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The Blessings of New Babies

Observations from a Pediatrician / Parent / Grandparent

Babies

The miracle of human life

Life amazes me!

I’ve studied medicine for over 30 years, an though I’m familiar with the subject matter, I still find myself utterly overwhelmed by the complexity of the human body.

But what truly stretches my abilities to fathom is that the human machine is a living, dynamic organism with millions of chemical reactions happening simultaneously. That inexplicable “breath of life” that animates us and renders each individual with a unique personality is beyond our intelligence to truly comprehend.

The fact that we live life in real-time, conversing and understanding each other, is likewise astounding. But it goes beyond this. We feel empathy and emotions. We sense fear. We feel cold and we know hot. We possess the ability to imagine abstract concepts and understand moral precepts like right and wrong. Humans remember the past and extrapolate into the future.

And the miracle of it all—these things begin to happen almost from the very moment we are born.

As a pediatrician, I am keenly aware of the sophistication of human life. I work with newborn babies each day and see how rapidly they grow and how quickly they mature. From my perspective, there’s nothing more wonderful in the universe than new life. Babies light up every room they enter. Having them and watching them grow from the intimate vantage point of a parent is one of the true joys that life offers.

The developing human brain

But as we all know, human babies are born terribly immature. Unlike the animals of the Serengeti—such as the wildebeest, whose babies are born ready to run—humans mature much slower. At one year old, babies are just beginning to walk, and rather than run from a tiger, they’re more apt to run to it!

But there’s a reason for this gross immaturity. The trade-off is a big brain with 100 billion fresh, virginal neurons stirring and eager to be imprinted with the experiences and knowledge that life will bring.

During the first weeks after delivery, the brain is busy wiring these nerve cells together. Early on, one million synapses (connections between neurons) are forming every second! Ultimately, after this helter-skelter, chaotic “synaptic bloom”, an astronomical one quadrillion nerve interconnections will form.

The joy of parenting

It’s unfortunate that moms and dads, who are busy changing diapers and feeding their baby, don’t actually get to see this amazing “electric light parade” that is occurring in their babies’ brains. That would be the ultimate thrill. But parents do appreciate that their baby is rapidly maturing developmentally. Each day brings something new. Their baby lifts their neck up a bit higher. A new sound is uttered. Those furtive smirks become full-throated giggles and smiles.

This is what makes parenting the joy that it is. It’s also why moms and dads fall desperately in love with their babies from the very moment they are born…a glory to behold and yet another blessing that new life brings.

Author Robert C. Hamilton, M.D., F.A.A.P., is the author of 7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year and a Board Member of HELPGUIDEORG INTERNATIONAL. Last updated: October 2018.

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