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We Become Mothers as Soon as We Hold Our Babies- Part 2

Face to Face Contact

Until recently, the method of delivering a baby in a so-called "modern" childbirth, was that the mother would be anesthetized as soon as she was in labor, and not even be aware of the arrival of her child. She couldn't even hear the first cries of the baby, and when she came to, the baby would already be sleeping in the nursery.

Even when only local anesthesia was given, the newborn baby, after it's first few cries would be rushed off by the nurse to the nursery. This is allowed for only a very short time Face-to-face experience. I suspect that even when only local anesthesia was administered, although the mother's head would be clear, she would be deprived of her chance to feel as though she has really bonded with her newborn child.

However, recently, from the reasons mentioned in the previous article, "We Become Mothers as Soon as We Hold Our Babies - Part 1", there has been a conscious effort to firstly, allow the mother and child to be together from the earliest moments after childbirth, and secondly, to increase the time of mother-child contact given any opportunity to do so.

Let's explore what happens in nature. It is interesting to observe what happens when we place a newborn right next to the mother who has just given birth. First of all, the mother touches the hands and feet with her fingertips and after a few seconds, touches the body with the palms of her hands. Then, most often, the mother will come face to face with her child and if the baby is awake, will stare into the baby's eyes. Furthermore, even the newborn is only a few minutes old, she will try to breastfeed the baby by bringing his/her mouth to her nipple. In such cases, what the baby is able to do is only to lick the mother's nipples. This behavior by the mother is almost always the same, when the newborn is placed next to the mother.

During this time, the mother strongly realizes her feelings and responsibilities as the child's "mother", through an aura that is built up by the mother and child through their initial interactions. In the initial post-partum moments, when a mother has just gone through the tremendous labor and delivery of the child, which in itself is an emotionally and physically huge task, the mother's actions toward the newborn infant takes on a particularly significant meaning.

It is rather embarrassing for me to admit that when I was an intern doing my rotations in obstetrics, the medical system at that time was still old and traditional, so I was never able to see this sort of interaction. The above practice came about over twenty years ago, when a pediatrician analyzed a videotape he took of his own wife and child directly after childbirth.

Through the Storm of Hormones, a Mother Emerges

The above mentioned action of the mother is somewhat of an established pattern of behavior. There is a host of interwoven factors behind this behavior.

Though it is obvious, the actions of the mother during childbirth is likely not something she learned through actual observations or through directly hearing someone talk about it. Moreover, it seems that through evolution, mankind must have picked up these behaviors naturally through established behavior patterns and the decision of the moment. I believe that the newborn child leads these behaviors in the mother.

The mother's emotional state is of great importance during this time. Many mothers during their pregnancy and especially right after the baby is born, are filled with delight, wonder, and joy, becoming intoxicated with the beautiful feeling of becoming a mother. I suspect that the father or male partner is not able to experience this same feeling. Of course, to have these joyful feelings, the pregnancy must be one that was planned and one that is celebrated by the close people around the parents-to-be. During this time, the mother's body is like a storm of hormones as there is a surge in hormones being released. I believe that estradiol (note 1) or prolactin is critical in helping the mother take on the role of mother as she feels the many changes in her body. These hormones can be considered the "mother's love hormone" (note 2) which flows like a big wave inside the mother's body. It is thought that this interaction of the hormones, relays messages to the nerve cell of the mother.

The newborn child, in order to begin living his/her future, must have at the starting point, this type of mother's love and socialization that is born from this mother's love. Nature does everything possible to make this happen.


(Note 1) Estradiol
The strongest hormone secreted by the ovaries, and said to have a "feminization" effect.

(Note 2) Mother's love hormone
Although there are still many ambiguous points in studies of this nature, this is the hormone that is thought to influence the mother's emotional state and subsequent maternal behaviors and socialization behaviors. It is thought that estradiol and particularly prolactin are the main hormones affecting these feelings and behaviors in the mother.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Wagako wo dakukoto hahaoya ni narukoto-2" (written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved February12, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0089.html
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