Motherbaby. The sacred duo that is not to be interrupted; but often we see or hear about tons of things coming between them. “Delayed” cord clamping at half an hour after birth, the hands of the midwife or student on that precious babe, wrapping the baby in blankets or putting a hat on the baby, the “newborn exam”, among many other things.
I question all of it. As a mother, I want you to question all of it. This interference is a bigger issue; not only does a midwife not have “right” to these things in a normal situation, but she is messing with way more than it looks like. What happens at the moment of birth, and in the minutes and hours and days after is sacred. It is sacred and priviledged and midwives should not mess or meddle with any of it. This is the beginning of the mothering, of the bond that will hold these 2 souls together for eternity. Yes, it is that crucial.
Women, mothers…you must question what these interruptions mean to you. It is a big deal that your midwife touches your baby at all in the postpartum period.
What if your midwife totally took your lead? If you wanted to weigh and measure your baby, she would help you (or your partner) do this. If you wanted a basic physical exam of your baby, she would be willing to allow you to feel and touch and explore your baby with her guidance. Either at birth, or the next day, when you felt more up to it. This is the birth “care” that I long for all mothers to have.
Because as mothers, this is what we want. When I see a photo of a midwife bathing the baby after birth, with the mother in the other room (yes, at a home birth) my heart breaks. My mother heart hurts. I am not sure if there is a disconnect between what happens at birth and after, for some women. But I know, as the birth servant, that it is my job to make that disconnect not an option. A baby is born to his mother and is part of her; carrying him across the room away from her or handling him naked away from her is that serious to me. I think these seemingly benign but very dangerous interventions that many midwives still practice need to be stopped. Immediately. And you, as the mothers, must insist upon it.
Your baby needs you and every cell of you at birth and after. Your smells, your warmth, your breast is crucial to the survival of your baby and to the bonding that will happen as a result. If you have ever given birth, you can feel that. It is in your programming to know this.
You may recall how other people in the room at birth was potentially a hindrance. The voices, the questions, the touching of you and touching of your baby. With each hindrance, taking you and the baby just a little bit away from your primal selves. Now add the barriers; the hat on the baby, the blankets someone throws over him even though he is warm on you, the touching and wiping and stimulating and talking. Suddenly your baby can’t smell you any more; he can’t feel you either but he can tell you are stressed. The adrenaline running through your body makes it that much harder to do what comes next and should come naturally. A physiologic release and birth of the placenta, easy breastfeeding fostered by a perfect blend of after-birth hormones. Doesn’t happen as well or as easily when we get between Motherbaby.
It’s too much. As midwives, we may have been taught these things and think the best of them still. How many midwives still think a newborn needs a hat to stay warm? Not realizing that this is a leftover from hospital births; that babies are warm on their mamas and that any degree of potential “cold stress” (while skin to skin) is normal and beneficial. The optimal hormone balance will support the baby’s system like nothing else. Allowing all of the baby’s warm blood from the placenta to reach equilibrium with the baby before cutting is another gift (this may not happen for at least 1.5 hours-3 hours after birth) and must be honored.
I’ve noticed that when left unbothered, mothers will not hat their own babes. They will not ask for blankets. They will not ask to cut the cord or do anything practical. They will do what they are programmed to do; which is touch and talk to the baby, smiling at him and making eye contact. This isn’t just “nice” behavior. This behavior is instinctual and beneficial. This behavior will also not happen if the mom feels watched or judged or feels fear from anyone in the room. It simply will not happen instinctively, and other issues may cascade as a result (postpartum hemorrhage is a great example).
So, as a mother, and one that cares very much about the generations to come, I implore you. Enjoy your gentle home birth, and then insist on being left alone. In a healthy birth situation, problems are created by these routine tasks most midwives are used to doing. I ask that you question them and know how much your baby depends on you to do that. Ask for quiet, intimacy and sanctity. Keep your baby on you, with you. Allow only the hands of your partner or other children to be the “others” that feels your baby’s sweet skin. Consider remaining clothes-less and skin-to-skin for days with your baby, and delay all requests for contact by others for as long as possible. This means the measuring and weighing and ointments and supplements that have become “routine”: if you must have them, administer them yourself.
As a midwife, I won’t be offended. Watching the birth of Motherbaby makes my mother heart happy. I offer you this sacred love, from mother to mother. Take joy and delight in this new soul and keep him, for now, all to yourself.