She was shaking. Fidgeting with angst over her upcoming surgery. The preop bay is filled with others like her; cold hands with nothing to grip but the rails on their stretchers. I understand the calm, aloof lack of attention from the medical team as they flurry around. She is just a routine in their life, but she’s the partner in mine. I lace her fingers in mine, palms pressed together so tightly, I could feel her heartbeat. The shaking lessens as the apprehension eases in her eyes.
Why is there so much power in the holding of hands?
An extensive head-to-toe, physical examination is done on every newborn at birth. A critical assessment I used to shake through. Strained eyes following my notes. Running my gloved fingertips over every millimeter of freshly born skin. Sweating under the obnoxious spotlight over the warmer. Hiding my squints of concentration from eager parents looking on at me, “Do they have 10 fingers and toes?”
Three years and hundreds of babies later, I dance gracefully through newborn exams. All unique, but mostly the same. The angst of a new profession faded to routine. I place a finger into each open hand and wait for five fingers to curl around my one. A grasp reflex. So brief in my assessment, but today it hit me:
We are born with an inherent neurological response as humans. A reflex to hold hands.
It’s benign at first. A neurological response. One parents become mesmerized with as one of the only ways they can interact with these small, new beings. So, children are raised up holding hands. For connection. Safety crossing streets. Security in new settings. Comfort in fear. It becomes so much a part of our nurturing it works as an anesthetic for pain. Support in struggles. A brace for bad news. Hope in despair. Condolences in grief. An act of love.
This simple reflex.
One of the first we develop, and one of the last to die.
Our formal Hello and love soaked goodbye.
Have you practiced your grasp reflex lately?