Hugh MacKay writes, “What makes a life worth living? A life worth living is a life lived for others.” This concept is based on a fundamental principal found in many faiths—that we should treat other people the way we would like to be treated ourselves. Consider your spouse, and pay attention to his or her needs.
3. Intimacy. To have and to hold. Men and women are “wired” differently in many ways, including their hormones. From lack of sleep to breastfeeding, for many couples, especially women, sex no longer takes precedence in the postpartum period. However, after baby is several months old, it is important for both parents to compromise. Remember, sexual intimacy helps to unite the couple.
4. Courtship. Rekindle your relationship. Go on a date on a regular basis (i.e. once a month). Consider a marriage retreat, or weekend getaway. Share babysitting duties with like-minded families. If you are short on funds, skip dinner or a movie and go on a daytime hike.
5. Compromise. Set realistic expectations, and remain flexible.
6. Take care of yourself. Take an exercise class, go on a walk or for a hike. For inspiration, reserve a minimum of 10 minutes a day (even up to an hour) for prayer, meditation, or reflection. When one feels good, it helps to recharge, refuel and rejuvenate all aspects of life, including relationships.
7. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn to say no.
8. Ask for help. If difficulties persist, seek help with friends and family. Many couples have had success “working-it-out” with a therapist, minister, or other professional.
HOMEOPATHY IN THE POSTPARTUM PERIOD (AND BEYOND)
Holistic medicine can strengthen a mother or father’s constitution and address complaints that range from mood swings, and fatigue, to on-going dissatisfaction—all of which can affect our relationships. Following a nine month pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, it is usually mom who is most physically affected. Due to the dramatic change in hormones and lifestyle, along with lack of sleep, there are many remedy choices for her, and for the whole family. The following remedies, especially Ignatia and Sepia, may be useful in the post-partum period.
Ignatia comes from the St. Ignatius Bean, a tall woody shrub. The seeds from the flowers are used to make the remedy. The seeds have a bitter taste, hence, the “Ignatia” mom is in a bitter mood. She is high strung, easily offended, and has problems sleeping. All in all, her symptoms tend to be out of proportion (even hysterical). Ignatia is used most often in the early stages after birth, when emotions run high. In addition, Ignatia is a wonderful remedy for recent losses, sorrows, and disappointments.
Sepia comes from the ink sac of the cuttlefish and has been used in photography (sepia tone). Sepia can be used more often in the long term stages following birth. The mom who could benefit from Sepia is feeling emotionally detached from her children and partner (and does not know why). She lacks energy and feels better when she exercises. She is conscientious about her responsibilities, but worn out caring for everyone; she feels like being alone and getting away from it all. Physically, she is prone to genital herpes outbreaks, PMS, and often complains that she is sagging (i.e., face, belly, breasts etc.).
Natrum muriaticum is useful for the parent who suffers quietly, and keeps her feelings to herself. She tends to be overly responsible and avoids company. She may have difficulty crying and may experience long periods of sadness. There can be a craving for salty foods, lemon and ice cold drinks.
Phosphoric acidum is indicated when a parent) is exhausted, and weak with a sad indifference. The depletion most commonly comes from a ‘”loss of fluids,” as in breastfeeding. There is an improvement following a short nap, and also a desire for refreshing fruit juices and carbonated drinks. Common complaints include hair loss.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Bach Flower Essences can be used in conjunction with homeopathic medicines.
Rescue Remedy is a combination of five flower essences useful for intense times in our lives (such as a new baby) and when our emotions are heightened. Rescue Remedy helps take the “edge off.” Place two drops in a beverage and sip.
THE HOMEOPATHIC APPROACH
The homeopathic approach takes into account that everyone is different; so not all people are given the same remedy. Homeopathic medicine is safe and effective (even during breastfeeding), without the side effects of standard medicine. Ultimately it is best to work with a homeopath. However, the above remedies are available in 30C potency; three tablets are taken once daily for three days, and then as needed.
Copyright © 2008 Dr. Feder – All Rights Reserved
Lauren Feder, M.D. specializes in homeopathy, pediatrics and primary care medicine. Known for her holistically minded approach and for combining the “best of both worlds,” Dr. Feder is a frequent lecturer for parents and professionals and is the author of Natural Baby and Childcare and The Parents’ Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations.