The ante- and postnatal haptonomic accompaniment promotes the development of affective bonds between the child, the father and the mother. It enables them to have an loving relationship whilst the child is still in his mothers womb.
It also helps to foster a situation which favours the way the newborn child is received at the moment of birth and after. Early on the child acquires a basic security which encourages autonomy, communication and confidence.
The character of the affective relationship which is established during this accompaniment, between the father, the mother and the child, promotes the development of the sense of parenthood, the affective responsibility of parents with regard to the individual way of being of their child. They discover that they can encourage him in his physical, psychic and affective development, as well as guiding him to his own place in the world. Well before his birth they give him the right to take the initiative in the relationship.
In this way, the basis of an educative relationship directed towards his autonomy is already established.
The antenatal accompaniment cannot be reduced to a birthing preparation. It is a preparation for the affective reception of the child. He is accompanied, guided and supported by his father and mother throughout his life in the womb and during the birth.
At each encounter with the person accompanying them, the parents discover how to interact with their child throug affectivo-confirming psychotactile contact full of tenderness and love. This exchange solicits an affective engagement from the two parents which is subsequently renewed and developed at home.
The accompaniment is progressive and adapted to the various stages of development in pregnancy.
In this way, well before his birth an affective relationship is created which gives the child feelings of individuality and security, essential for self-fulfillment.
Whilst it cannot be reduced to being just a preparation for birth, the accompaniment does foster a natural birth and helps in the birth process. In effect, haptonomy takes into consideration the integrality of the person.
The affective life - feelings and emotions - manifests itself through the animated corporality. In particular, the feeling of well-being, of wholeness of the being, is accompanied in corporal terms by a very specific muscular tonus - firm and supple - and a laxity of the ligaments propitious to childbirth.
This physical condition is not the result of a technique or exercises, but the liberating effect of the reassuring affective relationship. This means that haptonomy is totally incompatible with those methods which aim to modify the muscular tonus and respiration, such as yoga, technical birth preparation methods, which aim to modify the muscular tonus and respiration, such es yoga, sophrology, breathing techniques, etc... These, by nature of being an apprenticeship, impede the liberating effect of affective expression. Moreover, paying attention to the respiration or an "imaginary representation" of the child, creates an obstacle to the affective contact with him.
We must insist on the fact that the accompaniment of the affective relationship between the child and his parents is not interrupted at the moment of birth.
In fact, to experience a rupture in the mode of the affective relationship which he knew in his mothers womb would induce a frustration prejudicial to him.
After the birth, the child must be accompanied in a very specific way. Four (or more) postnatal encounters are desirable. Here again, each encounter is adapted to the childs stage of development. It is best that the first encounter should take place in the first two weeks after the birth.
By means of the basic support - being carried in a reassuring way-the child becomes conscious of his corporality and develops a state of basic security in this new world. The last encounter takes place when the child learns to walk by himself, when he enlarges his own space.
1. The father's place :
The presence of the father during the ante- and postnatal accompaniment is essential in three respects:
- It enables the father to take his place without delay in the triangular, affective relationship: father-mother-child. In this way the three partners are equally gratified.
- It is the father who constitutes the affective ressource of the mother, he supports and accompanies her during the pregnancy and the actual birth.
- At the moment of birth he plays a major rôle in the childs encounter with the outside world.
If the father, even though he is free to attend, does not desire a haptonomic accompaniment, the idea should be renonced because an accompaniment undertaken without his consent could have undesirable consequences. However, if the father is unable to be present to assist at the accompaniment - for a strictly unavoidable reason - he can (and should) be replaced by someone close to the mother.
2. Intimacy :
The ante- and postnatal haptonomic accompaniment in a group is never possible because pregnancy and birth are extremely important events in the lives of a child and his parents. The affective nature of these events requires the respect of privacy and intimacy. The accompaniment can therefore only be envisaged in the form of personal encounters, between the person who is accompanying and those being accompanied. This accompaniment of the affective life requires a respectful and careful attitude on the part of the person accompanying.
Only a pre-information about the affective-confirming haptonomic approach, and the ante- and postnatal accompaniment, may possibly be shared by several mothers and fathers who are expecting a child, as a group accompaniment would be in total contradiction to the fundamental principles of haptonomy.
3. The chronology of the encounters :
It is desirable for the parents to familiarize themselves with haptonomic phenomenality and discover their own faculties - in the course of two or three encounters-very soon after conception.
Following this, the actual antenatal haptonomic accompaniment commences around the 4th month (when the child moves in the womb), and no later than the end of the 6th month. It requires a minimum of 8 encounters up to the birth, this accompaniment is progressive and adapted to the stages of development in pregnancy. Started after the 6th month it would lose its meaning and could not be carried out in an appropriate and harmonious manner.
After the birth, a minimum of 4 postnatal accompaniment encounters is advisable: the first as early as possible in the first two weeks, the others at approximately 1 month, 3 months, and then when the child learns to walk by himself.
As well as those qualified to practice ante- and postnatal haptonomic accompaniment there are some gynaecologist-obstetricians and midwives authorised to praticice births in hapto-obstetrical conditions consistent with haptonomic phenomenality. The list of their names is included with that of the practitioners of ante-and postnatal haptonomic accompaniment.