Over and over again, and today, particularly, I think again that “Peace on Earth Begins with Birth”.
The more we separate mothers and babies, by inducing labor and by mechanical/surgical birth with drugs, with “newborn nurseries”, by undermining breastfeeding and judging it severely if it extends beyond the first year, by scaring parents out of co-sleeping (which is protective in breastfeeding dyads), by failing to provide adequate paid maternity leave, the less attached babies are, and the less secure. In relatively healthy families that can compensate later, this can amount to some difficulties with relationships, or less. In more challenged families, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Indifferent, drug/alcohol-addicted, neglectful or abusive parents (who may well have been poorly attached babies themselves) create insecure or ambivalent attachments in their children, who grow up struggling in their relationships, or have none. They may transcend their challenges, or find themselves in jail, a hospital, or die before their time. Research tells us that those nations that live peacefully never separate mothers and babies, but support them growing closer over the first weeks and months after birth. Warlike nations virtually always contrive to separate the two.
When a mother gives birth without interventions, she experiences the highest peak of oxytocin production she will experience in life, for the 45-60 minutes after birth. Her baby, too, produces oxytocin and as they gaze at each other, undisturbed, learning the contours of each other’s face, seeing each other’s eyes for the first time, love grows between them until it seems unthinkable that they should be separated. Such children become securely attached to their mothers, and then fathers and other family members. That creates a solid foundation for a healthy life, and healthy relationships.
When thirty percent of mothers give birth by cesarean, and their babies are taken to newborn nurseries for that first hour after birth, a rift is created in that precious window for initial attachment. When anywhere from 60-80 percent of mothers have interventive births and only a tiny percentage give birth at home or in midwife-staffed birth centers, interference with the exquisitely designed dance between mother and child becomes the norm—and most people don’t even realize how they have been cheated of the optimal start to the mother-baby relationship that evolved over thousands of years to enhance the survival of humanity. Michel Odent calls contemporary birth a gigantic experiment in throwing out Nature’s design and hoping that the substitute will somehow do the same job. Like formula milk being a pale imitation of breastmilk, interventive birth for the majority of babies saves a miniscule number of lives while everyone pays an unacceptably high price.
So if you look for answers to the tragedy at the elementary school in Connecticut today, begin by looking at birth and the quality of relationships that ensue from those births. It is, I believe, more of a key to the answers we need than many people realize.
December 15 Additional Note:
Laurie Couture has posted an eloquent and heart-felt article on child trauma as an underlying factor in acts of violence such as this. Mine, I hope, speaks to the early origins of such trauma. Please read her piece–she brings a voice of love and sanity to our understanding of this tragedy: http://www.laurieacouture.com/2012/12/connecticut-school-shooting-tragety-child-trauma-is-at-the-heart-of-every-act-of-violence/