<![CDATA[Mary Giordano | Doula MADRELUNA - Blog]]>Sat, 16 Nov 2019 09:31:31 +1100Weebly<![CDATA[My Traumatic Birth]]>Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:23:34 GMThttp://madreluna.com.au/blog/my-traumatic-birth
My clients often ask me about my own birth experiences and sometimes I have been hesitant to talk about them because I don’t want my experiences to influence the way they anticipate the unfolding of their own birth. However, the intimate nature of the relationship that we develop over time lends itself well to storytelling so I’ve decided to post about my birth stories for my clients and others to read. I particularly enjoy working with women who have had a traumatic experience of birth already and are looking for a more positive and empowering experience to help them heal. I relate well to these women as I have walked a similar path myself. The first of my birth stories that I am sharing is the one I refer to as my traumatic birth because, well, that’s what it was!! Next month I will follow on with the story of my calm, healing and very positive second birth. 
So, at 38.5 weeks pregnant, having finished work just one week beforehand, I went out to dinner on a Thursday night with a couple of friends whilst my husband was playing tennis. During the dinner I was getting strange tweaks in my upper legs that made me jump from time to time but I had seen a midwife that morning who didn’t think my baby was even engaged yet so I didn’t think much of it. After I got home, I finally got around to placing a towel under the sheet on my side of the bed, as I had been meaning to do for weeks, just in case. It was just as well because at around 4.30am, after several trips to the toilet, I woke up and noticed I was wet. I got up again to use the toilet and quickly realised that my waters had broken and they were gushing out of me.
I rushed to the bathroom while I gathered my thoughts about what was happening. It was still nine days until my due date and I didn’t feel ready to have a baby yet! I knew that once it was out it was going to be hard work and I was feeling a little bit anxious about how I’d adjust. After a little while I decided that the best thing to do would be to return to bed and rest as much as possible. So I did, but I stayed awake waiting for a contraction. About 20 minutes later my first contraction came, and went. For the next two hours contractions were relatively regular but not very strong. At around 7am I decided to get up and have a shower as I couldn’t sleep anymore and wanted to get moving. Once I got up everything seemed to stop, except the water which continued to run out of me.  

After a couple more hours of keeping myself busy I messaged the head midwife at the hospital to advise her that my waters had broken and ask if I should do anything in particular. She asked me to go into the hospital to check the baby’s heartbeat and make sure everything was looking ok, so off we went to do as we were told. The midwife met us at admissions and accompanied us while I was monitored. Everything seemed fine. However, since labour didn’t seem to have started they suggested we go home to wait out the day and rest as much as possible. They said if labour didn’t start spontaneously then they would want to induce me the following morning. They gave me some sleeping pills, pain killers and a dose of antibiotics due to the increased risk of the baby contracting an infection since it was no longer protected by my membranes. 
We got home and had lunch followed by a quiet afternoon. Every time I lay down contractions would start but then cease again when I got back up. After dinner we went for a long walk which seemed to bring the contractions back gradually but when we got home they ceased again. 
During the night I had intermittent contractions that were only just strong enough to prevent me from sleeping. By the time morning came I was starting to feel anxious and frustrated. I didn’t have a birth plan as such but I knew I wanted to have an active labour and was booked into the family birthing centre where I had hoped to have a totally intervention free labour and birth.    
I had read about inducing labour in women with premature rupture of the membranes and I didn’t like the sound of it, particularly the fact that it meant I would have to have continuous monitoring. I was also disappointed that it would mean I would be unable to use the bath during labour and be less mobile than I wanted to be. We left for the hospital with the hope of being able to continue waiting for things to progress naturally. When we arrived they assessed me and found I had dilated to one centimetre but they said it was less than I should have and still wanted to proceed with the induction. When I asked about waiting for longer the midwife told me she would send a doctor in to explain the risks of waiting.

The next thing I know three doctors strode into the room and proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that they knew best and that it would be risky for me to wait and that if I chose to do so I would have to go home. I SHOULD HAVE GONE HOME! Unfortunately, at the time I was unaware of my rights and largely unaware of the typical cascade of interventions that tend to follow an induction. I was starting to feel frustrated and tired and didn’t know how to effectively advocate for my needs and wishes so I let them coerce me into having the induction, still blissfully unaware of the mess that would follow.   
By 9.30am I had been hooked up to the syntocinon and about an hour later I started to feel some light contractions throughout which I could talk. It would be another hour before I would have to focus on the contractions when they came but they were still very irregular. I was hooked to a machine and couldn’t move very far but I used a fit ball to bounce on and walked in small circles. This went on for quite a while and then around 3pm I started to feel like I needed to push with each contraction. It took both me and the midwife by surprise as she was still insisting that my labour was not yet established. She suggested a couple of positions for me to try in order to relieve the urge to push but they didn’t work and I carried on this way for about two hours.   

By around 5pm I could no longer stop by body from pushing and I was doing so involuntarily which was making me increasingly anxious with each contraction. The midwife assessed me and found that I was still only five centimetres and said that the baby seemed to be in a posterior position. She explained that sometimes during labour the baby turns the long way around rather than the short way and that this is what was likely happening in my case. She told me that pushing too early could cause my cervix to swell which would consequently inhibit further dilation. However, as much as I tried I could not stop my body from pushing with each contraction and I became increasingly agitated and started to panic because I could sense that something was wrong.

At this point the midwife said that the only way to calm me down and stop me from pushing would be to give me an epidural, which I agreed to though not as reluctantly as I’d have imagined. We then waited until the next contraction has passed so I could quickly move out of the birthing centre (where epidurals were unavailable) and into the birth ward next door before my next contraction. Once in the new suite things carried on as before until the anaesthetist was available. It didn’t take long for them to arrive and start explaining the procedure to me and whilst they were doing so I, like every other woman in that moment, worried that I may not be able to stay still if a contraction came whilst they were administering it.

As it happens, that would end up to be the least of my worries because when they put it in they immediately realised that it had gone in too far and punctured the dura matter of my spine which had caused a cerebral fluid leak. They explained that this happened in about one in one hundred cases of epidural administration (though I’ve since heard it quoted as one in one thousand) and that there was a risk I would develop a headache. They started to talk about the steps they would take to try and avoid the onset of the headache and what would happen if they didn’t work and bla bla bla was all I really took in, as I figured that a headache would be the least of my problems. Little did I know.

They said something else though that really caught my attention which was that they would have to administer the anaesthesia in gradual small doses and top it up regularly... and as a result I wouldn’t have consistent relief. Considering that I only wanted relief from the need to push I thought that would be ok but although I did stop feeling this urge, my mindset had already been jeopardised and I was struggling to cope with the strong urges that I could still feel. In any case, around two hours later there was a change of shift for the midwives and the new one assessed me and found I had progressed to ten centimetres. So just before 8pm I started to push. 

For three hours I pushed, flat on my back with the midwife coaching me and me, eyes closed, holding my breath as I went. So much for my active and upright labour! I sucked on the gas as if my life depended on it. The pressure I could feel the whole time was unbearable and there were moments in which I confused this sensation with a contraction and I was ridiculed by a second midwife for pushing at the wrong time. I still remember that moment now almost six years later and how small and stupid she made me feel.

Just before 11pm, my midwife asked an obstetrician to check the position of the baby, who had turned to anterior and then they started to explain that I was too tired and needed help. They wanted to deliver him with forceps. I resisted and said I wanted to keep pushing but they insisted that I was too tired and that if I didn’t let her help me in that moment then I would have to wait another hour until she had finished with another woman in theatre. Clearly it was a convenient moment for her. I asked how long it would take to deliver with forceps and they said just a few pushes which caught me off guard as I suddenly remembered that I didn’t feel ready to have the baby.

Before we knew it they were putting me in stirrups and setting everything up for an imminent delivery. People moved about busily and a few minutes later the doctor returned with forceps in hand, pulled me forward on the bed and told me to push hard through a couple of contractions. She inserted the forceps, mentioned almost as an afterthought that she would have to give me an episiotomy (no informed consent) and with the arrival of the next contraction she told me to push hard and she started to pull. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of the baby moving down and before I know it I could tell it was crowning as I could feel the burning ring of fire. I still remember the snipping sound of the scissors as she cut me. With one contraction she pulled out the baby’s head but I would have to wait until the next contraction for her to pull out the body and pass it to me.

Right on 11pm she did. It was a baby boy. An actual real life baby boy. 
I was in total shock and by no means as overcome by the kind of emotions I had anticipated I would feel. I felt almost blank and disconnected from the experience. I looked over to my husband who was overcome by joy and relief and it dawned on me suddenly how difficult the past two days must have been for him, watching almost from the sidelines. Nothing had gone as we had envisioned. After the cord was cut and I was stitched up, everyone left the room except for us. I sent a message to my family to let them know we’d had a baby boy and then turned off my phone. The next few hours were incredibly peaceful as my husband, myself and our little baby boy relaxed and dozed on and off with a beautiful radio program playing gently in the background. At around 5am my husband was sent home and I was transferred upstairs to the postnatal ward along with baby Oliver. Due to the mishap with the epidural I would need to stay for monitoring to make sure I was ok.    

As soon as I arrived to the postnatal ward I noticed the stark contrast between there and the peaceful space I had just left. Suddenly I was in a shared room with a woman who had a non-stop revolving door of loud visitors and I was being bossed around by an abrupt and blatantly rude midwife who ordered me to wake Oliver to feed him. I remember it was around 10am when I sat up to change his nappy and in doing so I felt a pang in my temples like the start of a headache. I mentioned this to the midwife who was next to me at the time and she brushed me off so I laid back down to rest and hoped it wasn’t ‘the dreaded headache’. Inevitably the headache became increasingly worse over the course of the day and the reality of what we had been warned about during labour started to sink in.

The cerebrospinal fluid leak which essentially caused my previously cushioned brain to sag inside my skull, was causing an intense and unbearable pain that would only be relieved by staying flat on my back. Accompanying the headache was a terrible noise in my ears that made everything amplified and with the constant chatting of the visitors coming and going next to me I felt like my head would explode. I was visited by the pain management team multiple times and each time they explained that there was nothing they could give me that would be strong enough to relieve the headache and also that it might take weeks to resolve. They recommended I go to theatre to have a blood patch whereby they take blood from my arm and inject it into my spine in an effort to plug the puncture. Needless to say I wasn’t keen to have anyone putting any more needles near my spine, so I declined.  

In order to avoid the onset of pain my husband spoon fed me whilst I stayed lying down, the midwifes expressed my breast milk with syringes as I couldn’t hold my baby properly and they regularly changed my catheter as I could not get up to use the bathroom. During the night when Oliver started to gag, as newborns sometimes do, I couldn’t pick him up to help him but only pat him whilst I frantically pressed the button for the midwives to come and assist. Towards the end of the second day I became increasingly distressed by the pain and my inability to cradle my new baby and when I soiled myself because I couldn’t get to the bathroom and the midwives didn’t arrive in time to help me, I realised I could not go home like that. So, with significant consideration I decided to proceed with the blood patch.

I remember clearly watching myself sob on the mirrored ceiling of the lift on the way down to theatre, having just left my husband with our two day old son. I was afraid of the procedure and the possibility of it causing me further injury. However, the procedure went well and was over quickly and within a couple of hours I was back in the ward with the instruction not to try sitting up until the following morning. That night Oliver was taken to the nursery and brought back to me every few hours for a feed and I still remember the helplessness I felt that he was taken away from my side. When I woke up in the morning I gradually raised the back of the bed so I was sitting and to my great relief, there was no immediate onset of a headache.

Later that morning I was able to get up to use the toilet, have my first postpartum shower and sit down to breastfeed my baby. In the evening I discharged myself and we came home. It would be another few days before the noise in my ears eventually subsided. With all the pain I had had in my head I had barely noticed the pain from my episiotomy but that became evident over the following days as it got worse before it got better. In the weeks that followed as I tried to adjust to motherhood I experienced nightmares and panic attacks as I relived the moments in my labour in which I couldn’t stop my body from pushing, no matter how hard I tried. 

A friend at the time suggested I have a debriefing of my birth, which I hadn’t considered, and when Oliver was six weeks old I had a two hour session with Rhea Dempsey. It was very helpful to have her unpack and contextualise my experience in the broader Australian maternity health system, which I started to learn was in crisis. Of course I couldn’t change my experience but I was able to understand it. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the start of my journey towards becoming a doula as I felt sure that there must be a better way for women to bring their babies into the world and I wanted to be a part of it. If only I’d had the information, knowledge and experience then that I have now, particularly around the importance of continuity of care, I am sure my experience would have been very different.

However, I suppose that is just one of the many learning experiences of my life and one that gave me the motivation to prepare myself better the next time around. The preparation paid off and I had a beautiful experience of birth just over four years later. I will be writing about that next month.

​For anyone seeking a debriefing from a traumatic birth, I highly recommend booking a session with Rhea Dempsey:

<![CDATA[My experience making and using Montessori mobiles for newborns]]>Sun, 22 Sep 2019 01:06:32 GMThttp://madreluna.com.au/blog/our-experience-making-and-using-montessori-newborn-mobiles
I have a tendency towards minimalism and try to limit the things that enter my home to either truly useful things or things that I and/or my family really love. Not surprisingly, this means I regularly find myself negotiating my limits as my son brings all sorts of treasures (sticks, stones, empty packaging) home in his pockets that he swears he loves and needs to keep, forever. I suppose this tendency of his confirms my belief that children don’t need many toys, or perhaps they don’t need any at all. If given the chance, they will entertain themselves with the environment around them and whatever they have at hand through rich imaginative play. The less a toy does, the more it stimulates the imagination, and vice versa. Our son Oliver has received plenty of toys as gifts from others in his 5.5 years and has regularly borrowed them from our local toy library but we have only bought him a small number of quality playthings. This is also a reflection of our efforts to be mindful consumers. 
When Oliver was born we would lay him on a simple soft blanket and then someone offered to lend us a baby play mat, one of those brightly coloured ones that you often see with objects attached and noisy bits hanging of them. While we were grateful for the gesture and we tried it out, I noticed immediately how overwhelming it seemed to be for him and how out of place he seemed to be on such a bright glaring mat. I knew that newborn babies are only able to focus clearly on black and white objects, so after a little while I put the mat away and laid him back down on his blanket next to some black and white images that I had printed and stuck to a wall next to him with blu tak. It was amazing to watch him really focus on these images and follow them with his eyes as he moved. I was familiar at the time with the Montessori mobile series for newborns but I had left it too late to make them and I couldn’t bring myself to buy them as they are quite expensive. However, I decided that if I ever had another baby I would make the Montessori newborn mobiles myself for him or her to use.
So, fast forward four years and there I was having finished work four weeks before my second baby’s due date with the idea of resting and gradually making my way through my to-do list. One of the top items was to make the newborn mobiles so I gathered or ordered all of the pieces I needed and got to work. One of the Montessori principles is that the materials (toys/activities) are designed to isolate one skill or concept at a time. This helps the infant concentrate, gives them a clear purpose and avoids overwhelm. While other mobiles are often hung above cribs or in spaces designed for sleep, Montessori mobiles are designed to be used when the child is awake and alert so they can actively focus on and track or grasp the hanging objects and thereby develop their visual sense, and later hand eye coordination. The series of newborn mobiles is divided into the initial visual mobiles for the child to look at followed by a series of tactile mobiles for them to touch as they discover their hands and feet and their ability to bat and grasp objects.

I spent a couple of weeks slowly working on the mobiles, all the while wondering if I would finish in time before my baby arrived. It probably took me a total of about twelve hours, and although it was a bit tedious at times trying to ensure that each piece was balanced correctly, I enjoyed the creative process. I was excited to work so carefully on something that my new baby would be able to enjoy just a short time later and it gave me a sense of satisfaction to feel like I was doing something purposeful whilst waiting for her/his arrival. It’s interesting to reflect on this now as one of the things that I most liked about using the mobiles with her over the following months was similarly the purpose it gave her when I put her down to play/work on the floor. As mentioned above, Montessori materials are designed to help infants engage purposefully with materials that suit their developmental ability and this engagement is referred to as work. Observing my baby engaging in this work it was clear how much she enjoyed it. 

The following is an overview of the four visual mobiles I made:  
1. Munari Mobile
The first mobile in the visual series is black and white and made from 2 dimensional geometrical shapes.  It is understood that newborns cannot see colour so this mobile, which can be introduced any time from two or three weeks old, offers the child the greatest contrast in shades.  All the shapes and dowels are balanced off a glass ball which reflects the light. The mobile moves slowly by force of natural air flow 
which allows the child to track it with great concentration.  As the infant studies the mobile, he or she learns that objects are made from linear and curvilinear figures. The Munari mobile was by far the most complicated one to make and achieve the correct balance. We used it with Lana from about three to six weeks old, when we noticed she seemed to be developing an interest in colours.
2. Octahedron Mobile
The second mobile in the newborn series is introduced to the baby when they loose interest in the first one, which usually coincides with them starting to recognise more colours and shades. The Octahedron Mobile is a series of three octahedra in the primary colours of blue, red and yellow. The paper used for this mobile is usually a metallic kind and the result of the light on the moving shapes provides a rich display of new volume and colour to the infant. This mobile was relatively easy to make and Lana enjoyed using it, as can be seen in the image below. She used this mobile from about six to ten weeks old, when we introduced the next one.    
3. Gobbi Mobile
The third visual mobile in the series introduces colour graduation. The Gobbi mobile consists of five coloured spheres with intensifying color depth from light to dark. Designed to be introduced to babies between 7 and 10 weeks old, the Gobbi mobile is said to help the child develop his or her visual abilities and stimulates focus and concentration. It took me several attempts, with different materials, to get this mobile
right and I remember hoping at the time that the baby would enjoy it enough to make my efforts worthwhile. However, as it happened, although it was my favourite of the four visual mobiles, Lana seemed a little indifferent about it. She enjoyed watching it for a short time but it didn’t hold her attention for as long as the first two mobiles had. We may have introduced it a little too late, around 10 weeks old, when she had already gotten used to seeing a graduation of colours in her environment. In any case, after a couple of weeks we put it away to move on to the final visual mobile. 
4. Dancers Mobile  
The forth mobile in the series is the Dancers Mobile which introduces human like figures that appear to be dancing in the air. The figures are made from holographic paper which makes them shine and sparkle in the light while they float and flutter in the breeze. The Dancers mobile offers babies great practice at tracking objects as they practise this skill while watching the figures move slowly up, down and around. This mobile is usually introduced between 10 and 14 weeks old. We used it with Lana from about 12 to 15 weeks old, when she started to show interest in grasping at the dancers which told us she was ready to experiment with touch.  ​
At this point we put the visual mobiles away and introduced her to the tactile mobiles. Actually the Montessori tactile mobiles are more like simple hanging objects than mobiles in the traditional sense. There are many to choose from and they aren’t necessarily introduced in a specific order but offered to the infant to work with, according to their interest. The tactile mobiles are designed to offer the infant an opportunity to experience different sensations of touch as well as experiment with the cause and effect of batting, grasping or kicking an object and watching it move as a result. As with all Montessori materials, it is important to follow the child’s clue and observe when they show interest and loose interest in any given activity. I didn’t prepare all of the Montessori tactile mobiles, just a handful of variations that I could put together with objects I already had at home.

This included a simple bell hanging on a ribbon that she could bat, watch and listen to, colourful ribbons hanging off wooden rings that she could grasp, pull and feel brushing on her skin, a wooden ring hanging on an elastic that she could grasp, pull, release and watch bounce around her, and a fabric Montessori kicking ball that she could bat, grasp, kick and watch. Once Lana started on the tactile mobiles, we used them daily (interchanging them in no particular order) until she was rolling around and starting to get herself stuck around the frame they hung from, around 5 or 6 months old.  Lana was a winter baby so we spent most of her first few months indoors and we got a lot of use out of the Montessori newborn mobiles. Using them quickly became part of our daily routine and I was happy knowing that she had something interesting and purposeful to do whilst I went about my household chores. 
While I am not a strict follower of the Montessori approach, I do try to incorporate some of the principles into my parenting and home environment. I also like to make toys out of recycled materials based on traditional Montessori activities. Have you tried making and using the Montessori newborn mobiles too? If so, I'd love to hear about your experience with them!

Two of the websites I occasionally visit for inspiration for such projects are below. I have no affiliation with either of them.
If you’d like to learn more about Montessori in Australia you can visit: https://montessori.org.au/
<![CDATA[Raising bilingual/multilingual children in Australia]]>Sat, 24 Aug 2019 11:10:22 GMThttp://madreluna.com.au/blog/raising-bilingual-andor-multilingual-children-in-australia
Are you raising bilingual and/or multilingual children in Australia? If so, I can relate as I am too and I know a few things about language learning! I have been engaged in serious language learning for about twenty five years, since my early teens, both as a student and a teacher. I learned Japanese throughout high school including an intensive program in my final two years. When I finished high school I went to live in Mexico as an enthusiastic eighteen year old exchange student, unable to say anything in Spanish. Nevertheless, by the time I returned home twelve months later I was speaking Spanish fluently. My subsequent travels took me all around the world including to Germany where I lived with a family as an au-pair for six months and learned to speak German. Further travels took me to Brazil where I spent several months and learned to communicate in Portuguese. I then met my now husband, who is Italian, and although our only common language at the time was Spanish, I eventually learned Italian as well. Later at university I studied both Italian and Spanish at an advanced level and also took classes in Portuguese and French. In my final undergraduate year I undertook an internship with the Department of Education in Jakarta and learned to speak basic Indonesian. I then completed a Dip Ed specialising in EAL (English as an Additional Language) as well as LOTE (Languages Other Than English). In my professional life I have worked closely with families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in many different roles and much of my work has been focussed on supporting the early language development of refugee and migrant children as well as providing opportunities for their parents to learn English in a supported environment.
Over the years I have seen parents take a myriad of different approaches to support their children’s language learning and I have had many conversations with them about the challenges of raising bilingual or multilingual children in Australia. One of the most commonly heard concerns around raising children in more than one language is that by doing so will confuse them, make it difficult for them to distinguish between the languages and/or cause delays in normal speech development. These are all myths in my opinion as I believe that such difficulties are better attributed to personal characteristics of the child rather than the fact that they are exposed to more than one language from early childhood. However, there are undoubtedly challenges in raising bilingual and multilingual children in a society like ours that tends towards monolingualism. One of the most salient examples of such a challenge I have heard time and time again is the family that arrives in Australia with young children who they fear will struggle to adjust in their new environment if they continue to speak their own language at home. So the parents decide to communicate only in English with the children, even though they are not yet fully competent users of the language themselves. Eventually the children’s capacity in English far surpasses their parents’ but they struggle to communicate in their parents’ mother tongue. As such, the parents decide they want the children to learn their own language and try to change their habits at home but by this stage they are met with significant resistance from their children, who seem to have little interest in following suit. 

This is a very common but challenging situation because by this time the children have learned that in order to get by in Australia they only really need to speak English, at home, at school, or pretty much anywhere else they frequent. Parents are often shocked and saddened to realise at this point that they have essentially missed the opportunity to raise their children as true bilinguals or multilinguals, competent at using both or all of the family languages, in all of their forms. While I always encourage parents to persevere with their efforts, the reality is that by the time a child starts school, in order for them to become truly competent in any language other than the dominant one (English, in this case), the motivation really needs to be intrinsic, or from within the child themselves. This is because learning a language in a non immersion environment requires a lot of dedication, effort and consistency, over many years. However, for families that have the opportunity to raise bilingual or multilingual children, the advantages for their children of doing so make the effort worthwhile. Evidence abounds that facilitating this process from an early age brings a multitude of benefits. Some of these include improved concentration, analytical and multitasking skills, enhanced neuroplasticity, better self worth and sense of belonging, greater understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage and identity, opportunities to communicate easily with extended family members either within or outside of Australia, diverse career opportunities, the possibility to enjoy a broader array of music, literature and film, and comparative ease at learning additional languages in the future. 

Where possible, the best time to start exposing children to all of the family languages is as soon as they are conceived as studies have shown that language development starts in the womb (Science Daily)[i]. Obviously, the point is, the sooner the better and if you want to raise your children this way in Australia it helps to decide on your strategy and implement it from birth so that the children don’t know any different which can help you  to avoid faltering in challenging moments or situations, of which there will be many. There are various approaches to teaching children the languages that a family may speak but in my opinion the most effective one is for each parent to speak their native tongue to the children, exclusively, irrespective of who else is around that may or may not understand. This technique is sometimes referred to as OPOL (One Person, One Language). Similarly, according to raisingchildren.net.au, ...”if you want your child to grow up fluent in your native language, you and your partner must each consistently use your native language with your child – rather than swapping between languages”.[ii] There usually comes a time, around 3 years old or so, when young children that have been raised in more than one language start to exhibit preferences for the dominant language which in Australia is obviously English. This usually coincides with more time spent at day care or out of home care when the incidental exposure to the English language all around a child means their level of comprehension and ability to express themselves effortlessly in English makes it a preferred choice for them over the non dominant language. This is often a big hurdle for parents who have to decide whether or not to ‘allow’ their children to respond in English when spoken to in another language.

In our home this typical scenario emerged when our son was nearly three years old but we already anticipated it and knew that our approach would be for my husband to continue communicating with him solely in Italian and to not reply to requests or comments in English but instead ask, in Italian, for these to be repeated. It was a tedious few weeks before our son ‘clicked’ and understood that with his dad he must communicate in Italian. But it worked and he has done so ever since. No doubt it was helpful that I too speak the language and was able to reinforce my husband’s efforts at this time but even when this isn’t the case it is possible to persevere. The most important thing to understand is that raising bilingual or multilingual children in Australia rarely happens simply by osmosis because one or both of the parents speak more than one language. It usually needs to be an intentional and consistent approach, starting as early as possible. And it needs to be fun!! 
In our house this means listening to music, singing and playing games in Italian from birth, providing authentic exposure to the language wherever possible by spending time with Italian speaking friends and other children, cultivating new friendships in Italian, doing regular Facetime with family in Italy, hosting family from Italy in our home and visiting there when possible, reading Italian books... so many books, telling imaginative stories in Italian rich in fantasy, excitement and mysterious characters (my husband is great at this!), watching age appropriate children’s programs in Italian on the computer (we don’t have a television), etc. While our son was never much of a fan we have also tried going to language specific playgroups and story times at our local libraries. Now that he is about to start school we have decided to send him to the only Italian bilingual school in Victoria, which happens to be only a few suburbs away. While it isn’t our local school within walking distance from home, as would have been nice, the fact that he will continue to be exposed to both of his languages equally on a daily basis makes the effort worthwhile for us. Our daughter, who is 14 months old, already understands English and Italian equally and I find it sweet to observe that the language our son tends to address her in is Italian. I look forward to watching her language emerge and develop over the next few years too.  

If you are on a similar journey raising bilingual or multilingual children in Australia, I’d love to hear about your experience so please leave a comment below!  

If you are not but are interested in and have the opportunity to do so, there are plenty of resources online about raising bilingual and/or multilingual children. I encourage you to do your own research but the following links may provide a useful start: 

Multilingual Children’s Association
Bilingual Kidspot
Pregnancy, Birth & Baby
SBS Australia
Community Languages Australia
<![CDATA[How do you find your time out?]]>Mon, 29 Jul 2019 14:00:00 GMThttp://madreluna.com.au/blog/how-do-you-find-your-time-out
Midwives and Mothers Australia recently invited me to write a blog to feature in their upcoming newsletter and on their website. So I did! I wrote about my ongoing efforts to carve a little bit of 'me time' out of every single day. 

It was my first ever blog and I enjoyed writing it so much that I've decided to write more, so keep an eye on this space! To read, please click on the following link: https://midwivesandmothers.com.au/mama-community/how-do-you-find-your-time-out/ 
 comment below!