Vonda Gates has been an ICEA-certified childbirth educator since 1991 and serves as a national ICEA Approved Trainer (IAT) for both childbirth education and doula services. As a nurse she works with special needs children in the Black Hills area of South Dakota. Vonda has recently shared The HUG at a worshop in the wild west. Yes, she and 10 wonderful women cooked, talked, and studied in a ranch house on a large South Dekato bison operation. I can't stop smiling just knowing those bison were peeping through the window and learning how to give a HUG!
As a home health nurse for infants transitioning home after several months of NICU care, I am just getting to know this young client and his family. But when I met them at the hospital, before our venture home, my client’s mom has already expressed a concern that she was not sure her son likes her and she wonderes if he even knows she is his mom. Here, before the both of us, was her evidence: he turns away when she tries to be affectionate.
As a mother myself, that comment goes against everything I naturally know to be true. Babies don’t make that decision at this age, and her son’s behavior has more to do with normal newborn skills than a dislike for her affection.
I point out the many times Jean demonstrates skillful mothering care for her special needs child. She knows exactly what James needed when I had visited in the NICU. The oxygen had to be just so. He napped and oxygenated better on his right side, even though the logic of hospital staff said he should be placed on his left side related to the size of his lungs. He liked this music and these games. She had become the resident expert in her child’s care and had already demonstrated great passion as his best advocate.
Now I point out that her long hair was brushing his face and that his response was simply an "SOS", an infant’s Sign of Over Stimulation. This is not only a normal infant response but one that indicates he is a bright boy and knows how to reduce over-stimulation to calm himself. His behavior is his way of telling her that too much is going on when she comes close in that way. We watch again as my little client becomes agitated or "busy" when her hair falls across his face with another hug.
We agree to try an experiment and pull her hair back into a bun, realizing together that this is a way she can help her son in his efforts to calm himself. To offer more support for this fussy boy, we bring his busy hands to his chest and swaddle him as best we can, accommodating the surrounding vent circuit and wires. The wiggly hands and feet become quiet, and the red color leaves his cheeks. “Try calling his name, softly,” I suggest. There are smiles all around as James turns toward her face. “He knows his mommy’s voice,” I comment. “What a very bright boy!” I suggest that she try hugging him now. As she leans closer, James is accepting and quiet. With a calm affirmation to her voice, she says, “You do know I’m your mommy.”"