Note: I have included this section as the last part of Chapter 5 (Birthing) rather than the first part of Chapter 6 (Early Childhood) because I feel that many parts of it need consideration and preparation prior to the birth, and also because many of the experiences of the first 48 hours are so closely linked to the events of the birth itself.
Although a new baby is a separate being, some new mothers maintain a state of connectedness similar to that of the pregnancy for quite some time. More than just protecting, caring for or feeling responsible for, many mothers have feelings that the baby is still a part of themselves - if not physically, then certainly psychically. While the baby's biology, personality and awareness are emerging, it is a mother's first instinct to protect him from threats of any kind. She does this of course by projecting her own sensitivity onto the child - and a new mother is very sensitive about her baby.
This sensitivity between a mother and new born can sometimes be very acute. Many mothers are able to sense their baby's discomfort even to the point where she feels the baby's responses in her own body. It is this psycho-emotional closeness which is partly the cause of a new mother's anxiety about her baby. Rather than being ignored or dismissed as irrational fears and over protectiveness, I believe her instincts and intuition should be heeded and validated through experience, after all, it is best if the mother learns how to find her knowledge within and "test" it upon the child.
A new born baby is a very precious and fragile thing, physically and metaphysically. His bodily energies are very sensitive to the slightest change in environment, and that can include the nature of people who handle him and the way in which they do so. Any event which causes anxiety in him is going to stimulate his very sensitive adrenal function, and that is the last thing babies need. For many months, his senses are learning what the world is about, trying to understand it all. His reaction rates are very slow and he needs very gradual changes to be able to adapt to and understand his environment. Sudden changes or shocks to his system are to be avoided including:
· sudden changes in viewpoint (turning him around, arriving and disappearing)
· noise levels (machinery starting up nearby, even squeals of delight and laughter close by)
· unusual smells (bodily and environment)
· fluctuating temperature (from inside to outside, sunny / shady)
· varying height off the ground (lifting up or down, swinging around)
· direction of travel (sudden stops and starts, like during car travel)
· tactile experience (poking and tickling to make him smile, prickly clothing)
· unusual tastes (oils, creams, pollutants which can get onto his tongue
· changes in handling (people other than his mother)
If a baby is born in a hospital or Birth Centre, a certain amount of handling by staff is inevitable. Within an hour or so of the birth your baby's "obs" will be taken: temperature, weight, length, head circumference, hips rotated to check for clicky joints, toes and fingers counted, nervous reflexes checked, retina response to light to check for blindness, an examination for spinal formation. At this time he will also be dressed for the first time. Very often all this happens when the mother is in the shower.
Particularly for first time mothers, nurses want to help by giving hands on demonstrations. Your new baby may also be subjected to a lot of tests. There are blood tests, hearing tests, reflex tests, Vitamin K shots, Hepatitis B vaccination, as well as other routine observations, all of which require some amount of handling by others and varying degrees of disruption to the baby. A brand new mother is often not in any mood to argue with medical staff as to the validity of such handling, so making your wishes clear before the birth is important. This can be part of your Birthing Plan, but make sure that it survives your journey from the birthing room to your postnatal room where your choices and wishes should continue to be respected. It also helps in the first few days to have a confident support companion who can represent your wishes regarding handling and can question unnecessary hospital procedure. Of course, in the homebirth situation, so much of this handling is avoided since a mother is much more in tune with and control of her initial relationship with her baby.