Sunday, 2 October 2011

The child in the family - chapter 2: the newborn child

The newborn stage.  One that is seen very differently from country to country, and from people to people.  I think liking or not this chapter will be very much related to your beliefs about birth.

Although I still feel her words are strong (but not quite as much as with the first chapter!), I can see through her words most of the concepts that I believe in concerning birthing and the newborn stage.

Childbirth and newborns is a topic that I am passionate about.  We are a homebirthing,  Ec'ed, breastfeed, family, so that gives you the idea of my position about this chapter.

I personally do believe that birth is one of the most shocking event a human being will go through, and I also do believe that the first few weeks of life are of prime importance in regards of the adaptation of the child.  He needs to rest, to adapt to life,to  eating,  to breathing,  to feeling, and this, I feel, is often not protected by parents enough.  I cringe when I see a tiny little newborn in malls or in other public places.  We have always kept our children home (inside or out with all the necessary protections) for the first 6 weeks of life.  We were mindful of the intensity of the light that they were exposed to, of the temperature of the room they were in, and we respected their need for sleep.  I have been questioned a lot of time by well intentioned family members how this was going to help my child adapt the life and the real world at first.  But these questions have stopped after seeing how it was not a cause for concern.
So for me, there is nothing new here.  

I was not so sure about the part where the child should be left undressed and left to be warned by the air of the room itself.  While E was not dressed for many days after his birth (for many reasons really, nothing medical though), I do believe in the importance of warmth, and I am not sure air alone would really be enough for a young newborn in the type of weather I live in.  But I like how she talks of moving the child with "uttermost gentleness" and administring "knowledgeble care"

But I know that the view regarding childbirth are so different in our time that some people might feel completely differently about this.  I don't know how I would have feel if I had read this in the 1950's where children were taken right away from the moms to be "dealt"with by the doctor, and this was the norm ( and it seemed to be this way back then too).  I think society has evolve since then, and many doctors (including Michel Odent) have spoken up about the needs of the newborn child and the protection of natural birthing.  But I think there is still a road ahead of us in that regard. Just think about the crazy rate of C-sections that are performed...but this is not a topic I want to get into.

I have to admit that I see a kind of a ressemblance to Waldorf here.  If you have ever read "You are your child's first teacher"  I bet you'll find many similar trend in there too.

I think my favorite bit remains this one:
" The fact is that the child is not understood very well anywhere.  THis ignorance is a consequence of the subconscious apprehension and annoyance we manifest towards him from the very first moments of his life, and instinctive defensiveness about our possessions, even if they are worth nothing.  Our attitude develops logically from these beginnings and we are obssessed with fears that the child will destroy the daily order of our lives or disfigure and dirty our homes..."
She hits it right on the nail, and this is still true, how many years laters?
I am curious to know what you think about this bit?  As a society, I truly believe that we are sometimes protecting more our possessions then we are protecting our children.  If she breaks the glass, we see the consequences now.  But we do not the consequences of our reactions in her before a long time.  I think it is a just a pernicious problem. We are a visual society and in an instantaneous society.  But patience and most of all clairvoyance are virtues that should be promoted and worked on for the benefit of our children and society in general.

What did you think about this chapter?  Did you liked it, hated it?  Do you think she is spot on, or right off the track?


  1. I read this book just a little while ago, but I already returned it to the library, so I can't remember what was in each chapter specifically. So I guess my comment is more on your post than the chapter.
    I'm expecting my first child in January, and am just beginning my struggle of explaining my choices to family. For example, we are trying to prepare for a water birth, because in addition to helping me relax and letting my body do it's thing, I think this will be a smoother transition for our child. I also mentioned to my mom that if we have a baby shower after the birth (because we're not finding out the sex before hand), that I wanted to wait at least 6-8 weeks, because I didn't want to pass my newborn around right away. This was based on some of the Montessori newborn ideas I had read making that gradual transition from the womb to the great big world. My mom sort of laughed this off saying that babies are "pretty resilient." So I'm struggling with the rest of my family thinking I'm crazy, because they seem to think this part of life does not have a very significant impact on the rest of life.
    You mentioned your family has now come to see that keeping your children at home initially did them no harm. How did you deal with this initially?

  2. Hello and thanks for asking!

    How we dealt with this? DH and I talked and talked about it, and once we were firm in our believes, we just announced what we were going to do, and stuck with our decisions no matter what we were told. And we are glad we held on to what we thought. We have learned to trust ourselves as parents, and also trust that we know best.

    50 years ago, my mom was laugh at for wanting to breast feed, but she did it anyways, despite the doctors and everybody else around. And she is glad she did so. I have to say that after I reminded her of that, it was not hard to have her come around and understand our decision. BUt there were other very close family members who were harder to convince (and sometimes really made the situation harder for us intentionally).

    Education I feel is the best way. We suggested literature on the subject for them to have a look at. Some did, some not. But honestly, I think that what really worked was time. Seeing that we were strong in our believes, DH and I, and having logical and clear reasons for our actions, and finally seeing the result is what worked.

    As a mom of 3 that has always questionned the current "obvious" in our society, I know how hard it is to swim countercurrent. You really need courage and strength, and be convinced in your heart that you make the best choices for you and your family, even though these choices might not be popular even amongst your close relative. We are not in a newborn friendly society, but I think this might eventually change once people see that there are other ways.

    I wish you all the strength you will need. Follow you heart and your mother instincts. Be on the same page as your DH and have a united front. Talk, explain, educate, but not that it becomes a burden or a stress to you. Trust yourself. This will become easier as time passes and people start seeing that what you believe in does work.

    If you have any other question, please let me know.
    I hope that helped!

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  4. Oops, my mom would be mad if she saw that!!

    35 years ago, (NOT 50!!), my mom was laugh at... .. ..
    sorry mom!

  5. This is one of the rare times Montessori herself writes about this stage and I love reading about it. Some people comment that Montessori (the method) is a little clinical and cold, but the way Montessori (the person) writes about the newborn is so touching. I totally agree with you Neptune about keeping a newborn warm. I have tried to follow Montessori as much as possible with my son Otis however he really needed more than air to keep him warm. I love how she writes about the child's need for order and how this can be interpreted as misbehaviour. I have noticed this in my first son Caspar and have at times had to explain this to others. I really love this chapter and think it demonstrates what a warm and lovely person she was.