Birth is the coming into being of something that has attained a certain level of maturity after a period of inner, often hidden development. In this article, the three principal birthing processes of childhood are described. These births are the natural developmental outcome of what lives in the physical and psychospiritual nature of every human being. The first birth known to us all is the birth of the child’s physical body. The second and third births of childhood are less visible but are no less dramatic expressions of human development. Dr Raoul Goldberg describes all three processes, namely, the physical birth, the birth of the life body and the birth of the soul.
Dr Raoul Goldberg
BSc (Med), MB ChB (Wits), CEDH (Hom)
Birth is the coming into being of something that has attained a certain level of maturity after a period of inner, often hidden development. I came to this awareness in writing this article, which in its way came to birth only after much inner contemplation and preparation. A civilisation, an initiative, or a child that is born, emerges out of a developmental process only once it has matured sufficiently. And this usually occurs in a confined and hidden place, like a seed that requires the right conditions before it will germinate. I also realised that in the process of development living things go through many births, and that human development is the chronicle of birthing, growing, transformation and birthing again at different levels of maturity.
In this article, the three principal birthing processes of childhood are described. These births are the natural developmental outcome of what lives in the physical and psychospiritual nature of every human being. According to this view there are four principal parts to human nature: a physical body made up of the chemical elements of the mineral world, secondly an energetic life system that provides the physical body with all its living biological functions, thirdly a soul organisation that allows this living body to be aware of and sensitive to the outer world, and finally that inner core power which creates an awareness of one’s self as a unique individual. Each one of these four parts will go through a process of development to a certain stage of maturity and then come to birth. Each in turn will continue to grow, metamorphose and develop further throughout the passage of life.
The first birth known to us all is the birth of the child’s physical body. The second and third births of childhood are less visible but are no less dramatic expressions of human development. Outwardly these are expressed in the change of teeth in the 7th year of life and in puberty around the 14th year.
The physical birth of a child is one of the certain, given facts of human existence. It is a momentous event, never to be forgotten, celebrated each year by the anniversary of the birth day. It is the high noon culmination of 280 days of the most precise work of growth and development, which takes place completely hidden from our gaze. We may have seen a two-dimensional scan of the fetus, but we know virtually nothing about the child to be born. We wait with great suspense and expectation to see for ourselves who this person really is. And its emergence in the physical world is one of the greatest joys the human being can experience. The anticipation, the mystery, and the transcendant other-worldly nature of the newborn child fill us with awe and reverence for something that we know deep within our own being. Something about the newborn child is different from anything else we know. And it is not what we see visibly in front of us that gives us this feeling, but rather what we cannot see, what we sense lives in the potential of the child, still unborn yet present in seed form in the process of maturing. This soft, helpless body will grow in time into the powerful mature adult body,containing endless human potential.
In a previous issue of the [i]Journal[/i][sup]1[/sup], I described how the protective sheaths of the embryo develop before the embryo itself attains its proper form. These three embracing sheaths, the chorion, allantois, and amnion, which make up the future placenta, provide the growing embryo and later the fetus with a protective and nourishing container within the mother’s womb, in which the child can develop and mature. At the appointed hour it will cast off this protective mantle and enter the world of earthly matter where it will begin its journey into physical reality. Once the water sheath breaks, the labour of birth begins. The child’s core being is actively involved in the whole birthing process. It must give up the buoyant, warm, secure and protected place and push its way towards a dark narrow portal to the unknown. Far-reaching changes begin to take place in the environment, the surrounding fluid is suddenly sucked away, pressure begins to increase over the whole body, pushing the baby downwards head first into the birth canal. Gravity presses down powerfully on the head and body, forcing movement through a compressed and very narrow passage. The baby squeezes its way through the tight darkness, against the firm resistant tissues and then suddenly the head pops through into the air and light-filled space. In a moment of crowning glory, the child take its first breath and emerges through hard-earned labour as a citizen of the earth.
The birthing experience of the newborn child will clearly depend on the type of birth the parents choose. There is no space in this article to compare the different birth options, only to say that a natural birth at home is a different experience for the newborn to one in the maternity home; a waterbirth is slightly different to a conventional “earth’ birth; and a caesarian section is a very different experience to a natural birth. There is a world of difference for the child, with consequences for the child’s future if he is actively involved in the birth experience or leaves passively by being removed surgically from the mother’s womb. The decision to deliver the child by caesarian section is often made to suit mother or obstetrician on quite arbitrary grounds.[sup]2[/sup] I would urge wherever possible that every child and mother be given the opportunity to go through the labour of natural birthing.
Whatever kind of birth the newborn child goes through, she is exceedingly vulnerable to the new and potentially harsh environment into which she finds herself, and her optimal health and safety requires the most sensitive nursing care. Once she is born, she might have to face a variety of maternity hospital “safety and convenience procedures’. We should be mindful of where the baby has resided for the past 9 months, and minimise any invasive procedures such as:
[bul]Removing baby from the mother: the newborn baby should stay close to the mother and be allowed to latch onto the breast as soon after birth as possible, where it may take its first earthly food in the form of the all-important and nourishing colostrum. It is deeply reassuring for the child to sleep on the chest or belly of mother or father for the first few days.
Cutting the umbilical cord prematurely before it has stopped contracting. This will allow the child to receive that extra volume of blood which may reduce complications.
Bright lights, inadvertent cooling and loud noises.
Washing off the warmth-protective and nourishing vernix which covers the body of the newborn baby.
Immunisations or other unnecessary exposure to chemical substances.[/bul]
The health of the newborn child will in most cases be mirrored by the peace and health of the environment in which it begins its life.
[cl=sblue]Birth of the life body
The newborn child is brimming with life. It cannot grow and develop without the power of life present within it. Physical material such as sand or rock cannot sustain life, and all biological functions such as cell division and metabolism, maintenance and repair are only possible because there is an organised energetic system of active life forces within the inorganic substance, called the [i]etheric life forces[/i] by Rudolf Steiner, [i]chi[/i] by Traditional Chinese Medicine and [i]prana[/i] by Ayurvedic medicine. This system of forces gives life to the child and drives the development of the child’s physical body. We should remember that fertilisation brings together the sperm and egg cells of the parents. This single united germinal cell will ultimately grow into the fully developed newborn baby. This body inherited from the parents provides the child with its physical nature. Its psycho-spiritual nature, however, comes from another place.
At the moment of conception, the child’s own being connects with the inherited fertilised egg. The further development of the child through all the known milestones tells the story of how the child connects himself step by step with the body given to him by mother and father. As he does so, his own etheric life forces are busy transforming and remodelling the inherited body into a body he can call his own and that is suitable for his further passage into life. This organic transformation process takes the best part of 7 years. [i]The change of teeth signifies the completion of this dynamic process of remodelling the inherited body[/i]. The milk teeth are the densest material in the body and are the only body parts that cannot be transformed; they therefore have to be cast out. The first milk tooth that falls out meets with great excitement. The whole family and of course the child in particular, sense the importance of this event; a significant milestone has been reached and the child is rewarded with each tooth that falls out. Each new tooth brings the child closer to the completion of creating his own body, a process that takes place over several years as the child attains his full second dentition. Now, with the emergence of the child’s own permanent teeth, a part of the etheric life forces are liberated from their organic activities, becoming progressively more available for other activities. This means that the same formative forces which previously allowed the growth of cells to take place and directed their integration into the physical organs, now allow the mental life to “grow’ and to flow into the developing soul organs.
Rudolf Steiner describes this transformation exactly: “The forces that prevail in the etheric body are active at the beginning of the human being’s life on earth and most distinctly during the embryonic period; these are the forces of growth and formative development. During the course of earthly life, a part of these forces emancipates itself from this formative and growth activity and becomes the forces of thought …’. It is of the greatest importance to know that the human being’s ordinary forces of thought are refined formative and growth forces.
[i]This is the second birth of childhood – the birth of the etheric life forces[/i] – which can be recognised by many changes that occur at this time. Morphologically, the child loses his round chubby form, becoming relatively slimmer and contoured. But it is the change of teeth which is the most powerful image of this second birthing process. Physiologically, the activity of heart and lung as well as all other rhythmic functions in the body become a new focus of development. Alongside this, corresponding psychological changes are seen. The child moves from experiencing the world mainly through imitation and creative activity to experiencing it through [i]feeling[/i]. The full range of emotions – joy and sorrow, love and hate – are felt more deeply than before, colouring thinking and behaviour. The child’s thinking becomes less directed by sense perceptions and more embued with imaginative pictures that arise out of his own creative fantasy.
Only now is the child ready for primary school because the faculties needed for thinking and memorising in a school-appropriate way are available through the freeing of the formative life forces. For if we call on the child to use his abstract thinking and memory prematurely, we will be drawing forces away from biological activities which will lead to a weakening of the organic foundation of the body. This is the reason why children entering the Waldorf School system are carefully assessed for school readiness and an important indicator is in fact the change of teeth. Enlightened educators in other systems have also observed that children from the 7th year are much more ready to learn than younger children.
An understanding of these changes will lead to an attitude of mind that supports the healthy development of the child. In an article such as this one can give only a few indications in this direction:
[bul]The young child should not be schooled too early and should be carefully assessed for school readiness.
One should avoid treating the child like an adult and making intellectual demands on her thinking, especially before the change of teeth.
One should respect, support and encourage the feelings of the child in every way possible.
One should encourage rhythmic activities in the home, school and play life[/bul].
[cl=sblue]Birth of the soul
The growing child is sensitive to her inner and outer world due to the fact that she has an inner life which can react to the outer sensations. If the child was only constituted out of physical substance vitalised by life forces, as occurs in the plant world, it would not be able to experience sensitivity and awareness. This is possible because the living organism carries within it an organised soul system called the [i]psyche[/i] or the [i]astral body[/i]. The drives and desires, the ability to sense, to feel, to think, to act and react, are all functions of this soul organisation. Within the first 7 years this soul activity is intensely connected and active in the development and the healthy function of certain organ systems, finely shaping them and developing their inner sensitivity. Watch how intensely the suckling infant senses the flow of milk deep in its body. And because the soul life is still so bound up with the organism, emotional disturbances in a young child impact directly on the organs causing tummy aches, asthma, headaches, etc.
From the beginning of the change of teeth in the second 7-year period, the forces of the soul begin to metamorphose and become active in areas such as the heart, breathing and other rhythmic functions. With maturation of these organ systems, the soul will become more active in the metabolic and limb development. Now the sexes differentiate properly, accompanied by growth in the larynx, chest, muscular and skeletal system as well as in the development of the sexual organs. The soul, moving through these organs bring about powerful physical and emotional changes reflected in the surge of hormones, increased muscle mass and bone growth. The young person has to learn to control this soul activity which is now awakening in these body areas. To begin with, he is not fully in control: for instance the gangly legs do not move as harmoniously as before and the hormones play havoc with his emotions. However, he gradually learns to gain more control. The soul has a powerful investment in the urogenital organs which as we well know are closely linked to our sentient life. With the maturation of the sexual organs which takes place slightly earlier in girls (12 – 14 years) than boys (13 – 15 years), the soul forces conclude their work in the reproductive sphere and are available for other functions
Thus the threshold of puberty arrives and the child takes a mighty step forward in her development. Just as the change of teeth expresses the closure of one developmental period and the liberation of growth forces for other activities, so does puberty testify to the conclusion of a second life epoch and the awakening of soul forces that can help the growing child on her life’s journey.
[i]The third birth – the birth of the soul – takes place[/i]. The child’s organism is now developed to such a degree that he can begin to direct his attention to the outer world in a new way and gain a measure of control over his environment. This is now possible because the psyche has begun to loosen itself from its activity in building up the organs, becoming free for individual soul expression.
Other momentous manifestations of the liberated soul life can be observed: powerful emotions awaken through the force of desire as well as the welling up of feelings like greed, shame, anger, hate and fear. These emotions correspond to the newly awakened phenomenon of movement, as displayed in the need to dance and the desire to travel. Alongside these strong feelings, the power of fantasy begins to grow as a flow of wish-filled mental pictures that work into the future. This may lead to the first real love for another person, with all its anguish and ecstasy. On the other hand, the young individual may feel as though he has been thrown out into a hostile world, making him feel alone and exposed. “No one understands me’ is the mood of this time. He may become oversensitive and afraid. He may withdraw until such time that he begins to take interest in the outside threatening world and learns to love it. If the education does not come to meet this need in the child he may become too busy with himself, which can lead to unfavourable outcomes. On the one side he may fall into excessive sexuality or addictive behaviour, on the other into the striving for power which can lead the child into difficult places. However, the desire for knowledge and the faculty of logical thinking and judgement, which begin to emerge at this age, will protect the youth and awaken his interest in learning to master the challenges of the outside world.
It is critical to understand that the soul’s coming to birth at this time will bring with it all kinds of difficulties and enormous challenges for the young person, her family and teachers. Insight into these processes will help us guide and support the developing youth in the most appropriate way. A full description of how to do this is not possible in this article but a few important indications are given below:
[bul]From what was said above it follows that the young person’s interest should be directed as strongly as possible to the outer environment. This is made easier because the physical body has now matured sufficiently for the soul to want to conquer the world outside, at least through observation and understanding.
It can be of great help if the early adolescent can find an older person whom she respects and who is prepared to listen to her.
Activities and projects which challenge her intellect and help her gain understanding and mastery over the outer world should be actively encouraged[/bul].
The three births of childhood are cardinal milestones and important thresholds in the life of a child. Each birth is the culmination of a powerful and invisible gestational process that provides the organic and psychological foundation for the child’s journey towards self knowledge. If we can learn to understand and appreciate what these three births signify, we will be in the best position to guide the child on his way.
1. Goldberg R. Where do I come from? [i]South African Journal of Natural Medicine[/i] 2002; 8: 44.
3. Goldberg R. Caesarian section. [i]South African Journal of Natural Medicine[/i] 2003; 9: 49.
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