The warmth and safety of a mother’s womb is the first awareness of life for a fetus, snugly held, floating in a sea of amniotic fluid. A mother’s heartbeat and the nourishment from her body feed its growth. This tiny being must make its way through the birth canal from the protective womb to the radically different, sensation-filled outside world. It is the most dramatic transition that a human being will make.
Functions, happening for the first time, are carried out by a still-forming body. A breath has not been taken and nourishment has not been ingested by mouth and organs are still developing. The skeletal structure is exceptionally pliable and unstable. Still-developing muscles are incapable of supporting its spine and the weight of its body.
A newborn’s skin is delicate, thin, velvety and elastic and its tiny hands have remarkable grasping strength. Eyes cannot focus, hearing is dull and the nervous system is highly excitable. This new arrival is very sensitive until body functions adapt to their new surroundings. Quieter environments and a slower pace, will allow senses to develop and adapt to a new world, dramatically different from its life in the womb.
Essentially, all babies are born premature and are not able to survive without care from another and are unable to exist on their own. The transition takes several weeks to adapt to its new and unfamiliar environment. The first six months are a critical and vulnerable time for bones, muscles, organs and body systems to grow and develop to greater stability and function. Great care should be taken that this development happens slowly and in stages. This premature arrival should not be rushed on its journey.
Diane Whitacre, Structural Anatomist, RT ©2017