How did my baby know?
“5% chance of birth today”, the probability calculation software read, once I plugged in the expected due date of our baby. It was still the thirty-ninth week, but that finite chance meant, before the dawn of the following day, my wife’s labor could start. So, before going to bed, I spoke close to my wife’s tummy:
“Hello there, baby, maybe I will see you soon. Please stay calm, and when the time comes, head towards the door!” Not knowing what other instructions to give, I said,
“You will know what to do. Follow your instincts!!”
Twenty-four hours later, I was holding my baby in my arms, and I pondered on how incredible it was, that he knew what to do during birth by intuition.
Indeed, knowing through intuition is often necessary for life on Earth. I have seen this in sea turtles, in the sandy beaches of Costa Rica as well as in Sri Lanka. Mother sea turtles lay eggs and burry them in clutches, tactically hiding them from predators. Their hatchlings on the other hand instinctually crawl towards the raging ocean for food and shelter, the moment they depart from the clutches. The aforementioned reasoning and instinct are key to the survival of several species of sea turtle.
There is more than intuition that humans share with other animals. For instance, in the early 1600s, Shakespeare praised our species as the paragon of animals, in Hamlet (Shakespeare 1992):
“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!”.
Furthermore, about two and a half centuries later, Darwin postulated that all life on Earth evolved from the same origin (Darwin, 1859). In fact, all animals, share the same essential design of genetic structure, cellular composition and undergo the same process of chemiosmosis to generate energy from the surrounding (Rutherford, 2019).
The eastern philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism have yet another suggestion for babies to have presumed knowledge at birth. Re-incarnation or re-birth theorizes that the aatman (soul in Sanskrit) of an organism is not destroyed at the time of death, but transferred from one body to another, until enlightenment is obtained. When this happens, some knowledge may also transfer in between lives. For example, in the search for the new Dalai Lama, the rightful candidate baby must recognize the items that belonged to previous Dalai Lama (Shackle, 2008).
While science can reasonably justify that the atoms that make up our bodies are recycled from animals at the time of dinosaurs, the smoking gun experiment to prove the cyclic nature of the seemingly undetectable aatman is yet to be devised.
In hindsight, my baby knew what to do during birth by intuition. With time, he may also gain knowledge through other ways such as reason, emotion, imagination, faith, memory, sense perception and language. It is certainly interesting how babies may have intuition even at their zeroth birthday!
Shakespeare, W. (1992). Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. C. Watts & K. Carabine (Eds.). Wordsworth Editions. (Original work published 1599)
Darwin, C. (1859). On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London : John Murray.
Rutherford, A. (2019). Humanimal, How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature — A New Evolutionary History. New York: The Experiment, LLC.
Shackle, S. (2008). Dalai Lama: a spiritual leader who is found, not chosen, The Guardian. (2008). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/aug/27/tibet.china1