The new-born child arrives in the world with an awesome array of capacities and reflexes. They can suck, cough, cry, squirm, turn their heads and grip objects (Segal and Segal, 1985). As Somerville points out, however, what we have to remember is that all children are born ‘prematurely’, in that their character and personality are yet to be fully formed (1982: 242).
It was Wilhelm Reich, I believe, who clearly portrayed the shock of being born. After 40 weeks or thereabouts of security, the newborn arrives in a world that is far less warm and far more threatening than the womb. The baby is picked up by the legs, slapped briskly and removed from his or her mother. Reich argued that the world was destined to remain in a mess while new residents are greeted in such a fashion. For some children, even in wealthy countries like Australia, those first few minutes set the scene for much of their future lives.