This post is part of a series on human relationships. Read the first post here.
When do relationships between humans begin?
Our relationships as humans start with our mother as early as the beginning of the sixth months of pregnancy.
At that time, human fetuses seem to be gaining consciousness; that magical state of being that requires an incredibly complex network in the brain, called the thalamocortical complex. This complex consists of the thalamus – the main processor of our amazing brains—and its connections with all the cortical columns of the brain. About two months later, the EEG rhythms of both hemispheres of our brain achieve harmonization, which means the whole brain starts consciously being one.
Although that relationship is primitive from the baby’s point-of-view, it is important for the unborn baby to have a sense that it is safe and snug inside its healthy and happy mother’s womb. Expectant mothers and fathers immediately have a much more complex relationship with the child: aside from talking to the baby and feeling its movements, the couple prepares for the adventure to come. It is crucial fixing what might be ailing with the marital relationship at this time.
Once the baby is born, it is critical for parents to understand that how we respond to our little infant’s signaling to us determines how our little baby will develop cognitively; how they will develop its ability to communicate by language; and how they will develop all its future relationships. What is early infancy signaling? Babies cry. Healthy, happy parents learn very quickly to differentiate the cry of the baby in pain, from the cry of the baby because they are hungry, or wet, or need to be picked up and cuddled. (By the way, it is normal and healthy for babies to start crying more often during the first couple of months of their lives. It is a natural way for them to get as much connection with the parent as they can get).
By the time babies are two months old, they learn that they can communicate not only by crying but by intensely communicating with their mother when they are face-to-face. During this time, the depth and love of the relationship flourishes when the mom is carefully attuned to what the baby is feeling and experiencing, and when she reflects back to the baby the baby’s good emotions; and reassures the baby by her expressions and what and how she says when she senses her baby’s emotions are not happy.
Having learned how to communicate their emotions to their mother, now the baby can use its experience to make sure that their mother can satisfy their needs.
This ability is crucial for the baby who increasingly is exposed to the world with its unfamiliarity and uncertainty. A good relationship with their mom and dad helps the baby to look at them to see what to do. If we do that well as parents, babies are successful at starting to separate from their mother at about age 1.
Research on infants in orphanages where this type of parental relationship is not available shows not only a lifelong inability to have full, rich relationships, but an ongoing effect on the children’s ability to survive. In addition to suffering from many more infections, these infants keep losing weight and height over time to comparable children in happy, healthy families.
As parents – or as future parents – we must remember that, from the very beginning, we have a responsibility towards our children to be as healthy as we can be; to be as present as possible for them – especially in their very early years; and to enjoy and to love them for the awesome, developing little personalities that they all are.
Doing that costs no money. It only costs time.
Doing that ensures that by the end of the first year, that child has a splendid chance to pursue happiness successfully through the rich, rewarding and long-lasting relationships they will cultivate throughout their lives.
Next time, we will look at the importance of relationships in our childhood and adolescence.
Dr. Strauss l Wellness Lead
Follow me on Twitter @DrPieterStrauss