Connection, community, and cooperation are all words that Dr. Gladys uses to describe our interrelationship with others. “On a fundamental level, we’re all connected,” she states. Further, “We are all social creatures, and we depend on one another to survive.” Interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. Indeed, we cannot survive, let alone thrive, without relating to others.
This is particularly relevant when considering newborn babies. Human beings are not like other mammals who drop from their mothers’ wombs and within moments stand and even run from predators. It is thought that a baby should remain in the arms of its mother for the length of a full gestational cycle. If an unborn baby spends ten months in the womb, then another ten months should be devoted to loving care before it begins to walk. Even then, the infant is not ready to be independent. A young adult is not ready handle the responsibilities of independence until late adolescence. They can, however, become response-able and account-able for their actions. To teach them otherwise is to encourage irresponsibility and unaccountability.
In society today we have become accustomed to giving birth to babies in hospitals. The care provided in this institutional setting usually involves separating newborns from their mothers immediately after birth. Separation! This may be the bane of modern life. Prenatal and perinatal psychology is a branch of science that addresses past and present childbirth practices. Perhaps the one practice that is most detrimental to human development is separation of the newborn child from its birth parent. Having spent 100 percent of its life in a nourishing womb, is it reasonable to take the baby away from the provider of that nourishment, warmth and protection?
Skin-to-skin is beginning to be practiced in many hospitals and certainly in Birth Centers and following home births. This is the placement of the newborn on the birthing parent’s belly where the temperature of this helpless infant is regulated. In addition, there is a natural reflex that only occurs during the first hour after birth. This is known as the breast crawl and its identification is credited to the Karolinska Institute in 1987. Surely some mothers have known this before, but modern technology, which employs drugs and surgery, impedes this process from occurring naturally. A baby disoriented from the administration of drugs cannot find the way to the breast.
When a newborn babies experiences separation from their mothers, harsh treatment to remove vernix from their delicate skin, cold metal surfaces while being weighed, the pain of heel sticks that pierce their feet, and more the child is traumatized and imprinted with fear and distress until that trauma is addressed and rectified. Immediately severing of the baby’s source of nourishment—oxygenated blood—is anathema. It forces the first breath to be taken sooner than it may need to be. Resuscitation—called aspirating on the perineum—is done while the infant’s head rests on the mother’s perineum. A hard rubber bulb is forced into the baby’s mouth which often irritates the baby’s throat. Many babies will not nurse following this procedure. Why would they want anything near their mouths when their first experience is so painful? Procedures now considered normal violate the sanctity of birth and can begin before the baby is even out of the mother’s body!
The long-term consequences of separating a mother and her infant may not show up for years. What psychologists observe is that many of their clients experience anxiety, depression and a palpable fear or distrust of others. Often they feel betrayed. Dr. Raymond Castellino noted this during his profound work with children at the Building and Enhancing Bonding and Attachment (BEBA) Clinic in California. In an article titled “Being with Newborns,” Castellino emphasizes that any disruptions to the natural process of birth cause a sense of betrayal in the newborn. The infant’s first experiences are forming the template for behavior, thought, and emotion that will endure for a lifetime. Yet, it is estimated by Castellino that 98 percent of babies are being traumatized at the very moment of birth.
Dr. Gladys points out that we are never truly alone, yet at the moment of birth newborns are frequently removed from the birthing parent, placed in a nursery and left alone for hours, usually for at least four hours because that is the time it has been believed babies should require feeding. Four hours of separation can leave a baby, who has no sense of time, fearing that that it will starve. The source of sustenance that came through the umbilical cord must now be provided orally and administered, if not by mother, then by staff who may be too busy to meet the demands of a newborn. No wonder these little ones cry.
Dr. Gladys created a Baby Buggy program when she was actively assisting births.
The program encouraged supported home births, where women could be attended by their loved ones as well as trained professionals in the comfort of their home. Our specially outfitted van would park in the driveway of a laboring woman while we monitored her progress. If intervention or a medical transport was required, we had everything we needed. In most cases, the Baby Buggy just stayed ether, parked, while women gave birth to healthy, happy babies in their own homes. In some cases, we used it to transport the mother, the baby, or both to the hospital. In all cases, our van with its giant stork painted on the side sent a clear message to the community: A new soul is arriving! Welcome it!
A vision of every newborn being welcomed and every mother cherished is a mission of the Foundation for Living Medicine. Perhaps a childbirth professional will recreate the Baby Buggy, modeling this respectful care for mothers and babies.
Awakening the community to the arrival of a new soul dispels loneliness among members of the neighborhood and helps prevent the loneliness and alienation that many feel having been imprinted with what has become known as separation anxiety. According to a Google search, “Separation anxiety and fear of strangers is common in young children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, but it’s a normal part of your child’s development and they usually grow out of it.” This statement is outrageous! Parents and professional alike have normalized this fear and, therefore, often ignore the cries and clingy behavior. Attachment therapists know that this behavior is symptomatic of insecure attachment, labeled ambivalent attachment. This means that these children are learning that their needs are met sometimes but not others. They cannot count on their cries being consistently responded to. Many adults feel like no one hears them, much less responds to their needs. Those expectations and disappointments are cultivated in the perinatal period.
It can be challenging to reach out to others to create social connections when the foundation for doing so has been laid badly. Yet, Dr. Gladys tells that:
Life comes from our connection, is supported by our connection, and creates connection. We are happiest and healthiest when we are contributing to and drawing from our collective life force. This idea is the basis of my fourth secret for you: You are never truly alone. Connecting with community amplifies our individual life force by realigning it with the collective life force.
For decades, I have held steady on a single dream: a Village for Living Medicine, in which healing, living, and learning will be rolled into one . . . where people come to live and work together to heal. We are social beings; we are meant to be together. This is how we thrive.
To live in community we first have to accept others and not fear them. Trust is the task of the first stage of development, as psychologist Eric Erikson proposed decades ago. Unfortunately most children are learning to distrust, a product of a society locked into dualistic thinking, which breeds more separation, anxiety and depression.
Dr. Gladys says, “we have to know ourselves really well.” While we being introspective, we discover our boundaries, that is, “how we choose to spend our energy, what’s worth our attention, and what isn’t.” She points out that “creating good boundaries doesn’t require us to keep people out; it requires us to allow the best parts of them in.” Having boundaries facilitates connecting to others. Any unhealed traumas, any triggers that we have stemming from our erroneous programing will be reflected to us in our relationships. Better to learn to be present, to listen empathically, and to look for the “friend” within the other, because other people will always find our weaknesses—those places where we learned not to love ourselves.
As we cultivate these healing practices, we are loving ourselves and, often, to our surprise, “angels appear.” As we begin to trust, others in our community trust us. They look for ways to support us. Dr. Gladys recommends some questions to ask ourselves to “weave together the fabric of life” and build community. As an adjunct to those questions, it could be helpful to examine your relationship with your inner Little One.
- Connect with that infant.
- Ask what that precious child needs.
- Assure your baby-self (inner child) of your love.
You are showing up as an adult to handle grownup tasks. The Little You doesn’t need to do that anymore. Barbara Findeisen, a friend and colleague of Dr. Gladys used to say, “Don’t take your inner child to the bank to get a loan. Leave the kid in the car, particularly if the child is needy, whiny or prone to have a tantrum.” Nurture your Little One as you would have liked and, as that aspect of yourself matures and is assimilated into the wholeness of who you are, you will find that life becomes easier. Angels, both real and imagined, begin to show up for you.