The discipline of preparing for birth on an emotional level is not often discussed. During pregnancy, haptonomy offers future parents the opportunity to get in touch with their baby in utero. These sessions are especially a precious opportunity to help the future dad to grow into his role and support the mother during childbirth.
Haptonomy, a first way to love?
Theorised after the Second World War by researcher Frans Veldman, haptonomy (from the Greek hapto, which means “to come into contact” and nomos: “the norm, ethics”) means, according to Albert Goldberg, a practitioner in Paris, “an art of putting into play a real affective touch, established with tact, allowing the being to blossom ». Applied in many therapeutic areas, this “art of contact” aims to establish a special relationship between the parents and the baby in utero, based on the observation that the feeling of emotional security contributes to the development of all psychoaffective and cognitive abilities of the child. “Haptonomy takes prenatal life very seriously. It helps the mother to deepen the intuitive contact she has with her baby from within, to prepare for birth and to share this relationship with dad,” Goldberg said.
In practice: gestures and an intention to secure the baby
According to Myriam Carette, a haptonomic midwife in Lille, haptonomy aims to bring a sense of confidence and security to the baby. “From 7 weeks of amenorrhea, the baby ‘hears’ and perceives things through the mother’s skin,” she said. “The first understanding he develops in utero is touch, hence the interest of establishing contact through this means.” Through haptonomy, we learn to see the difference between a touch that imposes its presence on the other and a hand that arises with an intention of welcome and invitation, a gesture that requires an answer,” says A Goldberg.
Myriam Carette considers the kicks given by the baby in his mother’s belly as invitations to communicate with his parents. “During the sessions, we play games of moving hands on the stomach: to understand how the baby is positioned, how he moves, how to answer his calls and how to make him rest in your hand, how to hug…” These moments, as playful as they are moving for parents, “bring a first emotional imprint to the child. They soothe him and help him to begin to build his emotional memory,” says Mr Carette.
Feeling helpful on the day of delivery
In addition to the contact established during pregnancy, haptonomy aims to prepare parents for birth. “It has nothing to do with medicine. It is a bonus that we offer to parents and to the child so that the birth is the least traumatic as possible. Parents feel helpful, they provide support to the baby in the birth process, helping him find his way, so he’s properly positioned in the pelvis,” says the midwife. “Combining emotional security with medical safety is, in our opinion, a determining factor that allows parents to experience this event as fully as possible. The father will feel more connected in the delivery room and can help the mother and her baby, to overcome the pain and difficulties,” said Albert Goldberg. Goldberg even advises to continue the sessions after the birth, during the first year of the baby, to maintain the feeling of security and confidence of the child with advice on carrying and the most appropriate gestures for each major step child development.
When to start?
The sessions can be part of the preparation for birth and could be covered by health insurance. They can start as early as the 3rd or 4th month of pregnancy. Of course, the content will evolve with the baby as he grows up and moves differently according to his size and weight. Myriam Carette compares these sessions to a “door of communication” that you open with your baby, so it is important not to close it, but to maintain this chemistry with both parents throughout the pregnancy and after the birth. In total, she considers that 7 to 8 sessions are the ideal way to prepare well for birth with haptonomy.
More information: haptonomie.org
Translation: Ashley Griffin