From eight weeks into a pregnancy a baby can feel the touch of her umbilical cord and her hands on her face. Over nine months she will develop all her body senses including vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. At fourteen weeks old a baby can taste the chocolate her mother has just eaten because the flavours of the food ingested enter the amniotic fluid which the baby floats in.
Fourteen days to birth…the baby usually has a great urge to turn upside down. At this stage too, the baby’s senses are now well developed. Most of the information she senses is soothing like deep pressure and white noise and as her mother walks she feels a rocking motion.
Seven hours to birth…the baby will feel the space around her shrink and just as the baby feels like she is being squashed completely the mother’s uterus will relax. Then it happens again. These are the contractions. The space has already become tighter month by month and the baby feels like it is being hugged all day long. Babies respond well to deep pressure so pregnancy massages and hugs from dad all feel good.
One hour to birth…the baby will suddenly feel like she wants to vacate the womb, stretch her legs and move on! The squeezing is even more intense in the birth canal. At this stage her mother’s voice which she has been listening to for the previous three months suddenly sounds quite different. It sounds deeper and vibrates through her. In the distance she might detect her father’s voice.
Seven minutes to birth…the baby’s stress hormones are buzzing around in her brain and one in particular called cortisol is affecting her heart rate in a good way. This little bit of stress is preparing her for her next big challenge; taking her first breath! At this stage she does not need to breathe because her umbilical cord delivers blood with oxygen to her brain. In a few moments though, there will be a change in pressure and temperature which will cause her lungs to open for the first time and she will begin breathing on her own.
Twenty one seconds to birth…seven hours ago the baby became aware of the first contraction and now she can feel cold air on her head. A groan from mum and one more squeeze and the baby’s head emerges from the womb. The baby feels cold, everything seems very white, noisy and she feels very overwhelmed. The baby gives one last push of her legs, one shoulder comes out, then the other and finally she is in the world. The baby is usually placed on her mother’s chest and whilst her eyes are having a difficult time focusing in the light she looks up at her mother in fascination.
The baby is then weighed and often starts to cry as she is cold so then she is tightly swaddled in a comforting blanket and is cuddled by her mother which feels like the safety of the womb. When she suckles it is similar to when she sucked her hands in the womb. Her mother’s smell and the taste of the first milk (colostrum) soothes and comforts her as she adjusts to her new world.
By Eirian Hallinan