The Magical Child Papers - Part 1
Retold by Daniel M. Kolos
The origins of dissociation and fragmentation: birth
Birth and death are two of the three certainties of life in popular culture.* Live, however, begins before birth. J.C. Pearce has documented the possible sources of interference during fetal development in his book, “The Magical Child.” Others have done enough research on the hazards of gestation that even the medical professionals, insurance companies and government health-regulators have agreed that pregnant mothers must stay away from drugs like tobacco and alcohol. Interference with biological development can come from many other sources: too much stress, shock, trauma and any number of fear-producing situations where the mother’s adrenal hormones flood the blood supply of the fetus.
Human biological development is like a train. Gathering the engine and the various cars may be compared to gestation. The departure city may be birth, the destination city, death. The train has a schedule with so many stops along the way. It can be slowed down, or, it can be speeded up. But there the metaphor stops. Nothing can be as intricate and sensitive as a newborn human child.
J. C. Pearce talks about ‘biological imperative’. In a way, it is like instinct, but ends up being more, much more. At birth, the newborn instinctively reaches for the nipple. But the newborn does more. It has a sense of smell with which the child ‘knows’ its mother; it has a sense of hearing with which the child recognizes its mother’s voice; it has tactile contact with its mother through which the child identifies the mother’s heartbeat. There is probably more, but so far these three senses have been studied to the extent that parents and researchers can have data with which to work.
Hearing the mother’s voice and recognizing the mother’s heartbeat began in utero. The fetus heard the voice and lived with the heartbeat for the better part of nine months. The newborn child has been habituated to these sounds. Upon birth, these sounds provide a continuity, a homeostasis, at a time when trauma and fragmentation of a previously comfortable existence had shattered the newborn’s consciousness.
Not all births are traumatic for the mother. There are people who can imagine their births as an adventure. There are mothers who relate, matter-of-factly, how their birth experience was uneventful: they walked into a hospital and their baby ‘popped’ out without any fuss; the doctor placed it on their belly or breast and the next day they were back home. These women might not necessarily carried on as usual, but they successfully integrated their newborn into their life, usually with the help or support of someone with previous experience.
Several activities accompany a successful birth which are neither instinctual, like groping for a nipple, nor habituated. One is the focusing of the eyes. There was a time when both Physicians and parents ‘believed’ that the newborn cannot focus its eyes for some time after birth. In fact, if the newborn is placed, immediately upon birth, in contact with the mother’s body, and if the mother cuddles and caresses and talks to her child, that child will begin focusing its eyes within the hour on the mother’s face.
The newborn’s brain and body works on a very simple system of biological development: from the safety of the known, it explores the unknown. The skin contact with its mother, the warmth of her body, the sound of her voice and the recognition of her heartbeat constitute the known: mother represents safety, security. Suckling is instinctual. Focusing its eyes may be the newborn’s first neural development after birth.
The second neural development in a child who was able to learn to focus its eyes is smiling. Given all the conditions above, which provide the newborn with a safe place, it will smile within the first hour of life!
If the newborn child is separated from its mother at birth, however, focusing is slightly delayed, and smiling does not occur until the tenth week of life!
Separation at birth produces a trauma within the child where it cannot establish homeostasis. In its first moments of life, unnecessary cultural or medical intervention force the separated newborn to fall back upon its instinctual ‘survival’ system, which consists of nothing more than flooding its system with adrenal hormones, the certain indication of fear.
Studies of other mammals have shown some surprising results. Sheep and goats, among others, when they drop their young, spend the first hour licking their newborn. People believed that the mothers instinctively ‘cleaned’ their young. Whereas ‘cleaning’ is clearly a result of such licking, the actual process that is taking place is nothing less than the awakening of the newborn’s entire sensory system. Licking stimulates every nerve ending over and over again.
Newborn mammals which were deprived of this initial first-hour licking paid a heavy price for their separation: they were unable to ‘play’ with the other young animals of their own species, and, when mature, many of them were unable to reproduce!
Separating of the newborn child from its mother at birth, slows the child’s biological development. The newborn child needs the mother’s touch, her smell, her heartbeat to overcome the trauma of birth. Separation brings on anxiety which, in later development, will seriously alter that child’s interaction with the physical world and the people therein. The next essay will cover human development in the first nine months of life.
Bibliography: Joseph Chilton Pearce, “The Magical Child,” “The Magical Child Matures,” and “The End of Evolution.”
*Some people believe paying taxes are the third!