Your baby has just arrived from the constancy of the womb environment to an unfamiliar world of sensory stimulation including sound, temperature, light, air and space.
Fresh from the constancy of the water-cushioned womb environment, the only environment it has ever known, your baby is suddenly confronted by unfamiliar sensations of gravity, cold, light and noise. You are its only familiarity.
Le Boyer, a French obstetrician believed a baby’s entry into the world ideally should occur in a quiet room, away from bright lights, with no unnecessary conversation. Known for his theories on non-violent birthing methods, based on those he had observed in India, he believed that those attending the birth should speak in hushed voices. He advocated that the umbilical cord not be cut until after pulsating ceased. The baby was then immersed in a warm bath and lovingly and gently massaged until it stopped crying. Le Boyer claimed that babies born this way appeared more alert, smiling and content compared to those babies born conventionally. Many of his philosophies have influenced birthing methods today.
Meeting your newborn for the first time is often described as one of those rare and incomparably extraordinary moments in life. “I cried, everyone was crying,” recalls Melissa, following the birth of Hudson.
“My husband cried for 40 minutes before he was able to call his parents,” recalls Sarah, after giving birth to Jasmine. Many new parents are able to recollect that special moment of coming face to face with their newborn with complete precision and clarity, in tales of relief, shock, euphoria and overwhelming awe. Lisa, having given birth to Myla, recounts:
“It’s the meeting that is the most amazing thing. You know you’re having a baby, you’ve been living it for nine months and when they actually come out it is the most bizarre moment. You’ve been dreaming of what they look like and suddenly they are there with you, looking up at you. It’s remarkable, completely remarkable”.
In many cases parents are shocked at how their newborn invariably bears little resemblance to the fantasy they have harboured for so long.
Rebecca remembers her first meeting with Klaus: “From the time of crowning, it was literally two or three breaths, and he slid out. It was so quick. I couldn’t believe he didn’t slide onto the floor. And I looked at him and thought, who are you? He didn’t look like Eric he didn’t look like me”.
Daniel describes his first meeting with his daughter Myla as surreal. “It wasn’t love at first sight. Looking at her I didn’t feel she was my baby…it was shock and realisation of the whole situation.”
What your newborn baby has to cope with during birth and in the first few hours of life remains unparalleled in subsequent years. Birth is often referred to as the most precarious journey a human being ever makes. It’s likely your baby may be bruised, bloody, blue in colour or may seem oddly shaped.
“Myla was all screwed up and bloody. She had a huge lump at the top of her head where the vonteuse had been stuck to her”.
Julie’s daughter Harish was born with a bilateral cleft lip.
“I remember looking down and seeing a black, very small, oblong gooey shape. I thought ‘oh my God, is that my baby? It looks like an alien!’ Skrawny and thin, but as every second went by, she pulsated and became plump and large. It was the maddest thing I’ve ever seen. They cut the cord, then wrapped her in a blanket because she was blue, then took her to the side. When they came back with my baby they told me she had bilateral cleft lip. It really didn’t matter to me. She was great. Even though she had a misshapen mouth, she was just gorgeous.”
In many cases in hospitals today, medical processing and screening overtakes the moments following birth. However, if both you and your baby are deemed to be in good health, advise your health practitioner/s that you and your partner would like to be left alone with your newborn. It is thought that both parents respond best to their baby in the ensuing weeks if they have been able to peacefully bond with their newborn in the first hour following the birth. It is thought that a mother who is not afforded this unique opportunity is more likely to suffer postnatal baby blues and depression. More hospitals are recognising the benefit and relevance of parents being able to nurse their baby.
Often new mothers are exhausted, in pain or fighting after-effects of medication and are unable to cuddle or breastfeed their newborn immediately.
“I was shaking, bleeding, cold, my blood pressure was low and I needed to be stitched together. Looking back now I think I was in shock,” says Linda, after giving birth to Alex.
If for some reason you are unable to cuddle or nurse your newborn immediately, don’t despair, as there will be time later.
Looking down at your baby as it relaxes after the struggles of birth, your gaze may be met with by wide-open eyes staring intently back at you. Your baby is probably just as awe-struck as you are. As you hold your baby, its tiny arms and fingers may be exploring air and space as it struggles to focus on you.
Sheila Kitzinger, acclaimed British childbirth educator, says in her book, The New Pregnancy and Childbirth:
“It has been discovered that newborn babies find the human face the most attractive thing to look at, far more so than woolly bunnies or painted ducks – and the moving, speaking human face is best of all.”
More than likely it will be crying a high-pitched wail, its huge mouth wide-open. This is a vital biological mechanism essential to survival, summoning immediate attention from you. Your baby knows nothing of its new world but has an instinctual need to survive. Equipped with certain reflexes and its developing senses, it has mechanisms to achieve this purpose and it looks to you to provide comfort and nourishment.
Tennis ace Andre Agassi confesses that his overpowering love for his wife Steffi Graf at the birth of their son Jaden far outweighed the enormity of meeting his baby for the first time.
"I thought I was going to be overwhelmed by my son. But the most amazing thing was that I felt it was much more a moment between me and Steffi than between me and him.
"When they handed me my son, I was prepared to be blown away, but I was more blown away by my wife and what we shared, and what we had done, what we were taking on."
And his thoughts on parenthood?
"I don’t have any strong theories about parenthood. For me its much more the relationship you have with the child, connecting first and foremost with that little person’s heart and intentions and goals. First I need to know who he is".