© 1992 by Elisabeth Brutto Hallett
IN THE NEWBORN YEAR
Our firstborn son was three weeks old when I wrote, with a feeling of mingled regret and relief, "Fortunately, most of the intense effects are over now." After Devin's birth, my awareness changed in ways I never anticipated. I had tried to prepare for birth and motherhood, but no book or article or friend explained all that happened in those first three weeks. Something had been left out of common knowledge -- where did I fit in? Did other new parents go through changes like these? I needed to know; so when Devin was four years old, I began gathering other people's stories:
"Mothers, fathers, did you have unusual experiences, altered states of awareness in hours, days, weeks following birth or adoption of a child? Please consider participating in private research project..."
Hundreds of people responded to my request; many completed the long, soul-searching questionnaire, sharing some of the most intimate moments of their lives. I never found another experience exactly like my own, but often felt a shiver of recognition at familiar details. Through each story I glimpsed the mysterious world of "newborn time," our first year with a new baby.
I had hoped to answer a question: was I alone in my experiences during the newborn year? The answer turns out to be both yes and no. Each person's story is different, but recurrent themes connect them. I've learned that the entire year after childbirth is a unique time of change and potential; our response to it is as individual as we are....
If you're preparing for a child, these stories will help you think past pregnancy, past labor and delivery and the amazement of a new baby, to the possibility that you -- the familiar self you know so well -- may be changed. The differences may be slight and fleeting, or so profound that you will say, "I am not the same person."
For partners of new mothers, these stories offer insight into moods and changes that may not be easily explained as one goes through them. (Many of these experiences are in fact shared by fathers.) For birth attendants and others assisting in newborn time, they reveal the special needs and vulnerabilities of mothers and families.
The principal event of this time is the meeting of parent and baby. The shock waves from this encounter ripple through us in the form of emotions, insights, and feelings about the connection we have with this new person. The stories of Part I focus upon this central bond.
For myself, the bond with my new baby was unexpected and thrilling. But even more surprising were the experiences of the following weeks. They seemed to reveal an unsuspected power in this stage of life -- a power to transform awareness. Part II, "A Diary of Newborn Time," is the record of my own impressions during that time.
Perhaps no other life crisis has such an impact on us as the transition to parenthood. In response to it we may experience altered states of mind, a new range of emotion, even changes in sensory perception. The stories of Part III explore these and other changes of awareness that may overtake us during the year after childbirth.
In this newborn year people often seem more open to the subconscious mind, and possibly to other dimensions of reality as well. Powerful dreams, visions, and apparent psychic experiences abound. The stories of Part IV follow these marvelous and sometimes frightful adventures through other doors of awareness.
While gathering accounts of the newborn year, it was always moving to read, "I've never told anyone..." or "I've wondered if this has happened to anyone else." This book may assure people who experience unusual events and states of mind that they are not alone. I hope these stories will make it easier to talk about happenings that are part of the fabric of our lives, but are so often hidden from each other.
Above all I hope they will increase our ability to protect and enjoy the newborn year. It is a fragile and powerful time, when changes in awareness present both opportunity and danger. By sharing our experiences we will be better able to recognize these changes, to prevent the pain that results from ignoring and mishandling them, and to foster their life-enriching potential in ourselves and one another.
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Go to Excerpt of Part I
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