Recap for Blog 45 – Tiny toes start flexing!: Zani knows the more she moves during the first 100 days of pregnancy the more her little one will move, neatly wiring the brain for success. And the typhoon-ravaged spare room, meant to become Baby’s space, provides her with the perfect excuse to get moving!
Talking about ‘in arms’, another rather weird thing is that my libido (smart word for passion) has been topping the charts! That’s something that seems to have changed overnight and for no apparent reason. Jake, of course, is not complaining, but I must admit it’s taken me a little by surprise. Another mental note to – discretely, of course – question Miriam about.
The days pass, and before I know it, my baby developmental checklist is getting fewer ticks. Baby is growing and developing what is already there, instead of adding new bits every week as it did in the first trimester.
When I read the word ‘reflex’, I realise it is time for another interview. I listen to Dr Melodie de Jager while driving to work.
Last time we discussed the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex and its function to control the head, straighten the spine and, in so doing, connect the emotional brain and the thinking brain. Today we talk about two new primitive reflexes: the Palmar and the Plantar reflexes. Just to maintain perspective, imagine that the unfolding of the primitive reflexes is a special relay race where a team member (a reflex) has to run to fulfill its function (build a pathway) and then it meets another reflex that runs concurrently and so they gather team mates as they go along. As the race continues the things the team can do expand and as they expand the baby develops in anticipation of birth and life outside the uterus. The Tonic Labyrinthine reflex has managed to straighten the baby out, the Rooting and Sucking reflex has triggered the feel-good hormones and now it is time to use the wide-awake senses, eager muscles and joyful heart to spark the need to make contact with the environment. From a psychological perspective, making contact with the environment moves a baby from the self-centredness of the emotional brain into the objectivity of the thinking brain.
Wow, how will I ever remember all of this? By this point, I am really glad we actually bought the series. Jake has already listened to this particular episode twice, but I drifted off within ten minutes of his hitting ‘Play’. Yup, that’s how my evenings are playing out now.
Every paired part of the body helps to develop the thinking brain. Typical paired parts are the two ears, the two eyes, the two arms and hands and the two legs and feet. This is exactly where the Palmar and the Plantar reflexes join the developmental process. The Palmar reflex develops the mobility of the hands and the Plantar reflex the mobility of the feet. This can be seen in utero when the baby ceaselessly moves and waves its arms around and kicks and flexes the legs in an increasingly bold manner. When the arms and legs are stronger, the baby first becomes aware of the fingers and only a week or so later of the toes, because the toes are further away from the brain. Once the brain is aware of the fingers and toes, the Palmar and Plantar reflexes trigger movement of the hands and feet. This happens from early on in the second trimester whenever the hands or feet touch something and instinctively try to hold on to whatever is available – pretty much like a drowning person holds on to a lifesaver. Like the senses of touch, movement, smell and taste, the Palmar and Plantar reflexes give the baby’s emotional brain a further nudge and in so doing boost the immune system. These movements are crucial for later independence. Note that coordinated arm and leg movements are required before the extremities of the arms (hands and fingers), and of the legs (feet and toes), can develop properly. Without these movements, language can be impaired and a child will be dependent on others to walk, to eat, to dress, to go to the toilet – not to mention that it would be difficult to draw, and later to write and read and all other academic activities. A common mistake is that people think a baby knows what it looks like and what body parts it has. The baby doesn’t know what it looks like – just look at the drawings of children and you will be amazed to see how long it takes them to see what they feel like. Once born, the baby who moves unhampered while flat on the tummy and flat on the back not only develops stronger muscles; the baby ‘feels’ his body more, which creates an internal body map. This body map makes his GPS efficient and the baby's efficient GPS (or balance system) makes planning – and all muscle movements to execute the plans – more efficient too. Thought for the day: The more often you move, touch and massage your baby in utero and in life, the more comprehensive your baby’s body map will become – a map that he can steer his life by. Massage your baby at least every day, once a day.
Wow! I think as I pull into the office car park. How awesome is the innate wisdom embedded in one of the most natural experiences of a lifetime! I never even considered that the unfolding of a baby means writing the script for that baby’s life.
And because that life is unfolding in me, Jake and I need to accept the responsibilities that come with that: to stay wide awake during pregnancy, to know what is happening so we know what to avoid and what is needed to ensure that our baby unfolds the way nature intended – perfectly designed to not only survive, but to thrive!