That's my single favorite sentence in any nursing textbook I've ever read, bar none.
April 1980, and I'm starting to panic a bit about State Boards. Back in the day there was no NCLEX-RN Exam. Each state gave their own exam, and California's was due soon after graduation in May. Three days in Sacramento, staying over every night, at the long tables in the Sacramento Convention Center during the day with Scantrons and #2 pencils. I've not ever had much trouble with multiple choice tests, but this one wouldn't be offered again until December, and I couldn't afford to fail.
So I'm down in San Francisco with my friend [who's also an RN] at Stacey's Bookstore on Market Street, down in the basement, looking at nursing books, and I find an Outline of Pediatric Nursing. That seems promising, as I don't feel as though I'll have the brain to read a lot of content, but I might be able to use an outline to jog my memory.
Open it to the first page of the actual outline, and there it is. Babies are born competent.
How I love that sentence. My older son was born in 1971, my younger in 1973. T. Berry Brazelton's Neonatal Behavorial Assessment Scale (NBAS) hadn't been published at that point, but I was fortunate to have been guided by a friend to an excellent pediatrician who understood that we are not born useless and helpless but ready to engage anyone willing to listen. Equally fortunate for me was being able to work with a number of different infants in baby daycare [very unusual at that time] which gave me numerous opportunities to notice how each baby tried to get (and succeeded at getting) my attention. I remember every one of them with great fondness and respect, including [but not limited to] my own sons. I learned so much.
I'm not saying I became suddenly enlightened- far from it- but I had had, by the time I found the Outline of Pediatrics, many, many chances to stop being such a *grown-up* and start being a human being. In other words, I didn't have to know everything, to be right, to study for, and pass, State Boards. I just needed to be competent. To remember that people are working on this stuff all the time- nursing, medicine, parenting, education- and none of it's a finished product. It's all work in becoming, and I'm part of that- both the work, and the becoming.
Babies are born competent.
That's each of us. Whether premature, whether injured at birth, whether our DNA incorporates some unfortunate combination of genes that will bring sorrow later- Each of us is born competent, in no hurry to do anything but engage the attention of those more skilled in handling the needs of life than we are.
These are some of my favorite books for becoming a more skilled adult- skilled at listening to, skilled at connecting with, infants and young children. Three are out of print, but it's worth putting the effort in to finding them.
Born Dancing: How Intuitive Parents Understand Their Baby's Unspoken Language and Natural Rhythms
The First Six Months
The Laughing Baby : Songs & Rhymes from Around the World