Kathryn* called me about working with her son, Gregory*, feeling sure that his birth was contributing to his expressions of anger at home and at school. Gregory has an older sister that had come over a two year span to work on her difficult birth with her parents. Now a mother educated about the impact of birth patterns, Kathryn felt that if we worked on her son's birth, it would help the anger issues.
Gregory was a naturally conceived child, which elated Kathryn and her husband. She used assisted reproductive technology with her first child. At the end of her pregnancy, Gregory turned breech and the doctors scheduled her c-section at 39 weeks. Unbeknownst to her, Gregory had turned head down and was ready for birth by the time of the surgery. Still, the doctor went ahead and performed the c-section, informing Kathryn later of the fact that really, they didn't need the surgery.
"He wasn't ready to be born," Kathryn said to me during the intake for Gregory's session.
Babies who are born without any trial of labor (birth initiated by the baby) often feel that their impulse is thwarted, that they were pulled or forced out before they were ready. Many babies have an idea about, plan or intention to be born. Hence, the anger and frustration of people like Gregory when told "no," or during transitions. For these children, we use what Ray Castellino calls Empowerment Games. We meet them with their big energy, their "no," and their natural aggression that can come up when conditions are similar to the sudden, unplanned c-section. These conditions may include: transitions that are sudden and not planned well (many induced or c-section babies will need a lot of preparation), or sudden actions on the part of children, parents, or other adults. They can have sudden and intense expressions of anger and frustration that may include hitting, pushing, yelling, kicking, and biting. Gregory had all of these emotional expressions. The trick is to not make the child feel bad and allow for the child to express his feelings safely.
Upon entering my office, Gregory wanted to explore and see everything. He was a delightful boy with a lot of energy. He laughed easily and we had fun together. We went into my bathroom and had fun taking a pretend shower, soaping up and getting clean first. Then we settled down to play. We had several cars (firetruck, schoolbus and police) that played together. He had the firetruck, I had the police car and his mother had the schoolbus. True to form of needing to express his feelings of empowerment, Gregory's car began to hit other cars. We enforced no hitting the cars but we brought out a big pillow and hit the pillow with lots of joy. Kathryn had played with me with her other child, and together we met his big energy with lots of yells and pounds. I had the car that was hit, and this car became sad and felt hurt. This mother/child dyad burst into a song from Daniel Tiger:
"It's okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you'll feel better again!" See https://pbskids.org/video/
We sang this song several times. Then I got out my tunnel. This is a see through tunnel. It was not surprising that Gregory got in their in a little ball, pushing his feet up toward me. I played have one hand come in and grab him, and he pushed it away with gusto with his feet, and yelled, "Again!" When a child likes to play the game over and over, you know you have discovered good medicine for him. We played this game with him with one hand, then two hands coming in a grabbing him. And he would kick them away.
We moved on to play cars again, this time with more gusto, then some craniosacral therapy for him. As we were sitting fterwards and he was having a snack, he snuck his firetruck up to all the cars he had hit earlier and whispered "sorry." Then, I told him the story of When Sophie Gets Angry.
This is great play session to repattern early difficulty. Kathryn at times employs repatterning using story telling as well, telling the kids about their birth difficulties and then retelling the story of how they wanted it to go. But allowing children to have their big feelings in a safe way, through play and story-living is optimal!
See more about Family Sessions by clicking here.