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There was a sense wonder in the car as we drove to Kliptown this week...we were changing classrooms as renovations were being done to the baby room. We were shown to our new venue and settled in.

This week’s theme was the emotional regulation of your baby and when the mothers both groups arrived they were invited to lie down on the floor and Monja went through a Breathing Awareness exercise. “focus on whether you are breathing through your nose or mouth, can you notice the cold air as you inhale and the warmer air as you exhale, can you notice your chest expand and sink and does your belly move” she inquires “now unconsciously tense your belly, does your chest move more” she asks.

With the mothers moving now to sit Monja asks “does it bring anything up lying down bringing attention to your breath and yourself”

“good to relax”

“I found myself yawning”

were typical responses

“it is good to yawn” points out Monja, “it realises the diaphragm” she concludes.

“how do you express or not express your stress” Monja asks next

“by screaming and shouting”

“become frustrated”

“shutting down”

“shout at the children”

were typical responses

“living in an informal settlement and dealing with stress is difficult as so many of us live under one roof” points out one of the mothers “as we can’t just talk to anyone, especially family as they just tell us we have our own problems to deal with and sometimes even talking to a friend is not good as they just tell everyone” she concludes.

All agreed this was a cultural way and Monja asked “is it therefore unusual for you to share like you are now in a group situation” both groups agreed.

“we can teach a baby to express its emotion through a toys” points out Monja “by allowing them to throw a ball and making it a game, they are venting their frustration”

Later in the 2nd session one of the babies threw a tantrum, laying on the ground and cried. Monja asked the mothers to join in and they all mimicked the child and he soon stopped. The same outcome happened when a different baby knocked a chair over in the 1st group, Monja knocked another chair to the ground, this was turned again into a game “they must be able to act out and express their emotion and learn to express in a healthy, not to block, suppress or shutdown” says Monja “the older babies will start speaking and express themselves as more temperament comes out, tapping and squeezing is another good way of calming a child” she concludes.

Both groups then started a session of tapping, squeezing and transitioning.

As some of the babies in the 1st group are crawling, nearly walking Monja wanted to demonstrate a transition to stand using a chair, eventually climbing onto it.

Monja tapped a seat to encourage interest and one of the babies pulled herself up to stand next to the chair. As she wanted to climb up she was helped to do so by bending a leg and moving it upwards and onto the seat. Grasping the back she was able pull herself up to her knees, eventually to stand and then sit back to squat and back to standing “squatting is an important transition to standing” points out Monja. Moving off the chair was not so easy but again with encouragement she was able to do so. “self image is so important for a child, when they can do something by themselves they will do it over again, it is great for their self-esteem”

Monja then demonstrated on a mother, using a larger chair the process of transitioning onto a chair, through squatting and climbing off the seat to stand.

Turning to mothers of the younger babies in the group Monja reiterated not to sitting their infants “doing so will put them in a position where they can’t move and this creates dependency on their parents” she warns.

Some of the babies started to become restless so Monja suggested some singing. She had been practising some afrikaans nursery rhymes and was keen to teach to both groups.

As the 2nd group came to a conclusion one of the mothers mentioned “I feel as though I am starting again, my baby has seemed to have forgotten the tapping, squeezing & transitioning”, Monja’s response was “being in hospital was traumatic for him, he was separated from you and probably started to shut down and freeze” continuing she says “the separation would give him a sense of rejection but continue when you can with the tapping and squeezing it will make him feel secure”

Right at the beginning of our journey we stopped at a set of robots to collect the dolls that were being made for HBF by Michele, they are going to be used by the mothers later.

We were back to two groups this week and the theme was love yourself and your baby.

Monja announced to each session “I have been watching a series of talks on trauma and I would like to play you a song by Raffi called Song For Healing”

“this is why we do this work, to recognise and honour the children” she concludes.

After both groups had listen to the track there was silence coupled with a lot of positive emotion in the room, some mothers in tears.

“it is good to show emotion, we lock it inside to often” points out Monja, “how did listening to that make you feel” she asks

no much how you are hurt, we love our children and feel the love from them”

“give your child love despite what you have and don’t have”

“we need to love ourselves”

“we love our children but there is pain if we don’t feel loved then we transfer it to our children”

were responses from both groups

“as some of the children in this group are getting old enough I am going to demonstrate some transformations to sitting positions” Monja explains to the 1st group.

To instigate this a session on of tapping and squeezing started with some of the babies already used to this they were saying “bamba, yeka” and “shaya, shaya, shaya” themselves!!!....some of the babies are rolling from side to side of their own accord...with one baby rolling to sit on their own!!!

To demonstrate this the mothers sat with straight legs in a V shape and Monja put a toy in front of them beyond their feet “now reach for the toy” she instructs, “difficult isn’t it” she points out as none of them could reach. One of the mothers then bent a leg and pulling it upwards she was able to grab the toy, “that was a side sit position” exclaimed Monja “which is what you need to teach your children, although it is taking them off balance” she explains.

Taking one of the babies and placing it face forward in her own V shaped legs Monja starts to bend the leg backwards at the knee into the side sit position “now she has the option to turn” shows Monja as she brings the other leg underneath the bent one and onto her knees, this then moves the child’s torso over her knee “and by moving her backwards she will sit on her heels” demonstrates Monja.

Monja now individually demonstrates this on the mothers with them sitting with straight legs, Monja sitting behind.

As the 2nd group do not have much of a chance to practice tapping and squeezing because their children are older and have progressed beyond that stage, Monja brought the dolls so they could. It is important that they practice as much as possible to catch up with the project. As they were practicing she asked the mothers to look at their children to see how they are transitioning already. As the babies wanted to join in they did try and practice on them but as they are older it proved to be difficult.

“let’s see how the children interact with the dolls” asks Monja. As they were very inquisitive the children started to point to the dolls face saying the body parts.

After a while the babies became restless so a singing game was played. With all the mothers sitting in a circle they connected each hand with the person next to them. Singing a Zulu song they in turn tapped the next persons hand until a specific word was said. To stay in the game you had to move your hand away as that word was announced or you were out and the circle became one person smaller. The children were very excited and wanted to join in.

Monja asked both groups what they could take away from this weeks session

“share our problems”

“the group brings us a positive energy”

“communicate with our babies”

“love our children”

“always give your baby eye contact”

was their response

The journey in the car was filled with anticipation this week, how did the women feel after last week’s session without their babies.

Upon arrival we learnt that a funeral was taking place in the community that day so understandably some of the mothers were missing therefore a decision was made to have one session, each group was evenly represented.

"what did it feel like after last week’s session, especially being without your children” enquires Monja

“had a great day, even afterwards”

“went home and played with my baby”

“I had a very relaxed day”

were typical responses.

“this week we are going to start a new theme which is Attention” explains Monja, “what comes to mind” she asks

“focusing on what we are doing” was the unanimous reply.

The mothers now paired up with Monja partnering a lady. Facing each other Monja explains “we are going to try an experiment. take your partners hand and start to touch, squeeze or stroke it, how does it feel” after a while she instructs “now concentrate on your hand and how it feels” continuing the experiment she asks “now pay attention only to that hand and investigate how you are touching it, observe the quality of your touch” moving forward Monja now asks “pay attention to how it feels for you and then notice how it feels touching each other”.

“does it feel different when you are paying attention to just yourself compared to when you are noticing the fact you are touching someone else” mentions Monja “your touch may become softer” she concludes.

Everyone swapped so that they could feel the sensation of being touched and when asked how it felt when the attention was brought for both parties noticing each other

“it became softer and warmer, more sensitive”

were typical replies

“how often do we pay attention to what we are doing especially when we dressing our baby whilst talking on the phone” asks Monja “connect and pay attention to your children when you are with them, this will help them develop” she concludes.

A session of tapping, squeezing and transitioning followed. It was evident that some of the mothers from the 2nd group needed some more attention to their technique therefore Monja obliged and gave them more detailed demonstrations. They were urged to practice at home.

To conclude the session singing and stomping of the feet calmed the babies down.