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Symbiotic Period Children are a source of delight and adornment in the world granted by God to their parents.

They give positive energy, joy, and bliss as Allah says in the Quran Wealth and children are adornment of the worldly life (Al Kahf: 46). Because children are the ones in every nation upon whom hope for the future lies, and they are the hope of tomorrow, we have to take special care of them starting from their birth. Caring depends on both parents, especially the mother. In fact, studies have shown that the contact between mother and the newborn baby is crucial at the first hours after birth because it helps in setting down life-long patterns that are extremely difficult to change later. Furthermore, Dr. Maria Montessori stressed on the importance of the period in which the child is born (the symbiotic period). She stated, Man himself must become the center of education and we must never forget that man does not develop only at the university, but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest intensity during the first three years of his life (The Absorbent Mind, p. 8). Hence, the following paragraphs take a closer look at the symbiotic period, discussing its significance and elaborating on the needs of both the mother and the child. The symbiotic period is very significant for the child. According to Dr. Montanaro, the first weeks after birth have a special significance for the childs development and are referred to as symbiotic life. The word symbiosis means a life together, with sym describing the special situation of two living beings who need each other because each of them gives and receives something absolutely necessary for the continuation and the quality of each of their lives (Understanding the Human Being, p.28). In addition, it was called symbiotic period because the child believes that it along with its mother are one person, a symbiotic unity.

Therefore, this particular period deals with the beginning life of a new family rather than the physical healing of the mother after a birth, which is described as the puerperium period. Islam understands the significance of this crucial time for the child and mother. Thus, during this period, a Muslim mother is exempted from all of the obligated daily rituals, including praying and fasting so that the mother gives her child full attention. In addition, because of the psychological changes that affect the mothers emotions, including hormonal fluctuations, exhaustion from the labor and delivery process, and change of body image after birth, her marital life might be negatively affected. The spouse might feel neglected and/or annoyed since all the mothers attention and energy are directed to the newborn. Which is why, in the religion of Islam, any divorce issued at this time is not accepted. For instance if the husband becomes impatient because of the wifes actions (or in regards to any other issue for that matter) and decides to divorce her; Islamically his action of divorce is not valid since the mother is pardoned in this stage (Kasule, 2006). Beside the fact that the symbiotic period is very significant, it is also a dependable period where the mother and the newborn depend on each other to meet both of their physiological and psychological needs. Dr. Montanaro discussed some the newborn basic needs in her book Understanding the Human Being, p.25- 27. They are: 1. Direct contact with the mother that can be seen in three forms: Holding: According to Lennart Nilsson, direct skin-to-skin contact with the mother and also with the father supports the newborns acclimation to the different temperatures and climates that it is

exposed to throughout its first weeks of life. During this time, the newborn infant also experiences psychological changes, which include an establishment of basic trust with its parents and support circle and a preferential relationship. For the newborn, it means surviving independently for the very first time (A Child Is Born, p. 195). Handling: As Dr. Montanaro discusses, handling a newborn infant is the way in which we use our hands and body when we dress, change, bath, and give the infant the care it needs and desires. Holding a newborn infant reflects the simple act of the caregiver keeping the infant in her arms, which can vary greatly among caregivers. I use the word caregiver instead of mother to reflect actions to be taken by the mother and/or father. Even though in many instances these forms of contact may be from the mother, in todays society, there are a growing number of single fathers who serve as the primary caregivers. Additionally, feeding a newborn infant represents the way in which human milk (recommended) is given to the newborn. Such action is part of handling because it requires the mother to prepare herself as well as to put the child is the right position to initiate the feeding process. Feeding: Breastfeeding does not only give the infant the right food that the mother produces, but also establishes a form of communication and a preferential relationship between the two beings. Therefore, with breastfeeding, the mother nourishes not only her childs body, but also his mind and soul. In fact, breastfeeding was given importance and encouragement even in the Quran, where Allah says:

Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father's] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is seeing of what you do (Al Baqara: 233). These three direct forms play an important role not only in meeting the newborns physiological needs, but also in assuring its security and social needs that were specified in the Five Levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Also, they tell a lot about the mothers emotions and feelings toward the baby and the relationship, and that will help the baby to adapt to the new environment. As discussed in Dr. Montanaros book, Chapter 3, if a newborn infant is able to experience each of these forms of contact in a positive way during the symbiotic period, it will have acquired a fundamental knowledge of its new environment that will always influence its vision of the world. If its vision is positive, then the child will have a basic trust in the world and will think of it as a place where his needs can and will be fulfilled. In addition to the three forms of contact that were mentioned above, other forms of bonding with the baby is important as well, which includes kissing, touching, talking to, and making eye contact.

2. Respecting biological rhythms. The child needs to have rhythms in its life. Whatever its needs, they must be addressed. For instance, if the child cries because of hunger, the mother must feed it. 3. The order and perfection. Newborn likes routine in terms of time and space. It needs to eat every two hours, for instance, and needs to have its clothes changed everyday. Moreover, the child does not like a change in the environment because adapting to the surrounding is part of its inner development. 4. Sufficient space for unhindered vision and movement. The environment and the space in which the child lives are essential. A newborn, although very tiny, needs a space to explore himself and develop his vision. For example, the child can see a mobile and, with time, starts to be responsive to it by trying to grab it. 5. The need to explore the new environment with all the senses. Newborn can only see black and white at first but it needs to develop his sense of vision to progress to the stage in which it could recognize the colors. Additionally, its sense of smell, hearing, touch, and taste are all essential in helping the child discovering his surroundings. In order to address these needs and help the newborn adapt to its new indoor and outdoor environments, essential and special care should be given. For example, mother-infant bonding should be initiated from the delivery room, which forms a strong family unit that is full of love and affection. As a result, both beings develop a strong relationship, which helps them go beyond the critical moment of birth. Moreover, researchers believe that since the father is involved actively during the childbirth, his role as a father begins

immediately at birth. Researchers believe that relations between newborns and their fathers are stronger if there are present at the birth. The father has a dual role with the family during this symbiotic period. He must continue in his old role and to learn and develop into his new role. Part of the fathers new role is to protect this newly formed family unit. If the father can take some leave during this period, this would be beneficial to the entire family, but especially to the mother during this time. In addition to the role of the parents in addressing the newborn needs, the environment should be fully prepared, including the babys room that has the sleeping area, movement area, changing area, and feeding area (Banks, 2010). During the Symbiotic period, the mother too depends on her child to meet her basic needs. For instance, nursing (breastfeeding) allows the uterus of the mother to contract and shrink back to its normal size and position. Moreover, when breastfeeding, the mother protects herself from having uterine, cervical and ovarian cancers, as well as breast cancer later in life, as studies have found. Not to mention that breastfeeding helps the mother gain the feeling of strength and power derived from the composure and the sense of fulfillment that comes with the handling and suckling of the baby (Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, p. 73). Breastfeeding by a mother symbolizes a special attachment in that the mother and child can once again become a single person as during pregnancy. This form of feeding is the last chance for a mother and a child to share this type of intimacy through a basic need. As a result, breastfeeding has innumerable benefits for both the infant and the mother. The symbiotic period is critical in the beginning life of a newborn child not only for its mother, but also for its father, siblings, extended family members, and family friends, as was discussed in the Understanding the Human Being (Chapter 3) by Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro, M.D.

Although both parents could have prepared for the welcoming of a newborn and have worked so hard to give the child what it needs, things could go out of control. For example, if the mother delivers a disabled child (not precisely physically but also mentally), the symbiotic period could be very challenging. Both the mother and the father need to adapt to physical appearance, and to the idea of handling a disabled child. In addition, as I have mentioned earlier, tension could rise between the couple because of the mothers attention that has shifted suddenly to the new born. The father in that case (if not understanding) could feel neglected and unloved. Also, financial difficulties could interfere with appropriate way in which the mother and the child should be living this period. In conclusion, the symbiotic period is very significant in introducing the mother to her child and in introducing the child to its new world. In preparation for it (considering that caring starts from the moment of conception), the mother needs to set up an environment in which the newborn can explore itself and develop its senses. The needs of both the mother and the child are met mutually by having each other. They both benefit greatly from having one another as they spend time breast-feeding, playing, and exchanging looks. Indeed, behind every physiological need a psychological and an emotional need that is met. The reward of raising a child and taking care of him in an appropriate way is countless, especially after years and years of nurturing and guiding. An Arabic saying sums it all; it states, Take care of your children when they are young, so that they would take care of you when you are old.

References: Banks, J. (2010). Becoming A Father: The Manifestations Of The Symbiotic Period. Retrieved from Kasule , O. (2006). ETHICO-LEGAL ISSUES IN MIDWIFERY: AN ISLAMIC PERPSECTIVE. Retrieved from Montanaro, S. (1992). Understanding the Human Being. A B C Clio. Montessori, M. (2002). The Absorbent Mind. Nilsson, L. (2004). A Child Is Born. Delta; 4 Rev Upd edition Stephan, P. (2007). Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Breast Cancer, Lowers Your Risk. Retrieved from