The Opening Path

313 West Liberty Street, Suite #230
Lancaster, PA 17603

717-538-0161

This is How Trust Begins

"This is how trust and all language begin -- In wailing and tears"


Trust and language begin together in the first few days of life. Parents take on a huge job with a newborn, trying to meet needs and moderate wants. When the baby screams with pain when they are hungry, or wet or hurt or just too tired to fall asleep, parents have a very difficult time. The way they react to this difficulty creates warmth or coldness.

Five day old Joyce and been crying on and off all day. She cried and wailed.

“Maybe she’s hungry” her new father Russell wondered out-loud to his tired wife Maria.

“No,” Maria nearly wailed herself. ”I just fed her. And, a half an hour before that as well! She just cannot be hungry!”

The ring of Marie’s phone beeped over the baby’s shrill cry and Russell bounced the baby up and down while Maria answered the phone. Russell listened over the crying as Maria talked on the phone. She was explaining Maria’s crying. Maria held the phone near Russell’s ear and they both listened. Russell heard the voice of Maria’s Great Aunt: “Just put the baby down and let her cry herself to sleep. She’ll learn not to cry”. “It‘s what I always did. She’ll stop crying eventually”.

Maria made a face, but her voice was kind as she thanked her Great Aunt for her advice, got off the phone quickly and turned to her husband.

“ I love my great aunt, but that’s ridiculous! She’s crying for a reason, how can we ignore her?”

The frustration of her baby’s crying for the last three hours raised her voice to the same cadence and volume as the baby’s, and Russell noted the exhaustion in her face as he bounced the baby, patted her on the shoulder and said “there, there, it’s ok”. Maria smiled. Even though the baby continued to cry she felt a little better. She smiled as Russell continued to hold the baby, and he smiled back, bouncing baby Joyce and talking to her and to Maria.

Russell’s cadence of talking was equal to the baby’s crying, just a little softer. Maria’s, too.

In the vignette above, the parents were sensitive to what the baby is feeling. Maria dismissed her great aunt’s advice and she did not worry about pleasing her relative nearly as much as she worried why the baby was wailing and most importantly what they should be doing to calm her.

She thinks about what is happening: “She can’t be hungry I just fed her (twice). And she and Russell are emotionally aware as well-- their voices are louder, and they match the cadence of the baby’s wails. They are feeling what the baby is feeling.

Their voices do not rise above the cadence as though to yell the baby down—that would be frightening to the baby.

They gauge each other’s energy and talk to each other like good partners would.

Finally they both did an absolutely remarkable thing. They match the baby’s tone of crying and then begin to calm themselves. As they calm they begin to think more clearly. And smile!. Sometimes the baby calms with this, sometimes not.

The important thing is that they are feeling and thinking about the baby. Whatever the cause and the reason, it is this emotional and thinking bond that teaches this little lost crying baby that she has two parents who love her and can take care of her. The emotional connection, the act of holding, talking and soothing give baby Joyce trust and the ability to talk. Crying is the first word your baby speaks. And speaking itself begins as a act of trust. It begins in the moments they are surrounded with caring.

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Deutsch: Pluto und Proserpina(Persephone)-Glocken Fontäne Rondell - Sanssouci, 2009.05.03