Imagine what it must be like to be in a womb. You're floating, tethered by a pulsing cord, cocooned and protected from the harsh noises of outside. It's comforting, this warm darkness, the steady sound of your mother's heartbeat. You sleep, you bounce off the uterine walls, you dream.
Imagine now you are pushed through this tight canal out into the outside world. For most babies in the US, their first experiences can be pretty rough: bright lights, strange faces, noise, being abruptly taken away from the safety of mother's skin. And since our hospital intervention rate is so high, a great number of babies are (often unnecessarily) exposed to the trauma of forceps, vacuum extractors and surgical births/C-sections. (Not to mention the trauma to birthing women.)
There's a lot of talk about early bonding with infants, and how attachment to our primary caregivers is so vital. Very little of the conversation talks about birth, though. It's as if our connection to babies begins after birth, and the birth is just the process--and that how that baby is born isn't important.
This past August I watched a baby being born and thought, "if only every baby were this lucky." His birth was miraculous, like all births. But more than that, it was...normal. Calm, simple, everyday. His mother labored at home with his older sister and father and friend, the midwives arrived. Mother moved into a tub set up in the living room to ease her labor pains.
The lights were low, the voices were calm (the dog did bark when he was born and there were some laughter), he was held by his mother and then latched onto her breast. His mother sat next to him, connected to him, while the midwife checked him, weighed him, and then helped deliver the placenta. The mother-baby attachment from the start influenced every decision made.
I know there are some births that require intervention; it's been estimated that with better birth procedures that number would be less than 5%. Yet, most hospitals routinely intervene and inadvertently cause more interventions; 50% of women have their labor chemically induced andthe US has a cesarean rate of 32%. The World Health Organization considers a c-section rate of between 10 and 15 per cent to be ideal, saying, “When the rate goes above 10 per cent, there is no evidence that mortality rates improve.” (And let's not even talk about the US's shockingly high mortality rate.)
What I do believe--and research shows--that mother-baby bonding, breastfeeding and longterm health--benefit from normal, natural, low-intervention birth. As challenging as life can be, shouldn't we try our hardest to make it safer and calmer from the start?
Some more information:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.
Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Sarah Buckley, MD
Thank you to midwife Caitlin Maddigan and Alma Midwifery...and to baby Adley, born at home August 4, 2018.