This small, squirming object is a newborn baby. One of the thousands born daily, he resembles every other newborn. Yet he deserves attention, for there never has been and never will be another baby exactly like him. He is a brand-new person, different from either of, his parents and something other than a blend of both. He is unique.
The baby’s arms and legs are ridiculously short. Its bones, composed mainly of cartilage, are soft and almost rubbery. Its backbone is so elastic that, if the infant were put in traction, it could be stretched out another couple of centimetres. Its wrist-bones are not even formed. There is an open spot in the skull called the fontanelle, but it is covered by an extremely tough membrane which protects the brain. Its muscles are poorly developed; they haven’t been used much, and are soft and flabby - a condition which the baby sets out to rectify almost immediately by doing an extraordinary amount of squirming.
Except for crying, yawning and sneezing, which it can perform for the first time today, the baby has been practising this entire repertoire for months - sometimes with marked vigour, of this its care-giver / mother is well aware. Even though the baby has never breathed air before, its chest has been moving in motions very similar to breathing for the past four months. If the baby is sucking its thumb today, it is probably not for the first time - many babies suck their thumbs before birth. As a result, the baby’s sucking ability is almost always first-rate when it is born.
Before birth, the oxygen it needed reached the baby through its umbilical cord. This was connected to that amazing filtering device, the placenta, which allowed oxygen - together with other things, including glucose, calcium, iron, fatty acids, salt and hormones - to pass by osmosis from its mother’s blood stream into its own and at the same time kept its blood and the mother’s from mixing.
At the moment he was born his blood began following a new route: a bypass in its heart, which would never be needed again, started to close and sent its blood pulsing into its lungs. And the first crying gasp, bringing air into its lungs for the first time, brought oxygen to the place where its blood could pick it up.
From its second breath on, the baby’s breathing was under the control of its brain’s respiratory centre. The baby had changed, in a matter of seconds, from an aquatic to an aerific environment. This awe-inspiring moment may be the greatest marvel of human birth.
Besides crying, the baby can grimace, smile and scowl. But its expressions only seem to have meaning. They are attributable to its rapidly adjusting nervous system; and is simply trying on various faces for size rather than portraying emotion.
The baby’s strength on such occasions is comparable to its extraordinary grasping ability. Its grip is so strong that if a rod is put into its hand it will grasp it and hold on while it is lifted right off its bed. It may hang from it with a one-hand grasp for as long as 30 seconds. This grasp is a pure reflex; it will disappear in a few months when the baby begins to co-ordinate its hand movements with what it sees.
Probably the first sensations the baby feels, however vaguely, have to do with its sense of touch. But it is the baby’s skin that is sensitive rather than its fingertips. When, after a few weeks, it begins to explore the world around and surrounds, it will start by feeling things with the palms of its hands, not its fingers. As a more reliable method, the baby will try to taste things, for of its five senses taste is the best developed. While it may not distinguish clearly among sweet, sour, salt and bitter, the baby reacts to them – it likes them or it doesn’t - about as emphatically as an adult.
Above all, they have established the baby’s unique personality. No matter what its future environmental influences may be, it is the only person in the whole world with exactly this set of genes.
Oh, how wondrous – GOD is GREAT – indeed awesome! ~