NICU and Divorce

Parents of small, sick  preemies  can, for many reasons, lose each other.

Parents in NICU have a scenario that the normal newborn family, home in 3 days, never has.  Because of the construct of the small space for isolette and chair etc., parents come into the unit and the mom absolutely zeros in on the isolette,  (Reptilian brain again.). Her body completely fills the space at the isolette and there is almost no way around that.  The father sees her back and little else, and again and again, he eventually sits in a chair and reads a book, appearing as uncaring and callous.  Sometimes the mother will hand the wrapped baby to dad but it’s still an offering from her, not ownership by him which is a must in a happy partnership.

I would tell this to all the parents of long term little ones and now, fifteen to twenty years later, I’m learning that the majority of our families are still intact so this may be the core problem.

Now for the bad news.  The divorce rate in families with long term NICU babies is believed to be 97%.  Tulane calls it 100%.

I believe the father as ‘left out’ is the major cause.

There is an easy way around this for fathers and I have seen many do it.  They come in alone, often before work for the 6AM bath and feeding.  It seems that this experience creates a sustained bonding.

We are enculturated to focus on ourselves with such intensity that everyone else is left out.  Intimacy is frightening and humans no longer look each other in the eye.  They don’t even look their pets in the eye.  It’s too much giving up control and allowing vulnerability.  Force yourself to do it.  Begin with a child or maybe the cat.  Talk to this spirit as independent from yourself.  When brave enough, look an adult you love (and trust) in the eyes… it’s a soul to soul experience.

Only the last years in NICU did I begin looking newborns in the eye and talking to them as an adult (and what was looking back at me was very adult… try it.)  I’d say to the boys:  “You are born onto earth and have parents who are going to give you a great childhood.  And you are quite handsome, like your father.”  And they smiled!

The notion that newborns smile is gas is complete nonsense, driven by those who have no experience.  We in NICU see it all the time and a classic example is the photo called  Laughing Premie from Loma Linda.

So, how can parents avoid divorce after NICU:

  • Choose a baby sitter.  Have the person take a CPR class for infants.
  • Include Dad in the daily care of the baby.
  • Do not focus completely on the baby.  It’s hard on the marriage and hard on the baby.
  • Make some feedings by bottle so Dad can see the curve of his baby’s cheek, that beautiful corner of the baby’s mouth where tongue, bottle and cheek meet.  So he can feel how strong the baby’s pull on the bottle is.
  • Don’t always hand the baby to Dad, he must be a full partner, not a participant.  There’s a difference.
  • Do not criticize parenting of the other.  It turns the critic into everyone’s parent, not a nice place to find yourself.
  • Once a month, go to a restaurant with booths (so no one can shout and no one can cry) for a family meeting. Bring notes if you want to.  The agenda is to be objective and to answer the question:  “How’re we doing?”.  This way, gripes don’t ooze out and ruin the time at home.  Just put it into the notes and save it for the family meeting.  Home must be safe for everyone, always.
  • Plan a date.  Once a month, every other week, you each plan something very special that will please the other and make good memories.  Not a dinner and movie date.  Something like sitting on a dock in morning mists, with a thermos of coffee and breakfast treats.  Feeding ducks in a rose garden pond. Visit art galleries on a First Thursday.  Sit on a bench and guess what passerby’s do for a living.  Visit a toy train store. Go to garage sales or a flea market.  It need not cost money.  The upshot of this is that you know your mate is thinking of how to please you and you are thinking of your mate in positive, loving terms.
  • Learn Partner Yoga.  Do it with your mate.  Do it with your children.
  • Become romantic.  Set up candlelight dinners.
  • Look into your partner’s eyes.

Why Women Shop, Why Men Fight and More About Hoarding

 Why Women Shop:

Girls begin to prepare the nest at about age 5.  It probably has a relationship

to estrogen production.  For generations a girl was given a ‘Hope Chest’, usually a large cedar lined rectangular box that was put at the foot of her bed.  This happened at puberty, around age 12 and was long awaited and expected, a rite of passage if you will.  Into this box, she was to put linens and things she had made for her future home.  It recognized the reptilian brain drive for reproduction and the required nesting.  All species do it!

As a child, she saved and protected and thought about things she liked.  When teenage years gave her freedom to move about, she began to shop.  The initial shopping was mostly for things to beautify herself in order to attract a mate, originally the primary requirement of the nest.  Later she shops for the nest.

70 pairs of shoes and gold faucets is a perversion.

Why Men Fight:

Young boys can play intently with toy trucks and heavy loaders for hours on end, day after day and never tire of it.  Or throw basketballs through hoops endlessly and never tire of it.  It’s all like a mantra, the precursor to adult jobs that will give him money to support family, his part in the reptilian brain’s nesting drive.

And men fight.  From our days in the cave, the male, stronger and testosterone driven was free to patrol and defend the nest.

Stabbing a passerby on the street and destroying villages with bombs is a perversion.

More About Hoarding:

Where the statistical numbers of 3-5%  are hoarders.  People who, by instinct and conditioning would hoard but fight it every day, are most likely well over 50% of us!

There are many events that initiate hoarding, all of them bullying, unkind behavior.

During childhood, someone threw away the child’s things… sometimes with the child watching and sometimes the child just found it missing.

The child quickly recognizes the threat and begins to keep his possessions close, thereby acting in accordance with his reptilian brain’s demand that he protect himself.  He is doing what he must.

And it can initiate as an adult.  If a husband says to his wife after she’s made a declarative statement in a social setting;  “What is your source of information?”, it will forever launch her into hoarding books, papers, documenting bits of proof and now computer links.

Hoarding is not the psychological disease.  Not hoarding is!

Hoarding is the natural reaction, part of the ‘taking good care of myself’ paradigm.  Those who do not hoard have been enculturated out of it.  If, therefore, hoarding is the norm, throwing things away is the deviance.  The trick is to, like everything else in life, use moderation.

When hoarders and would-be hoarders begin to throw things away, a scenario begins.  There is a very rapid assessment known to the victim, of how will I be harmed by this, and a flight-or-fight panic begins.  When done in old age, it’s preparing for death.

Jules Feiffer, the cartoonist, identified things as ‘little murders’.  This is a little murder.

Start a Baby Sitting Co-op

The Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-op has been working for 50 years.  

During the Kennedy years, we lived in Washington, D.C., just behind the capitol dome, an area of old row houses, some restored and known as Capitol Hill.  Scattered about were  young eager professionals in the new Administration, and someone began a baby sitting co-op which is now famous.

Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-op – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is how it worked:

People joining the co-op were friends of those already in it.  No money was exchanged.  Instead we used theater thickets (script), each one representing 15 minutes.  So for a six hour evening, you left with 24 tickets, giving you 6 hours worth of sitting from someone else in the co-op.  There was a phone list and when you wanted a sitter, you began calling.  Within months the group of parents grew into two groups, four by the end of the year.

Returning to Portland and living near our beloved Reed College, I began the co-op.  Sometimes the dad would be the sitter, sometimes the mom.  I remember every one of the houses.  How lovely to sit in a different house, listening to their music, quiet hours of reading.  occasionally new friendships were made but most often the social exchange was business-like and polite.

Would you worry about becoming stuck with children who won’t go to bed?  Take your copy of the PACIFE Music to Calm CD.  They will fall asleep.  Quickly.

Rules of the co-op can be expanded to taking your children to someone elses house during the day. This probably needs a bonus such as double or triple scripts depending on the number of children.

Add another twist.  Include grandmotherly types who can exchange their script for some garden help for example.  Or for cat sitting.

Co-ops need a set of rules, a board and one person for oversight. All paid by script.

Watch a Child’s School Experience Carefully

You may never find out what happened to change your child’s behavior… here are some examples.

Several years ago, in a Portland middle school, a little girl did not have a food voucher at the end of the lunch line.  Her mother forgot to renew them.  The cashier scolded, berated and humiliated the child, took her food tray and threw the food into the trash.  The nightly news reported it and interviewed the principal who defended the cashier.

A similar experience of public humiliation from a kindergarten teacher, has left me with a lifetime of horrible consequences.  And because children are cheerfully sent off to school by parents, they believe that the parents are in agreement with everything that happens to them.

Parents need to keep an open, clear conversation with children, every day, about what happened in school that day.  Pay full attention, careful to not blame the child for anything or become overly agitated as the story unfolds.  You don’t want to shut this communication off, children are literal, they only learn embellishment and lying later, embellishment if they are not listened to and lying to avoid bad consequences to what they are saying.  Then go to that school and raise hell!

One of my children did not bring an expected drawing home from her small religious school that day. When asked she said the teacher threw her drawing into the garbage. I took the book Picasso’s World of Children,  went to see the teacher and told her she would have thrown away Picasso’s work and that she had no business being anywhere near a child. Then I joined the Board of Director’s of this school and fired her. As an adult, this child of mine was blessed with the entire gene pool of generations of portrait painters, she could draw as a photograph looks. This could bring hours of delightful magic to her life but she will not draw or paint.

Teachers, nurses and police are professions that appeal to the same segments of society, the supporters and the controllers.  Because exchanges between them and client patients, students and the public are essentially private, the controllers can be as nasty as they wish.  Watch out!

“Call Home for a Ride”

Parents need to show this sequence to children and tell them to: “Call home for a ride… no questions asked, happy to come and get you”.

This is an episode of the Judge Judy show that illustrates the fragile relationships and betrayals of teenagers.  It’s called Set up for an attack and there’s a 3 video clip sequence telling the story.

Ashley, the victim in this scenario, needs expensive and extensive plastic surgery to repair that broken nose and restore her beautiful face.

Clues to How the Family is Doing

Some tricks to tell what’s going on behind the scenes in your family.

There is an entire subtext evolving behind the scenes in families with children… how they are interacting together, what they think of their parents, how it’s going with neighbors and friends and then there is school.  For much of it you have no way of knowing but there are clues.

  • DRAWINGS:  Pencil and paper will give you an amazing glimpse into your child’s life, worries and solvable problems. When they are still in the stick figure drawing mode, ask them to draw their family, to “draw you and Billy”, draw themselves with someone they like a lot, someone they don’t like a lot and the playground at school. Family drawings can be a mom with no ears which means she does not listen, the dad with a huge round mouth means he shouts, one sibling bigger than mom or dad means he’s a bully.  Drawings showing the child drawing as very small means he sees himself as powerless in his family, drawing a parent without arms means he gets no hugs.  When my children were young, I’d have them make these drawings every few months, snatch them up and seriously begin working on the problems.  One of my children, an extremely talented artist in adult life, drew me (a single parent with 4 little children.) with a smile on my face and tears running down my cheeks.
  • PHOTOGRAPHS:  There has been much written about reading faces and it’s deadly accurate stuff.  Choose a picture showing a smile for example.  Take 2 white pieces of paper (this gives no distraction) and cover one half of the face, then the other.  What seems to be a smile can become a grimace! The face may be smiling but the eyes are crying!  Then cover everything but one eye, then the other, then both eyes, then the mouth. As you do this, give one word to the emotion you are seeing in that one eye.  fear, worry, imp…  this is how the child is feeling generally.  It may also reflect how he’s feeling about the photographer.  Information from posed photos is somewhat different than from snapshots.  It’s very interesting to do this with old posed photos where the photographer was busy setting the camera.  The subject would hold the pose and begin to adjust it to be what he considered his ‘best look’  and fatigue or boredom would degenerate his pose to reflect the reality of his personality.Then there are those photos of the married couple, each leaning away from each other.  Remember, there were probably other photos in the series but this was the one chosen!  In group photos, watch if someone is consistently tilting the head away or leaning away from another.
  • THE MIRROR:  If you want to know how someone felt with a certain expression in a photograph or in conversation, go to the mirror and arrange your face in the same way.  Then hold that pose a minute.  Your body will feel what that person was feeling.  Arrange your face with a frown, a straight across mouth and a straight head for example.  you feel one way. Then keeping the same expression, cock your head and you feel another way.  Anther good exercise is to watch a talk show with the sound off and you will be seeing something very different than with the sound on.

Violence as Mindset

Behavior toward children, family and others is basically dictated by cultural background and passed on for hundreds of years. It takes recognition, disgust and a powerful act of will to change it.

I know someone who has a terrible underlay of anger and violence in everything and about everything and he frightens me.  This mindset requires another underlay…  the need for controlling it and being around that requires trust.  He’s a drinking alcoholic in denial which exacerbates it.

We were raised in the same Germanic ethnicity, of righteous anger, control and nastiness toward children.  My French parent sat in silence, maybe he was stunned into inaction, maybe he had no idea how to countermand it, maybe he was afraid.

  • A story:  One day my little children were playing ‘house’ and the one who won the privileged role of ‘mother’ instantly became my mother!  But she didn’t know my mother.  She was playing me and my worst nightmare had happened.  I was passing it down to yet another generation.  I isolated myself, took apart my behavior, looked at it objectively, vowed to reverse it and made a plan.  I removed, stopped, ended every negative comment (and a whole load of negative thinking.). Because the child’s reptilian brain demands that it attempt to please the parent, I adapted a new way of speaking to them.  Ignoring the behavior I did not like, and looking for examples of behavior I wanted to reinforce, comments became  only about how well they were doing in pleasing me:  “I love it when you put your dishes in the sink.” and the consequences of this were huge.  We all became happier but, in addition, I’d become relaxed, happy, unstressed and playful. Life was good. Life was great.

All cultures have fundamental agendas and they are played out in childrearing,  passed from generation to generation forever and recent studies show that they alter DNA.

  • German:  Fighting for ‘The Fatherland’.  The language is abrupt, paternal and dictatorial.  Childrearing includes constant criticism, bullying, humiliations and physical abuse.
  • French:  Non-violent, happy, pleasant social interaction.  The language is lyrical and beautifully flowing.  Childrearing includes enjoying them as they play.
  • Asian:  Saving face.  Careful  to protect the self-esteem of others.
  • American:  A polyglot cultural mixture of everything,  a war zone if you will.
  • Bhutan:  Happiness of the people. Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.

Bibliography:

I’m OK. You’re Not OK. A Game

The how and why of unhappy, dysfunctional workplaces. and how to get out of it.       

All disciplines have game theory, Computer. Psychology, Chemistry, Political, War…

Transactional Analysis is the study of Psychology game theory as defined by Eric Berne in his book. Games People Play.  The how to recognize these games interference and how to get out of them is clearly laid out in the fascinating book by Jongeward and James, Born to Win.

The three part game, I’m OK.  You’re Not OK., Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch, and Rappo! (throwing a monkey wrench into the works) is the foundation of America.  It’s the foundation of what goes on inside of families, of hospitals, schools, governments, business, each a microcosm os the whole.  Rappo is when, for example, managers of a large hospital unit walk in one morning and fire the strongest, most talented, smartest nurse.  This controls behavior of the staff for years.

So you recognize that this game is in play and someone begins the scenario with you.  How to get out of it?  Simply say:  “I’m not playing.”, turn and walk away.  The thing that always amazes me is that this sentence stops them, even when they don’t understand game theory and are so entrenched in a game within the framework of their lives  that they believe it to be normal behavior.  

This game underlies dysfunctional families and super controllers.  It stifles excellence, creativity and good outcome.

The goal of excellence is positive regard, partnership, mutual support and success creates opportunity for serendipity, the meat of life.

I asked a film director what his job was and he said:  “My job is to create a framework within which everyone can do his best work.”

Perfect.

Dark Skinned People are Born White

Again and again, mom stands waiting next to the isolette, beaming, happy and proud when dad comes in to see his baby for the first time.  He becomes angry, sometimes raging angry.  His baby is white skinned and blue eyed and dad accuses mom of infidelity.

I’m always amazed that this is not understood by every member of every dark skinned family.  Not knowing this causes terrible problems and heartbreak.

Skin color, hair color and eye color is a  factor of light.  Melanin, the cause of color is only triggered by light and the baby has just emerged from the darkest place on earth.  Color takes awhile to develop and may not be fully established for 6 months.  The white color may be pink or reddish but this is from a high ‘crit’, the red blood cell count.  With a normal crit the baby’s color would be white skinned not all but the majority.

On dad’s first visit, I’d tell them that all babies are born white and that their baby would have his beautiful color within months.  Then I’d show them examples of his color in his nail beds and the ‘Mongolian Spot’ at the base of the spine.

Don't Want to Move?

Tricks to change a depressing, forced move to a nice adventure.  It’s magic.

  • Get a box and go around your house, selecting your most precious things… photographs, things the children made that you want to save forever, special gifts, letters, your Gratitude Journal, a vase and pack them into the box.  Take that box to the new home.  Instantly your heart leaves the old and bonds with the new.  Arrange them in the new house, bring a flower for the vase and replace it with a new one every time you go to the new home.  This is from an elegant and wise Feng Shui book, Wind and Water.

Feeling like your new home is not yours?  Another fix, more magic.

  • My daughters visited for my birthday.  The day arrived and the pilot among them asked if I wanted to fly to Seattle and hang out for the day.  I said that what I wanted to do is clean house. They looked at each other, grinned and said:  “ALL RIGHT !!” Blinds went up, doors opened, music on loud (Aretha of course), cleaning equipment out and we cleaned, danced, sang, ate and laughed together.  Major Fall housecleaning. Here is the magic part… the house now had sweet memories of family, our memories.  We as a family imprinted it.  No longer was it foreign and temporary.  Now it was home and precious.

Negative People

Life is Good.  Life is Great.

I’d say this in the middle of the night at work and co-workers would ask what I was on or say that I’m crazy.  In the break room old episodes of The Cosby Show would be playing and I’d remark that it was exactly like our house and everyone pounced saying that no-one’s house was like that.  When questioned, they said everyone’s house was Married with Children.

Why are some firmly and absolutely negatively based and others, maybe blindsided, frantic or sad, remain positive?  Genetics? Childhood influences?  Sure but this doesn’t mean the ‘negative Muse’ cannot stop. What’s a ‘Muse’?  In this context, it’s when you find the one word that describes the underlying  goal of every day.  Lloyd Reynolds was a ‘Comic Muse’.  (for wonderful stories, see archives)

Negative people can change but I think it may require an ‘ah ha’ moment, something big, something life threatening big.  A terrible brush with death, fighting cancer, anaphylactic reaction to bee sting.  An event that illustrates without a doubt that life itself is positive.  One can force this event by structuring life risk events like Sky Diving, Rock Climbing.

Negative people are enculturated to mistrust those who are positive and hanging out with someone happy and positive for awhile is, to quote a friend:  “A life changing experience.”  But then fear of the unknown creeps in and not only do they revert but they attack.  It takes a personal ‘ah ha’ moment where fear and anger are no longer desirable.

F. Scott Peck says not to try to change this, just stay away in his book People of the Lie.  Becoming involved catches you in their karmic loop.

Derek Bok, former president of Harvard says in his book, Political Happiness, that only 3 things prevent one from experiencing happiness:

  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep deprivation  (fix this one with the music of PACIFE)

I would add two others:

  • Alcoholism
  • Narcotic addiction

Certain professions force the negative personality, some by the assumption that people are doing something wrong, others by circumstances.

  • Policeman /Lawyer /Judge
  • Social worker
  • The NICU nurse and RT (Respiratory therapist) for example,   approaches every minute with an underlay of ‘what’s wrong with this’.  They have to because anything wrong can accelerate rapidly and must be pounced on.  The tiniest drop in heart rate.  A cacophony of equipment all with alarms, some can be ignored, some we run to.  They work with eyes behind their heads. And this negative micro-management runs over into life outside of work, damages relationships and is hard on children.
  • In Computer work, QA (Quality Assurance) is negatively based also.  Finding what does not work is the entire focus of the job.

Vacation. Leave the Children at Home Trick

A friend with six young children invented this.  Leave the children at home, it it’s a large gang of them maybe leave them with two adults.  Children younger than maybe 7 would not remember the vacation anyway.

Then, have a vacation in your own city.  Experience your city as a tourist.  No quick stolen minutes together.  A lavish block of time, leisurely time to refresh yourselves and reduce stress.

This leaves you 20 minutes away in case of emergency and gives peace of mind and an intimate several day vacation together.

What Women Want in a Man

  • A full-term baby in the big room of NICU was three days post-op from major surgery and had a long, indwelling central line of some sort.  During evening visiting hours, the surgeon from another hospital came in and told me he was going to remove the central line.   He then turned bright lights on around the crib, put the crib rail down, took the pacifier out of the baby’s mouth, turned the music off , bent down and said to this week old baby boy:  “Steven, I’m  Dr. Silen and I’m going to remove your central line.  It won’t hurt but it will feel very strange for a minute.  I will let you know when I’m finished.”   As he began to talk, the room fell silent.  He finished the procedure, talked again to the baby as promised, replaced the pacifier, turned the music back on, put the crib rail back up and dimmed the lights.  As he was leaving the unit, I ran up to him and said: “Dr. Silen, you don’t know me but you have just become my hero.  Every woman in this room fell in love with you tonight.” He looked at me in surprise and then tears came to his eyes. He bent and kissed my cheek and said that it had been a difficult day, thanked me and said that he had needed that.
  • A friend’s mother is on the way back to America, in a little sail boat, 2,000 miles from land in any direction, out of contact with anyone for 50 days and alone with her beautiful gentle, happy loving husband.  Co-ordinates in Google Earth show them as a dot completely alone in the vast ocean.  I wonder what that’s like!  It’s a second marriage and early on they bought Harleys and toured America. Then they bought a jeep and went to the top of every mountain in the American West. For the past years, they have lived on their small sailboat with long stays on island after island in the Pacific.

Women want loyalty and kindness, they want partnership, they want adventure, to be safe and they want security.  They want to build the family nest and have peace in their life.  They want interesting conversation and to laugh.

Women want the men in Nora Robert’s novels.  Women want the Dr. Silens of the world.