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penelope leach

".... The baby is closely confined in a warm dark prison of exquisite, neutral comfort.  Everything around him is of the same texture and at the same temperature as himself. ... there is no friction, no sensation, no change.  ... He has no need to breathe or to digest food, so he feels no sensations from within himself.  He can sense sound and movement, but muffled by his insulated liquid environment. ....

... But the baby is outgrowing his seed-bed. ....He must prepare for birth.

....You cannot see your baby turned, forced and molded by the muscular contractions which you feel as labor pains.

You cannot know whether he feels pain and fear.  But that baby is the point of the whole labor process. It is his safe arrival with which your body is concerned. He, not you, is the star of the show.  It may help you as you labor if you can think of him while your body strives to produce him. It will certainly help him if you can consider his likely feelings from the moment that he emerges.

... Brutally forced through a tight passage from a soft, quiet, warm, dark haven into a world of light and noise and texture, every bit of the baby's nervous system reacts with shock. It is the shock of birth that stimulates him to make the fearful effort to breathe for himself.  ... He must breathe, but if he can make this vital transition for himself we can avoid the old brutalities of slapped bottoms; we can wait on him gently and perhaps discover the beauty of a first breath without crying.

... If he is to breath easily, his nose and mouth must be clear of amniotic fluid and mucus. But if he can clear them himself, we need not torment him with tubes.  We are so used to routine suction for new babies that we still sometimes forget how those tubes must feel to him. 

... If all is dim and quiet, warm and peaceful, the baby will relax after his traumatic journey. His breathing will steady.  His crumpled face will smooth itself out and his eyes will open. His head will lift a little and his limbs will move against your skin. Put very gently to your bare breast, he may suck, discover a new form of human togetherness and feel a little less separated."


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