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Newborn Baby Stares Down Doctors Just Moments After Birth

Documenting the birth of a baby has become a common way for parents to capture the precious moments of their child’s arrival into the world. While pictures of crying newborns and overjoyed, emotional parents are typical compositions, a very different newborn expression was caught by a Brazillian photographer. A photograph of a seemingly angry newborn baby staring down doctors has recently gone viral.

When pregnant Daine de Jesus Barbosa decided to hire a photographer to capture her birth, she had no idea her newborn’s photo would be shared worldwide. She hadn’t been expecting her pregnancy, facing early complications at just five weeks along. Doctors diagnosed her with a subchorionic hematoma, which is an accumulation of blood between the uterus and placenta. Since there was a chance of miscarriage, Daine was instructed to get plenty of rest. Thankfully, the hematoma resolved and her pregnancy proceeded safely. Not wanting to miss a moment of her baby’s entrance into the world, she found and hired photographer Rodrigo Kunstmann to document the birth. (1)

Angry Baby Isabela

On February 13th, 2020, baby Isabela entered the world by cesarean section with her parents and their photographer looking on. It was only after looking through the dozens of snaps that Kunstmann saw Isabela’s first expression: an angry glare at the doctors who had just lifted her from the warmth and safety of her mom. She was silent and staring with eyes open, not crying until the umbilical cord was cut. When Isabela’s mother saw the photograph for the first time, she thought her daughter “was born a ready (made) meme.” (1)

Kunstmann shared the hilarious (and relatable) image on Facebook with a clever caption. “Today is my birth and I don’t even have clothes for this,” the post reads, garnering over 1.7k comments and over 3,000 shares. Many took to the comments to commiserate with angry Isabela, offering possible thoughts going through her mind at that moment. “Don’t even think of slapping me, because I will slap you back,” one user quipped. “I waited 9 months for this?” another commenter captioned the photo. With over 7,000 reactions to the post, angry baby Isabela’s entrance into the world resonated with adults all over the globe. (2)

Why So Serious? Science Can Explain

While it’s easy to pass off Isabela’s photo as a chance capture, there’s a scientific basis for her angry scowl. In 2011, researchers from Durham and Lancaster Universities published a study on the facial expressions of unborn babies. From their findings, it appears that babies actually “practice” these facial movements in the womb.

Using 4D ultrasound scans, the study finds that fetuses make simple expressions as early as 24 weeks. By the time they reach 35 weeks, these expressions become much more complex. By observing the facial movements of the 15 fetuses in the study, it appears they learn to both smile and show pain weeks before they’re born. This practice is important for life outside the womb, and practice apparently makes perfect.

The period between 24 and 35 weeks shows a distinct increase in the occurrence of distinct facial movements. The “smile” or “laughter-face” expression, researchers note, increases from 0% to 35% during this 11week period. The “pain” or “cry-face” expression increases from 0% to 42%. This coincides with the increase in facial fat tissue and the continued maturing of the brain.

It’s important for a baby to know how to communicate with their face. Not only does it help with bonding between infants and parents, but it’s also their only way to let mom and dad know what they need. Practicing these expressions during gestation will ensure that, as soon as they’re born, they can express themselves. If they’re hungry, tired, cold, or happy, their face can show it all. And apparently, baby Isabela had gotten plenty of practice inside mom. (3)

A Memory To Last A Lifetime

Now a happy and healthy baby, Isabela displays new expressions and emotions as she grows each day. That initial feistiness, however, is still with her: Daine says she still wrinkles her forehead and furrows her brow when she’s hungry or needs a change. Being able to let her mom know what she needs before she can talk, though, is important–even if it means getting grumpy.

Rodrigo Kunstmann didn’t expect his perfectly-timed photo to go viral, but he’s glad it did. Not only is it a great memory for Isabela and her family, but the photo has also brought laughter to audiences worldwide. Putting all that in-womb practice to work by smiling and laughing shows just how important expressions are. Whether angry or happy, it’s an easy way to let everyone know how we feel.

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