People joke that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, but I'm not sucker; it's not insanity - that's parenting.
When I was chatting with my non-English speaking infant, she would gurgle, and I found myself saying over and over, "Tell me all about it!"
When my daughter was walking and still not talking, there I was saying the words over and over, "Do you want more? More? More?" until my word was linked to the few baby signs she was learning.
And now, fast forward, my 3-year-old understands me. She speaks to me. We have conversations that make us both laugh, like this one from bedtime last night:
H: (whisper) Shhhhhhh. Mommy, it's time to sleep.
Me: (whisper) Ok, Harper.
H: ....Fffffffffffffff..... (followed by both of us laughing)
Me: Is your butt going to go to sleep too?
(Both of us crack up laughing)
Me: (whisper) Oh sorry....shhhhhhh.....
Harper: Mommy stop. I'm the leader of the shushes.
Me: Okay Harper
(We don't repeat that over and over. I promise. But sometimes a fart joke needs to be made...)
Putting toys away, getting dressed, the plan for the day...over and over and over. And it's not that she doesn't hear or understand, it's that there are so many distractions in the world for a 3-year-old.
Pro Tip: Distractions aren't all in the physical world, so watch out for fun conversations coming out of left field. EX:
Me: Harp, c'mon, in your seat. Let's get buckled and go.
H: Mom, where are we going?
H: But Mexico is much more exciting. Why don't we there first?
(Yes, why don't we! ...sigh... )
Me: Do you know where Mexico is?
Harp: On the map. My fingers can go there fast. Look at my nail polish! My auntie did it for me!
Inevitably, carrying a pile of laundry to her room ends up being an obstacle course. "Hey mommy! Come look at this new trick I can do!"
Picking up books turns in to drawing pictures, playing with Lego, and jumping on her trampoline. "Hey mommy! Look at this new jump I just learned!"
Doing the dishes together is not really doing the dishes. "Hey mommy! Look at this splash I can make!"
And she's off again! My little swiftlet indeed has the attention span of a bird. And all of it is fine and part of life, and honestly, part of the joy in being three. Plus she is stinking adorable, so yeah...
Repeating myself is part of her learning process, and me being patient (even when it's really really really hard) is to her benefit.
Bringing this Back Around...
I don't just repeat myself to my daughter.
There are a few times in life when people need calm, patient understanding. For women going through labor, being in the moment is a way to both help contractions do the best work they can, and for a woman to connect with her experience. It does no good to imagine all the contractions that need to come before the baby arrives.
So we take it one contraction at a time.
One breath at a time.
And often, taking a deep, low, long breath is very difficult to remember. So I say, over and over and over,
"Breathe. Good. Just like that."
It's not that a laboring mother has the attention span of a 3-year-old. It's that labor is hard. Pain has the incredible ability to make us lose focus.
So I say again, "Here one comes. Big breath in, and slowly let it out. Good. Breath in, and out." Until that mom is able to get into her rhythm and starts to respond to silent cues from how we touch, how the room shifts, how her partner hubs her back, how we all start to breath together.
It's a cycle, you see. It keeps going.
After her baby is born, she tries again and again to help her little baby understand the world. Her baby is stimulated from the entire world! And mom is there to bring it back down, help that little baby focus, and teach some very incredible things.
Thoughts wander. The brain is exercising. It is a great incredible thing to witness in my toddler.
But in labor, wandering thoughts, unexpected distractions, and fear can make the experience feel harder than it already is.
So let's bring it back down...
Pull that focus back...
Your thoughts want to fly up with a gust of excitement, but you have a tight hold at the bottom, slowly winding up that string, around and around and around...and you bring it back to your center...back to your baby...
Breathe all the way down...
Good...just like that...
Authored by A Swift Doula