Written by Susan Betke.
What makes us human? Some would argue that speech makes us human. Some used to say using tools makes us human. I have come across a lot of evidence that it is the ability to relate to others, to have empathy for others and to have a sense of “mind” that makes us human. But where did that ability come from?
It all began with the oldest relationship on earth, the relationship between mother and child. In our ancient past it was the mother that was able to read the cues and needs of extremely dependent infant and fulfilled those needs that had an infant that was likely to survive. But how does that “telepathic” view of an infant’s needs come about?
Well, we are a mammal that is designed to carry our young children. Our ancestors physically held their children in their arms during most of the day for pure safety’s sake. The baby that was left unattended would perish. Today we carry our children in slings and wraps. They sleep in our arms or right beside us. They nurse from our breast and stay snuggled close when their hunger is satisfied. The slightest glance or movement holds meaning to the mother that spends her time physically near her child the majority of the day.
Because human infant’s total dependence on his or her mother lasts for years nature had to make them irresistible. One way that is fostered is that infants seem to be programmed to seek out faces especially their mother’s face. A mother is programmed to respond to that face. Even men and women who have no experience with children feel the draw of that large round face with big eyes and a small chin. Because human infants don’t communicate in an adult manner by talking or using signs they need some other way to make their needs and wants known. The way they do so can be very subtle.
Most anyone knows that when a baby cries it needs something. It is almost telepathic though how most moms can interpret their infant’s body language long before they cry out. A glance, a body position, a facial expression, a sound and all types of cries project a multitude of meanings to a mother who is in sync with her child.
That intuitive ability came about from our long ancient past as a carrying mammal. This skill is rediscovered when modern mothers listen to their heart and keep their children close. The easiest way to hone these natural skills is to wear your baby, sleep with your baby, breastfeed your baby, and love your baby. All of this in turn provides that basic trust that reaffirms our humanity. It teaches our children that their needs and wants are heard, known, and addressed. That in turn allows them to grow into beings that are able to empathize with others. And therein lays our humanity.
My name is Susan. I am 35 years old (OK I'll be 36 next month). I am mother to 7 children and yes I birthed them all one at a time. I work full time as a developmental specialist and coordinator in my state's early intervention program. I provide services and support to families and children under 3 years of age with developmental delays or disabilities. I have breastfed all of my children in some form or fashion. My oldest has Autism. My 4th child was born at 28 weeks and has a seizure disorder. Two of my boys had high palates and that made for a difficult latch in the beginning of our breastfeeding adventure. My husband stays at home with the little kids. I am playing around with the decision to homeschool and am excited about that. Thanks for reading my guest post. You can catch me at my blog anytime.