The Healing Power of Babies

Matthew Habiger OSB, PhD
Permission Granted

Have you ever wondered what a baby thinks about, or what transpires in a baby's mind? There was a time when I was completely baffled by babies. I didn't know how to talk to them, relate to them or even understand them. I often wondered how mothers knew what their babies needed, where they were hurting, or how to please them, since they could not communicate with them by intelligent speech.

Never did I think, when I was ordained in 1968, that the time would come when I would work for babies and come to know them quite well. I have learned that babies have a mind and will of their own, that their personalities emerge early on, and that communicating through the heart takes precedence over the mind and mouth.

Babies are easy to satisfy. Just be present to them, love them, care for them and appreciate them for the irreplaceable gifts they are. Babies give more of themselves than they receive from us. Notice what their smiles do to you on a dismal day. Notice how the attention of a crowd automatically turns to them in a crowded room or on the sidewalk. The absence of babies leaves a feeling of incompleteness and sterility.

Here is a powerful anecdote that speaks to the remarkable power of babies to transform and heal. A number of years ago, during the Vietnam conflict, a number of gravely injured soldiers were shipped to a hospital in San Diego. What they shared in common was that they had lost all of their arms and legs. They were lying on beds with simply their heads and torsos. They had fallen into such a profound depression that they simply could not speak. The nurse on the floor tried everything to get them out of their depression, but she failed.

Finally, in creative frustration, she called the other nurses together and said, "Gather up all of the terminally ill babies in the hospital and strap them face down to the torsos of these veterans." As she left the room, she said to the veterans, "Gentlemen, these babies are dying. Most have no visitors or anyone to love them. There is no one to bond with them, and you have nothing to do. YOUR JOB IS TO LOVE THESE BABIES!"

The nurses left the room. They did this day after day. In less than one week, the soldiers had escaped their depression and were taking care of the babies. Each man initially fought it, but every time he opened his eyes, the eyes of a little baby were penetrating his soul, looking for that heart of compassion that had to be in there.

I think that babies can accept the reality of dying if they are surrounded by our love and caring. But think of the tragic rejection these most innocent and vulnerable ones must feel when they sense they are unwanted, unloved and disposable.

If you want to be a more effective champion of life, then learn from a baby how to be warm hearted, open to the mystery of life and more fully human. Their natural goodness helps us to understand the evil of all the methods men have devised to destroy human fertility and nascent human life.