Australasian Journal Of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
NO.1&2 - 2022
Australasian Journal OfPsychoanalytic Psychotherapy
NO.1&2 - 2022
Granny Goes to Baby Obs
Around Christmas time in 1934 a young couple made love in a small flat in Tokyo. A baby was conceived and mother and baby underwent a turbulent pregnancy. The young mother was not in good health, her life was thought to be at risk, and she was advised to have a termination which she strongly resisted. Mother and baby survived and went forward to a traumatic birth. The baby was a breech birth, the American obstetrician didn’t arrive until late in the labour, so much of what went on was conducted in Japanese, which the mother barely understood. What she did understand was someone saying ‘The hands, the hands’, and she thought her baby had been born without hands.
However the young family was resilient, enjoying their sojourn as strangers in a strange land, until real disaster struck. The father caught smallpox when the baby was sixteen months old and died leaving mother and child desolate.
Infant observation has profound effects on the observer. My own experience is that it is rather like a geological exploration in which geologists take a core sample right down deep into the earth. The longer the observer’s life, the longer the core sample. My core sample goes back, if you count pre-birth experiences, sixty-seven years, and all of this gets activated in an infant observation.
In this paper I propose to do two things. One is to talk about the experience of undertaking an infant observation. This may be helpful to anyone who is considering doing an observation and, like me, some may be doing it after their basic psychotherapy training. The second is to relate some elements of my own experience, especially that of being a grandmother, to the process of my infant observation. It is probably the case that not many people are grandmothers when they undertake their first infant observation. I have found that the role of grandmother offers some particular insights to infant observation – and vice versa.
Why did I decide to do an infant observation so late in my career? When I trained in Perth nearly twenty years ago there was no one offering Infant Observation. Later a colleague did offer a course but I was not able to do it. I had almost given up hope, despite the fact that many friends who had trained elsewhere said that Infant Observation was the single most helpful thing in their training. However, two colleagues, Julie Stone and Judy Griffiths, were both persistent and entrepreneurial in exploring how we could set up a course. Eventually we were fortunate in that Frances Thomson Salo agreed to supervise us from Melbourne by phone. With some trepidation I accepted the invitation to join them.
The trepidation was justified. It is a big undertaking. In purely practical terms it takes a lot of time. I think that the observation itself, writing it up, and the weekly seminar altogether take about six hours each week. But the space it takes in the mind is much greater than that. I was apprehensive about what might get stirred up. The metaphor of the core sample didn’t occur to me then, but at some level I must have known what would be tapped. It has been an extremely rich experience. It has been a tumultuous time for all three of us, as well as a very rewarding time.
I dreamt endlessly of babies and of parents or parent-like figures. Some of my dreams were very distressing, others were very liberating. One in particular was one of those landmark dreams which shifted something quite profoundly. I had a great deal of internal work to do during the year – this also took up space of course. In a perfect world I think it would be good to be doing one’s own therapy at the same time as a baby observation.
While these upheavals were going on in my internal world another world was opening up: the internal world of the baby. To journey into the mind of the baby with colleagues and a skilled guide as supervisor is as thrilling as any space odyssey. When I started the observation I had no idea what a profound effect it would have.
Finally I was committed, not without ambivalence. I would like to share with you some of my experience of setting up an infant observation, of finding a baby and settling into the work. I think it is important to have quite a long lead time because finding a baby isn’t always easy. I approached my GP who suggested an obstetrician whom I know. For both of these people I wrote an explanation of what would be involved and of the professional reasons for doing an observation. It is useful to have something of this kind written because sometimes it is necessary to approach a lot of people before you find a baby.
For the three of us in our group this was quite a tense and anxious time. It was rather like trying to get pregnant. I remember as a young woman living in a small town called Canberra when a whole bunch of us were trying to get pregnant. I remember the excitement when one of us did, and the disappointment for those who didn’t. This was a bit the same. As we met week by week our first question was ‘Have you got a baby?’ There were some disappointments, leads that could not be followed up because of boundary issues, potential babies who were so far away that travelling time became impossible, parents who were understandably uncertain.
I was fortunate in finding a family who were expecting a second baby. Their elder child, Henry, was almost two. They were alerted to what I was looking for by their obstetrician, and they agreed I might come to them to talk it over.
This pre-birth contact is extremely important, as it allows the parents space to consider the request and explore what will be involved. It also allows the observer the opportunity to talk about the concept of observation and to explain a little about how useful it is as a learning experience. I was fortunate in that the parents of the baby I observed were people who could easily assimilate the idea of a professional training which involved a module of observation.
Sometimes, although it was not the case for me, parents consciously or unconsciously hope for advice and support; at other times they feel very anxious about being observed and may be tempted to behave differently while they are being observed. Of course there are anxieties on the other side as well. It is a great privilege to be allowed into people’s lives in this quite intimate way. I had fears that I might find the observer role hard and also that I might find it very difficult to remember an hour of interaction so that I could make comprehensive notes afterwards.
I met ‘my’ parents about a week before the baby was due. It was an evening and their little son was in bed. They asked a number of questions about the format. I explained that it would involve a weekly visit for an hour of observation, that I would write it up and discuss the observation in my group. Everything would be confidential and it would be about watching normal development. The main concern Megan, the mother, had was about whether, if she agreed, this would interfere with other things she wanted to do. We talked about this and about how much flexibility could be built in. While they were not against the idea there were some ambivalent feelings, very understandably, about making the commitment. They also realised its importance to me and that I would be disadvantaged if they agreed and then withdrew. Eventually they decided to give it a try, with the proviso that they would withdraw if they were unhappy after the first four weeks. I made it clear that of course they were quite free to withdraw at any time, but that I appreciated their concern about a commitment to me.
The setting up process in itself is very important. I have come to see it as occupying a position a little like the setting up of psychoanalytic therapy in that the frame is very important. Many issues have to be attended to such as the proper limits of the observer role (I’ll talk about this later) and the relationship between the observer and adult figures such as parents and grandparents. During all this time we were meeting with our supervisor to discuss and explore this process. I believe these early meetings are a very important part of the whole experience, a kind of gestation period and very holding.
The first contact with the baby is also very important. When Megan and Jonathan had agreed that I could observe their baby we agreed that they would contact me as soon as possible after the birth as felt comfortable to them. If possible I would like my visit to be in the first few days, perhaps while Megan was still in hospital. In the event I saw Sophie when she was five days old, a beautiful baby, not at all wrinkled or squashed-looking everybody commented, and seemingly very peaceful. It had been an easy birth and Henry had been to visit. All the family were looking forward to being reunited at home.
Having described the setting-up process I would like to describe a little of this observation, picking out two or three examples of the kind of things I noticed which seemed significant in the process of thinking about these questions:
What might this mean to the baby?
What does the baby mean by this?
If the idea of a baby meaning things very early in life is a little strange, it will probably cease to be so if you decide to do an observation. The idea of a baby having a mind – or growing a mind – and seeking for other minds comes to have a good deal of relevance. We were constantly amazed, as we observed, at what might be the meaning of what we saw. Could it really be the case that Sophie, at 10 days, drifting in and out of sleep, picked up her mother’s voice and alerted to it? Certainly, as I watched her, it seemed as if she opened her eyes and responded whenever she heard her mother’s voice in the next room and not when she heard other voices. Very early Sophie seemed fascinated by the branches of trees. Her first change table was in her parents’ bedroom where she could look out of the window at the branches of a tree playing in the wind and sunlight. It certainly looked, at 3 weeks, as if she sought that view while she lay on the change table and was both interested and soothed by it. Later, when she was 4 months, this interest continued. When her mother put her outside under a jacaranda tree just coming into flower she lay and seemed to watch the patterns. What she was watching seemed to interest her and also to give her pleasure. We wondered if she was also able to use the experience to soothe herself or to hold herself in some way. She is a very placid and self-contained little girl. Her experience of being well mothered certainly contributes to her sense of security, but we wondered whether she was learning to give herself some security by looking at things she found attractive and soothing.
I will want to come back to this theme of looking. It plays an important part in my whole interaction with Sophie, and not just because of my looking, but because of how she uses her vision. Before this however I would like to discuss some aspects of the observer’s role. It was, as one can imagine, a hot topic for us. It has of course been discussed by many other observers so I want to focus here on what were the major issues for us.
I imagine everyone starting an observation is apprehensive about their role. What if we were to see a child in danger or being ill treated?
I don’t suppose there is much question about physical danger; if a child was about to fall out of a window we would intervene. But what about what might seem to an observer to be emotional danger? These are serious questions and we talked about them a good deal. I felt very held by the group so that if these issues had come up for me (and they didn’t) I would have known I had support.
But there are other issues besides danger. The observer obviously cannot be a fly on the wall. One’s very presence in the room changes things. Because we know how strongly babies react to a blank face it would be persecutory to keep a bland distance even if we wanted to. On the other hand it seems important not to initiate anything – easier said than done. For instance, when I greet Sophie, should I smile or just have a pleasant open face? If I smile then that will probably elicit a smile, if I don’t smile she might be bewildered since most people do greet babies with smiles. What about touch? I’ve held ‘my’ baby twice when her mother asked me to. Obviously I’d love to have held her at other times but the discipline of the observer role seems to preclude this. Now that she’s bigger I wonder if she’ll ever ask me to lift her up – in which case of course I will. What do you do when the baby is crying and you are alone in the room with her? Usually I make some comment like ‘You are missing Mummy, she’ll be back soon’, but only in exceptional circumstances would I pick her up. Quite often with Sophie the acknowledgement itself has been soothing for her.
There are parallels between the role of observer and that of grandparent. In each case you are at one remove from the action. You may have a lot of knowledge and experience but these are not the qualities which either role requires. Each role requires a degree of self effacement and holding back, a valuing of the experience of others rather than an offering of one’s own. While each role requires hard work each also requires a certain emptying out of the past and a receptive being in the present.
All of this is about distance and closeness, about actual physical closeness and emotional distance and closeness. I want to explore this theme for the rest of the paper in two ways. First to comment a little on the effect of the different distances between Sophie and me and my grandchildren and me, and some of the things I learned because of this. Second I will use a couple of vignettes to explore particular aspects of the distance/closeness theme as they came up in my observation.
One of my early granny experiences occurred when Sophie was 10 weeks old. I had missed a week of observation because I had been on holiday, and during that time I had visited my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Sydney. I didn’t see my granddaughter often and at that time she was ten months old. I loved being with her of course and her parents generously allowed me to spend a lot of time with her. When I left I was sad. I thought I knew a good deal about my responses to and defences against sadness and loss, and I thought I had worked those feelings through. However I was puzzled at the emotional tone of my next observation. Something felt flat and unlively, almost, dare I say, boring. It was not until I started to write up my observation that I realised what was going on. The baby I wanted to be with was my granddaughter not Sophie, and I defended against the loss by defending and dulling my feelings for Sophie.
It was salutary lesson in disentangling countertransference feelings in the sense of my own material which was being brought into the situation from countertransference feelings in the sense in which we more usually use the term nowadays, to mean what is actually brought up by what is going on in the session. I also had to own to feelings of envy when I watched Sophie’s grandmother’s interaction with her. She sees her often and interacts in very easy and familiar ways – as I would like to do with my grandchildren if they were close.
I was able to transfer some of my learning in the other direction – from my baby observation to my interaction with grandchildren. In particular I became aware of a greater , respectfulness in myself for what is going on for the baby or small child and a wish to preserve their sense of autonomy and space. I became more aware of what it might be like for the child to have these occasional visitors taking up space in her world. I found myself giving my grandchildren more space. I surprised my two-year-old grandson by asking his permission to pick him up – readily granted I am pleased to say.
It is to this quality of space I now turn in looking at three vignettes. One is from my granddaughter Arielle, and two are from my observations with Sophie. Of course with Arielle I am not an observer, but I think my contact with her and my attempts to understand her are greatly enriched by my growing understanding of and exploration of the baby’s inner world in my baby observation.
I went to stay with Arielle and her parents in June when Arielle was almost eighteen months old. She hadn’t seen me for a while and also she hadn’t been well. So I was careful about her space, interacting with her on her initiative, I read her stories and played with toys when she was ready. But mostly she wanted to be with her mother rather than with this friendly stranger whom Mummy and Daddy seemed to know rather well. So for two days I had not actually held Arielle. Late on the afternoon of the second day Arielle was playing in the kitchen around her mother. She would occasionally include me in her play. Her mother went out of the kitchen to the bathroom and closed the door. I don’t think she had said anything to Arielle about where she was going. Arielle looked up from her play, noticed her mother’s absence, and burst into tears. I said, ‘Mummy’s gone to the bathroom, she’ll be back soon’. Arielle stood in the middle of the floor, a little figure surrounded by a lot of empty space. It seemed as if she might not be able to hold herself together in this moment of temporary loss. She seemed to look at me in an appraising way and, I thought, to decide that I might do as a temporary refuge. She flung herself in to my arms and I held her. She snuggled into me for a short time and then, I think, had enough of a feeling of togetherness in herself to dim b off my lap again and wait for her mother, who came into the room almost at once and comforted her.
I understood this as Arielle, in an emergency, using me as a good enough object to help contain her feelings and support her when she feared disintegration. There seemed to be deliberate thought on her part before her move towards me. There might be other ways of seeing her behaviour of course. What I am convinced of is its purposive nature and that her mind was at work.
Now I would like to turn to two vignettes with Sophie which, in their different ways, are also about the mind and the use of space and separation. These two vignettes occurred a week apart when Sophie was nine months old. On the first occasion Megan, her mother, had hurt an ankle and was somewhat immobilised by this. She was sitting on the sofa in a room where the children were playing. After a while Sophie started to get grizzly, giving little plaintive cries. Megan commented that she’d had breakfast very early and was perhaps hungry. She said to Sophie’s brother, Henry ‘Henry, would you do something special for me? Would you go and get Sophie’s bottle and bring it here, it’s on the kitchen table’. Henry needed a bit of coaxing to do this, but he went and fetched the bottle for his mother and gave it to her. Sophie was sitting on the floor not far from Megan but just out of reach. I was interested and puzzled by what happened next. Sophie saw the bottle in Megan’s hand and set up a wail. Megan said ‘Come here, Sophie, you can have your bottle’, but Sophie simply sat still and cried. Megan tried to coax her into coming to where her mother and the bottle were – a distance of probably a metre and a half – but Sophie simply sat still and cried, not seeming willing – or able – to move. I offered to pick her up and take her to Megan but (rightly I think) she didn’t want me to do that and moved down the sofa to where she could reach Sophie and pick her up. Sophie then snuggled down in her mother’s arm and took the bottle for several minutes before deciding she’d had enough. I was puzzled by this. Why would, or could not Sophie move towards Megan? Perhaps she’d never before had quite that experience of seeing the bottle in her mother’s hand and her mother not immediately picking her up. Such an experience might at that moment be devastating, as if she thought her mother might not care enough to pick her up.
I was really quite disoriented by this experience – and perhaps that was how Sophie felt. I found myself using a carefully rational approach to try to deal with my disoriented feelings. I watched Sophie closely to check that she really could move towards something she wanted. I’d seen her do this many times before but I needed to reassure myself. Of course she could. When she and her mother had played for a bit she was happy to be put on the rug again, and to move purposefully towards what she wanted. But during the interaction with the bottle something was going on which made that skill unavailable.
I talked about this episode in supervision, and we thought about what it might mean to the baby to see her bottle in her mother’s hand but not to be picked up herself immediately. How would she make sense of this? It certainly seemed as if frightening ideas came to her. My supervisor reminded me that Megan, because of her ankle, would have seemed different to Sophie, perhaps not picking her up with quite such ease. Perhaps the different, damaged mother played a part in Sophie’s reaction. It was a new view of her mother which had to be assimilated and about which she needed to be, and was, reassured.
I was fascinated by this event in Sophie’s life. It seemed to be something to do with distance and closeness and with what could be held onto in her mind over a physical distance, or as the result of distance and difference. I was particularly intrigued because Sophie’s interaction with me the following week seemed to me as if it continued this theme.
In my role as observer I have had little physical contact with Sophie. I have held her on two occasions but, much as I would enjoy holding her, I have tried to keep what seems like a proper observational stance. We had had, particularly over the last few weeks before the vignette, a great deal of eye contact, and quite a lot of contact through what I might call conversational babble, when she would babble to me and I would respond, sometimes in babble, sometimes in words which I hope mirrored some of her feeling. This could go on across a room and, even as she became mobile, Sophie didn’t seem inclined to add physical contact to this repertoire. However, the week before this episode she had crawled over to where I was sitting and hauled herself into a standing position next to me, still without touching me. She also had started to reach a hand out to me from a distance in a kind of wave signifying contact.
On this particular day I was on my own with Sophie in the kitchen. She was in a high chair at the table eating a rusk and I sat next to her after saying Hello. She looked me over in her usual solemn way and I went and sat next to her. This is closer than I’ve usually been able to sit because usually Henry is on one side of her and Megan on the other. After looking at me for a few minutes Sophie put out her hand and I put out mine. We touched fingers and then both withdrew our hands. I did this in response to her cue of withdrawing. Then Sophie smiled a very warm smile such as I hadn’t seen her direct at me before. It seemed to say ‘I’m glad to see you’. For some time Sophie and I were engaged in a hand game of touch and withdraw, a kind of hand peep-bo it seemed to me. It was a lovely interaction which we both enjoyed.
Then Megan came in and sat on the other side of Sophie who seemed very contented in her chair, where she was on a level with us, enjoying her interaction and eating her rusk. Megan went out to make herself some toast and tea.
Sophie watched her mother leave the table but continued her hand play, eye contact, and lots of talk with me. Megan commented that there was more talk than she’d had before. Sophie was quite vociferous, even passionate in her delivery and I chatted back, partly in words like ‘You are wanting to tell me something’ and partly in jargon mirroring hers as much as possible.
At one stage Megan came back over to the table as if to ‘claim’ some of the conversation. Sophie was delighted and reacted to her with pleasure. Just at that moment I wondered whether she looked at me a bit dubiously, as if wondering how I would feel that she’d shifted her attention from me to her mother, or wondering whether she could relate to two people. But later, as Megan played with her, brushing her face with her hair, Sophie seemed very pleased with her interaction with her mother and yet I felt included in her gaze. It was if at that moment she could encompass good feelings about two people, although earlier I had sensed some dilemma about this.
This episode is perhaps partly about Sophie’s beginning capacity to think about twoness and threeness. But it also seemed to be about connectedness without holding on. Sophie connects with me through her eyes and her voice very robustly. She seems to expect this connection also from me and we both enjoy the interaction. This was the first similar kind of connection through touch. It was also a very clear connection but it didn’t involve holding on.
Sophie has continued her game with me and added variations. On one occasion, after a party, she picked up a balloon and played a very active game of peekaboo with me. She did not attempt to do this with her mother or brother. On another day we were in the garden and she delicately and deliberately picked some little flowers and gave them to me. Again this was something she seemed to do just with me. It is like a theme with variations, contact, even touching, but not holding on, always done with pleasure and energy and always, it has come to seem to me with a recognition that this is our special game.
I have begun to wonder if this series of connections is somehow related to the observer role. I am not someone who does things for her, or to her. I watch her, and she watches me, our roles are more equal than her roles with other grownups or even with her older brother. Is the observation a special opportunity for her to experience being watched and connected with by another mind in a different way from the caring and loving role of her parents?
I had an insight about this in a subsequent observation. I was alone again with Sophie and she had a very runny nose. I have to confess that I finally could bear it no longer and departing rather guiltily from my role as observer, I wiped her nose. Her response was of quiet outrage. I don’t think she likes having her nose wiped anyway, but this was different. I had, I thought, damaged my position with her by being someone who imposed something on her. We were no longer equals. She withdrew her eye contact and her babbling for a while. I was fortunate that she forgave me fairly soon, but it was a salutary learning experience for me.
I think the frame of the observer role for Sophie is as important as the therapeutic frame, and to break it is to damage something.
As I come towards the end of this paper it seems appropriate to share a little of my experience of the ending of the observation. Of course, from the very beginning I knew it had to end. Megan was also very sensitive to this and commented several times on how hard she thought it would be for me. She also commented on how much Sophie seemed to enjoy my visits and to appreciate being observed in a careful way. In supervision we wondered what it would be like for us, and thought about the effect on the baby of the loss of the observer. What would it mean to her and how would it affect her?
As the year’s observation reached its last quarter I began to think more about the ending. I went through a period of grieving and a time when I was acutely sensitive about loss. I was conscious of issues about loss taking up a great deal of space in my inner world.
At this time I had two dreams which were profoundly significant for me. They seemed to come from the core sample and from very early. In the first dream I was invited to dinner with Donald Winnicott. There were quite a few people in the room with me and Winnicott and I had a very powerful feeling of pleasure and well being. This dream was like a tiny fragment on the edge of my dream life, different in quality from most of my dreams as I’ll explain in a minute. The second dream was even more of a fragment. I simply had an experience of a totally grey world full of ectoplasmic figures and a feeling of utter despair.
I think these dreams were not so much memories as re-enactments or recovery of early feelings; Winnicott is one of my heroes and I have known he is a father figure for me. I believe that I experienced in that dream the pleasure and security of a little girl being with her father. It is different from most experiences I have of thinking about my father (whom I cannot consciously remember) in that it is not tinged with sadness. I believe it was a recreation of a pre-loss state of feeling. The grey fragment I understand as being my state of feeling after my father’s death. Mourning is hard for little children who have few words, but the feelings are intense. One of my reasons for thinking that these two dreams represent a different layer of experience from my usual dreaming is that they were stylistically quite different from my usual dreams. If I were to talk in term of painting style most of my dreams are in rather thickly laid-on oil paint, heavily textured. These two were like watercolours, pure clear simple colour. They were not multi-layered. I think these two experiences were not so much memory but reliving, as if I had travelled back to a time when my own experience was vivid and uncluttered. If that is so did I have a taste of how babies experience things, with a kind of directness that gets overlaid and cluttered later on? Does Sophie experience her feelings like this? I’m not sure, but I’m inclined to think that what I connected with in those dreams was a very early uncontaminated core sample. It is one I don’t believe I could have retrieved but for the experience of infant observation. As our observation drew towards its end we spent a good deal of time thinking about impending partings. How would we say goodbye appropriately? Would we take little presents? Would we write something about the observation for the baby and family to have? How much was it appropriate to encourage the parents to express their feelings about the ending? We thought that the finishing might well be more significant to us than to the families. Interestingly each of the mothers had, towards the end of the baby’s first year, begun to pick up more outside activities, either to return to work part time or to take up some new training. It was almost as if a developmental stage had been reached, the mothers seemed to be moving out a little, letting go a little in the lives of their children.
We wondered about the effect on the babies when we no longer came to observe. Would it feel like a puzzling loss? And anyway, what might be the effect for the babies and families of having an observer for a year? We thought a good deal about this. There is some evidence that the observer can be experienced as supportive and holding by many families. Perhaps the presence of a person whose main function is just to think about the baby and her mind may support the parents in their thinking about the baby’s mind and their capacity to hold the baby in their minds. Perhaps the experience of an extra person, obviously interested and warm but rather separate is helpful to the baby in her process of discovering that she can think and be thought about.
I have finished my infant observation now. I am sad and miss ‘my’ baby. My last view of Sophie was of her going to sleep at the end of my last visit. I was glad to have a little time on my own to observe her quietly before I left. I don’t know whether I shall see or hear of her again but she has had a profound impact on me and my work.
Perhaps this is a place to reflect very briefly what some of those effected are. I do two kinds of work. One is with mothers and babies and the other is adult psychotherapy. In my mother-baby work I am aware of many ways in which I am able to be more observant and in which my knowledge of infant development has been greatly increased. But far and away the greatest impact is on my awareness of the baby as a person in her own right, my alertness to her and my respect for her capacity to contribute, interact and understand. I often ask mothers what they have said to the baby about what is going on when they come to see me with a problem. Mothers are often surprised that I should think a baby could understand. I have come to have a very high opinion of what babies can and do understand from the very beginning. In my adult work once again there are some very clear practical consequences. One that is very obvious to me is my greater understanding of and capacity to think about sibling relationships. I have learned a great deal from Megan and her children. I am also much more alert to physiological responses in my patient and myself and of the baby in each of us. But again I think the most important gain so far for me has been an increasing capacity to stand back and wait. I am much less likely to rush in with a interpretation than I might once have been, much more able to wait and let a situation unfold, repair and produce its own conclusion in a developmental way. I suppose I trust the process much more consciously. My concluding thoughts are about the future. In one of our supervision sessions we thought a lot about the future of ‘our’ babies. What risks might they face, what strengths do they and their families have. We had just heard of a very joyous interaction between one mother and baby in which each seemed to take great delight in the other. Gratitude was an emotion which seemed to the observer to describe this interaction: the mother’s gratitude at how much she enjoyed and delighted in the child; the child’s gratitude expressed as yet non-verbally as pleasure in response to shared experiences.
Because we were thinking about things which come to an end the matter of weaning came up and we discussed our babies’ experience of this. Our supervisor reminded us that weaning is not only a weaning from but also a weaning to; from breast to cup for instance. I find this metaphor powerful. The breast is safe, stable, connecting: the cup allows more separation and more freedom. We spoke of the human need for both connectedness and freedom.
As I thought about my weaning from the observation and my baby’s separateness now from my own life I remembered a dream I had had the night before. I found it a powerful expression from my unconscious of the themes of connection and separateness, ending and continuity. It was about me and one of my grandsons but I think I dreamt it also for my group and our babies.
I dreamt I was in the garden of the house where I grew up and where I played a great deal as a small child. There was a shed in which I often had my own little house. But in the dream I was lying on the lawn. My three year old grandson was about to jump over me. Just before he did so he said to me ‘You have to make a wish Granny’ In the dream I thought first: what should I wish for? Then I realised the wish must be for him and I said ‘ I wish you will have a happy life’. As my grandchildren, and the other children, jump over us I do indeed hope that their leap into the future will be a happy one and that our mindfulness will have contributed to that.
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