Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shantala, Frederick Leboyer and the violence of birth

Hello little one

One picture only, from your one-month birthday on 2 June, but so many words to write.

I'll write a little today about Frederick Leboyer, trailblazing pioneer obstetrician - they are doctors who specialise in women who give birth. There's not much written about him on Wikipedia today, maybe by the time you are old enough to read and edit Wikipedia, there will be more written. He is very much against the cold and impersonal techniques of bringing children into the world. That school of practice meant that people born around the time Mummy and Daddy were born were taken away immediately from their Mummy, the umbilical cord was cut as soon as they were out, the room was full of light and more often than not, the newborn was smacked to get it to cry. All in all a rather violent entry to the world. Leboyer put all his ideas into a book called birth without violence…

Now Leboyer had the idea that the transition to the world outside the womb should be a little gentler for the little ones. Exactly how he came to these conclusions is a little bit weird - he psychoanalysed himself and came to the conclusion that the violence of his birth was to blame for everything wrong with him. That's psychoanalysis for you!

So he brought in a new wave of birthing techniques to make life - or the beginning of extra-uterine life - more bearable for the little one. This included dimmed lights in the birthing room, letting the umbilical cord stop pulsing before cutting it, letting the baby nuzzle at the breast, and keeping it in close proximity to the mother for as long as possible. Also, another of his ideas was to put the newborn in a basin of water of dimensions close to that of the womb so it would feel the transition more gentle from weightlessness in an enclosed wet world to heaviness in a boundless dry world. That tub is called a Leboyer bath, now.

When he started implementing this everyone called him crazy, but now people are slowly coming round to his way of thinking.

Aside from all this, he wrote a very poetic book about Shantala, an Indian woman from Mumbai (I think) and in the book he describes a very tender massage that it is common to perform on children in that part of the world. Well - here is Mummy and she's read the book well. It says to start when the baby is one month old, and for your birthday, you got a nice massage in the manner of Shantala...

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