During a home visit to help a newborn I witnessed a beautiful experience of embodiment that I want to share with you. My work with babies is a combination of cranial sacral therapy and somatic pre and perinatal therapy. Mia, aged 4 weeks, had layers of stress in her mouth/jaw/neck area due to a revision (cutting) of the frenulum, after a tongue-tie ‘diagnosis’. A revision can also cause stress in the general body-system, as it’s a lot for a newborn to manage. Mia’s other presenting issue was that she was completely avoiding turning her head to her left side.
I usually support newborns whilst they are held in their mother’s arms, if their mom is calm and resourced. Mia’s mom was grounded and very tuned in to both herself and to Mia. Babies are conscious and sentient throughout their journey into life. Even though a mom and newborn are like one, a baby’s experience of their pre-conception to newborn journey could be very different from that of their mother. Both mom and baby each need lots of room to share their unique prenatal and birth experiences.
At the beginning of the session Mia was sleeping, coming in and out of consciousness, then mom changed her diaper and she woke up a little more. I had my hand on the back of her head, tuning in to her system. Even with her eyes open she seemed in a distant place. Looking in a baby’s eyes will tell you a lot about how they are feeling, and about their current level of presence and embodiment.
Mia was largely not present, and there was a sense of distance, her eyes glazed over, little sense of connection. I opened my awareness much wider to encompass Mia’s spirit/energy body because she seemed to be out of her body at this point in the session. I held some open curiosity about where her energy body was hanging out in relation to her physical body, why she had needed to disconnect, and what was keeping her from being present in her body/self. Going out of body – leaving our body energetically – is a common defense behavior, and there is usually a good reason for it. We use this defense when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, scared, traumatized, isolated, etc. I was very present, grounded and centered, on purpose, to give Mia an anchor. In addition to holding the back of her head gently, I held her sacrum for a while so she could feel her root, and experience some gentle unwinding in her system.
There is often a place in a session with a baby in which there is a felt sense of dropping into a deeper place, and in that place there is an alignment and an energetic coming together between the practitioner and baby, and the mom if she is tuned in. It is in this space that everything, and anything, can happen. Baby decides to let healing happen on a much deeper level and is ready to open. It can take a lot of slowing down, hanging out, and listening before this opening can happen, and it may not happen in the first session.
After holding Mia’s head, and then holding her sacrum and head simultaneously for about 30 minutes, she eventually became more present in her eyes and, with a little smile, she made eye contact with me. Now she was landing more in her body, and able to be present with us.
I was gently holding the back of her head, when suddenly she moved her head quite fast side to side 3 times! I looked at mom and said, “I didn’t move her head, that was all her.” Mom was surprised that Mia could move like that. After this movement, Mia began very slowly to navigate moving her head to the left side, which had since birth been a ‘no go’ area for her. I encouraged her to take her time, sensing that this somatic area may be about her birth. As Mia slowly moved her head to the left, Mom shared, “I was laying on my left side for a very long time during birthing, and it was uncomfortable and at times painful… I don’t know what Mia was doing during that period of time.” I said, “You each have had some uncomfortable left side experiences.” We held an open curiosity together about what Mia may have been experiencing during that time.
Moms and babies are so connected somatically, and non-verbally; Mia’s movements and navigation into that left side space invoked this memory in mom of a particular part of their birthing dance. This kind of communication between mom and baby is absolutely to be trusted, and is normal.
As I held Mia’s head in that left side space, she suddenly dropped into herself even more deeply. Imagine seeing someone in a posture in which they are not quite at home, or which looks uncomfortable, and then feeling their energy drop in and occupy their body, as if the light goes on. They are able to have themselves in that posture in a new way, to embody themselves within it. In addition to becoming more present generally in this session, Mia had now become more embodied in a part of herself that she had previously been unable to occupy. This is embodiment in action.
Mom saw this integration happen in her baby girl, and looked on in wonder. Mia’s landing was accompanied by a feeling of expansion in her whole body-system, and she took the most fabulous big stretch with her whole body, arms and legs stretched out to full length. Mom had never seen her stretch like this before. Mia’s neck looked longer than it had been at the beginning of the session, which is not unusual when a somatic stress or trauma has been unwound and/or released.
Witnessing a moment of obvious embodiment in a little one is a great joy to behold. Embodiment is such an important process for which we often need some help and support. It takes mindful, present contact and holding, and sometimes some unwinding of stresses, and we are not meant to do it by ourselves. We are designed in such a way as to need to be held so that we can arrive more, and more, and more. If we are not held enough, or with enough safety, presence and empathy, we cannot arrive and embody. Stress and trauma can keep us out of our body, feeling disconnected, isolated, and unloved. This is a state of being that many of us live in for our whole lives because we don’t get the help we need.
A couple more sessions with Mia would allow her to complete her embodiment into the left side of her head, neck, and shoulder, which would increase comfort in breastfeeding, in her general presence and embodiment levels, and in her ability to connect with her loved one’s. It would also help to unwind her body-system from the tongue-tie revision.
Always opt for the less invasive options, like cranial sacral therapy, before going towards surgical procedures with newborns. Take your time and don’t be pressurized by well meaning practitioners and medical people. Unwinding stress and trauma in the body can often be enough to resolve the issues. I recommend a few cranial sacral sessions to reduce tension and unwind stress and trauma before having a revision for tongue-tie, as it may become unnecessary. It is also a wonderful gift to give to yourself and your baby as a support to integrating your prenatal and birth journey.