from Aumdoc’s Holistic Healing Archive (circa 2001)
I’d like to tell you a story about one of my personal experiences with the power of ‘Newborn Medicine’.
The 12 years I practiced medicine out of my office, Lotus Obstetrics & Gynecology, in Lilburn, GA (1989 – 2001) was certainly a milestone in my life. Ten of those years I was a solo practitioner with privileges at 3 metro Atlanta hospital, dual board certified in Ob/Gyn and Holistic Medicine. I assisted in the delivery of around 2000 babies over those years, smile. When I decided to lighten my load and quit hospital medicine, I found that what I missed most about my practice was holding newborns. I spent a lot of time at the hospital, waiting patiently on laboring mothers. So, I would often venture to the newborn nursery (usually in the middle of the night) and sit quietly holding newborns I had assisted in the delivery of.
In the early 1990′s I took care of a teenage couple whom I liked a lot. He was almost 18 years old and working in a garage. She was 16 years old, working on a G.E.D., and pregnant. They were able to find a tiny apartment they could afford, somehow. She had Medicaid to pay for her pregnancy care. I don’t quite recall how they ended up in my office for care, though they lived close by. He was a pretty big muscular black man with a complexion that was very dark. His attitude was one of loving her, and looking forward to their child, and life, together. She had auburn brown hair, a self assured kind of rugged beauty, and very fair light skin. Initially, she was extremely apprehensive about being pregnant. Over time her fears seemed to resolve and she became very excited about everything.
He accompanied her to most office visits. While I enjoyed seeing them regularly through the pregnancy, there were some difficulties in providing them care.
As I soon found out, the families were feuding, and I don’t use that term lightly. They never knew each other to begin with. All communication between the families had been cut off (except second hand through the couple). Everyone had agreed not to be in the same place at the same time. This was because there were several incidences that almost resulted in someone calling the police. On occasion, family members might come along for office visits. Always one side or the other, and they stayed in the waiting room.
The couple could only apologize to me (which they did) and he had a funny way of rolling his eyes about it. But they couldn’t change the family. Everyone was just plain pissed off big time about anything, and everything, having to do with them as a couple, and their pregnancy especially. I had hoped maybe it would all ease some as she got closer to delivery. That never happened as far as I could tell. They actually caused a big scene in the Obstetric Floor waiting room when they all showed up at the same time for her labor. The nurses called me very alarmed and concerned. I went to address the ruckus and was unable to de-escalate the situation in any way. After receiving rude remarks I didn’t care for (I don’t like to be threatened), I rapidly decided to call Hospital Security, and we firmly advised them to leave the hospital NOW. Thankfully they all left (the guard did threaten to call police if needed). Only time in my career where something like that happened.
In my practice I have had a fair number of my early teen patients (age 14-16 for this conversation) who tolerated their labor well, in higher proportions (it anecdotally seemed to me) compared to the older women I cared for. Maybe they hadn’t had the time yet to develop as many negative preconceptions about what was going to happen. I don’t know.
She had an unmedicated ‘natural’ labor in which she progressed normally. She pushed for about 90 minutes and delivered a very loud healthy baby girl in bed. Right up onto her belly she went, where the Dad cut the cord after it had stopped pulsating. The little girl had a head full of long thick black curls. Her complexion was right-on midway between her Mother & Father. Her delivery was something like 2 AM. All was good so I went home to grab a couple of hours sleep.
As was my routine, I was up early (before office hours) and at the Hospital to ‘do rounds’ and see anyone I was caring for there. Much to my surprise I walked into a very crowded room. Mom was nursing her newborn and Dad was sitting on the bed next to them. Both immediate families were in there, and most had big smiles on their faces. One family was lined up leaning against one wall, and the other family was leaning on the opposite wall. The baby was beaming (and nursing vigorously). The Mother & Father were beaming. The immediate families were bathing in the glory of “Something” powerful enough to have helped them see the world, and their children (and grandchild) in a fundamentally different way.
To me… that Something was “Newborn Medicine”.
In subsequent conversation with the couple I found out that both families went home that night and were independently brokenhearted that they couldn’t be at the hospital for the delivery. In addition, I hadn’t realized that this would be the first grandchild on both sides. From the information I gathered it appeared both families now desired to forget any differences, and disagreements, between them and support the new family. These sentiments were cemented by being in the presence of the new family and seeing the newborn baby. IT WAS SEEING THE NEWBORN, ON THE MOTHERS BREAST, THAT REALLY DID IT FOR THEM. Everyone’s hardened hearts were cracked open, and softened, by their experiences around the birth, the first breath and especially around seeing the baby for themselves.
We had follow-up together six weeks later. Mom was nursing well and enjoying her healthy baby girl who was all smiles by that time. Dad was joyful and still beaming. They said the families were getting along fine, partly by not really seeing much of each other. This was fine with them since it was still such an amazing change from how it was before the delivery. They could hardly believe it. I really enjoyed caring for them, and have wondered how things turned out in the long run.
HOLDING NEWBORN INFANTS!!! These most vulnerable, defenseless and needy new-ones were found by me to be very powerful beings indeed! There seemed to be something really special about newborns. Being around them had an amazingly positive effect on me. No matter how complicated life got, how crazy my mind raced… holding a newborn always calmed me down and pulled me into their present, into the now. I often found myself sitting down with them and breathing a long sigh of relief. And I found they seemed to have this same effect on others as well!
My hospital routine was, the day after delivery, to sit on the bedside holding the newborn and have a frank conversation with the new mom (or parents) about their delivery… what had happened, any issues, and the opportunity for them to ask any and all questions. Holding the newborn in these moments was super special for both myself, and the mothers, and seemed to facilitate honest open communication between us.
Most people are attracted to newborns and infants. Most babies start to consistently smile at around 6-8-12 weeks. This is the time when their smiles become emotional smiles in response to something they like to look at, hear, smell or touch. YUMmmmmm = Mommy (looks good, sounds good, feels good, smells good & tastes good)!!! They particularly respond to faces with smiles (giving & receiving). This is part of natures bonding process. The natural world has us all floating down the DNA river of life. It is set up for life to happen, to encourage life to reproduce itself at every opportunity available. In accordance with this natural order, Newborns and infants are particularly attractive to us and invoke strong positive and protective emotions. Though, since we are all influenced by our past experience and conditioning, there are certainly individuals who just ‘don’t like’ babies.
There are evolutionary advantages to newborns and infants being cute and attractive to us. It helps them get taken care of and serves the perpetuation of the species. There is no doubt in my mind that we are neurologically and chemically hardwired to love babies. Those big eyes and heads (we seem to like that on kittens, puppies and other newborn animals as well). Their facial expressions, sounds and smells stimulate areas of our brains that in turn release oxytocin, dopamine and endogenous opioids (and many other neurochemicals creating a complex symphony of emotions!). These in turn support nurturing, social bonding and promote the desire to provide care. Most likely the hard-wiring involves limbic system emotional responses and stimulation of pleasure centers. And our social software tells us we should like them as well. A lot happens when we see infants smile, gurgle and laugh!!!
I miss holding newborns… a lot!
Comment from 2023: I have really missed the opportunity to hold newborns over the last 20 years. Thank goodness for grand children. They have been the only opportunity for me to get my newborn fix. My daughter Jessica’s children, Max (10) and Marley (16), and my son Matthew’s more recent newborn, Asher Dylan Clofine (6 months).