Friday, April 2, 2010
A comment posted in my previous blog prompted me thinking about birth from the baby’s perspective, and I was reminded of a chapter in my soon to be published (I hope) book. So much information abounds – books, DVD’s, community knowledge – about a baby’s first few days and weeks of life. But what is missing from a lot of these information sources is the baby’s perspective. In many ways, without considering this, the knowledge we have is shallow in the very least, misguided and inaccurate at the worst.
As the baby develops inside of the mother, imagine a world of gradual awakening and awareness - a watery cocoon that cushions and protects; a world where primal instincts are paramount and a consciousness gradually forms. A world where there is a growing confidence that all needs are met – no hunger, no cold, along with a constant knowledge of another’s (mother’s) intimate presence. Dr Joseph Chilton Pearce in the video “Pregnancy, Birth & Bonding” states that a baby’s brain is functioning in very basic terms “right from the very beginning” of its formation!
As babies develop inside of their mother’s they wonder and learn and grow. They hear, feel and know mother’s heart beat. All light is dim, but they are aware of changes in light and dark and they explore their surroundings and reach for light. All sounds are muffled, but they hear and know the voice of their mother and of those who she is in daily contact with. You might also say that they know mother’s voice by “vibration”. As a baby grows inside the mother’s womb, s/he explores and learns all about their environment. Scientists say that they dream – does s/he wonder what those sounds are that they can hear?
Soon the baby outgrows this watery world and it is time to move on. Do they just accept this? Do they give the signal to commence the process? Are they eager? Anxious? Fearful? Are they unaware?
How much do the mother’s emotions affect the baby? Does her fear and pain heighten her baby’s fear and pain? Does her calm acceptance and surrender enable her baby to make the passage more smoothly? How much does the baby depend on the mother’s unhindered labour hormones to adapt to the outside world? How much does the baby’s future depend on the hormonal imprinting that occurs at an un-hindered birth?
Of one thing I am convinced – babies are NOT just passengers – they are actively involved in the birth process and it is just as intense for them as it is for the mother. They communicate with the mother's body somehow - I do not pretend to understand it - I just know it happens because I have seen it over and over again. As the baby and the mother work in harmony, how much do the "support people" in the room interfere with this communication and activity?
Any natural endorphins that a mother produces to enable her to cope will also be of benefit to her baby. In an un-medicated, un-hindered, natural labour, a woman most often feels relief and intense pleasure at the birth of her baby. Does her baby feel the same? As a mother experiences the highest surge of oxytocin that she will ever experience (the best ‘natural high’ around) – her baby – still connected through the umbilical cord – experiences the same. What are the consequences of interfering with these processes?
This is one of the reasons why un-hindered birth is so important. It is not merely about a mother’s experience (as we are so often accused of placing a mother’s experience over the safety of the baby) – it is also about the baby. It is about imprinting maternal instincts on the mother’s brain, and it is about laying the foundation of a “whole individual” for the baby. Midwives need to understand and know that they cannot interfere with this process and there be no consequences.
Just because you might not know what those consequences might be, it does not mean that there are no consequences.
If you are attending a birth in any capacity – midwife, doula, and friend – THINK. Before you act, before you touch, before you speak – THINK. Ask yourself “will what I am about to do/touch/say interfere with the mother’s power and autonomy? Will it support her to reach more of her power or will it hinder the process and cause her to rely on me or another outside source?”
Many blessings in birth as you “be with” women and hold their space so they can get on with their task - - -