This came about after questions from my friend of why it was so important for me to hold my baby after birth.....
When I became your mother
I became your mother when you were just a prayer in my heart
I became your mother when your father and I got married
I became your mother when I felt that first twinge in my belly
I became your mother when that first pink line appeared
I will always be your mother, no matter if I am sick
No matter if I am hurting
No matter if am feeling down
No matter if the time isn’t convenient
I will always be there for you when you cry
When you are sick
When you are scared
When you need guidance
These are the things I promised when I decided to become your mother. I made this promise long before you came into the world.
I became your mother long before you kicked me for the first time. I became your mother long before I saw your heart beating. I became your mother long before you took your first breath.
When you entered this world you were tiny. You relied on me for everything. I was who you knew when you entered this world. You had heard my voice talking to you as you were growing inside of me. You listened to my heart beating.
The greatest comfort a mother can give to her infant, is to hold them close. It is to feed them. It is to nurture them. It is to touch them.
And yet around the country and around the world many woman are denied this ability to comfort their infants at the most important time possible, their birth. Why, because they have to have their child’s birth via a cesarean section. They were denied this not for any medical reason that cannot be overcome, but because this is the way it has always been done, this is the ‘safest’ way. Admittedly there are some concerns, but none which are insurmountable with preplanning.
‘Safest’ for whom? For the doctors, for the lawyers. Not for the baby, not for the mother.
We know that holding the baby at birth can be safely done, we have seen it. It can be done! It should be done! Yet the lawyers are deciding what our care should be.
Might mother need help? Yes, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be given that opportunity. She is going to need a lot of help throughout her recovery, her partner, her nurse, her midwife all of who can provide her with this help at the critical time.
She should be left with the judgment of whether or not she can do it. A mother will make sure her baby is safe. If her judgment is impaired at this time, then the help provided by others becomes more crucial, but should not preclude her and her baby from having this experience.
Why not just wait? What is the harm? Honestly for some woman not a lot. They can overcome the roadblocks with very little effort. However, for other women the price is great. Unfortunately, we cannot tell going into the procedure who will fall into which group. All can benefit from not waiting.
The harm can be great. We know when a baby is born mothers and babies have a release of hormones that allow them to forge a magnificent bond when given the opportunity for skin-to-skin contact. Might that bond not happen in that immediate moment, yes. However, the foundation is laid from there. By disrupting this bond, baby and mother might be set up for months of anxiety and depression.
We also know that mothers who have had cesarean sections have a lower overall breastfeeding rate. While the reasons for this are many, it starts right after delivery. A baby is born programmed to seek out the breast at birth. They have done studies that have demonstrated that a newborn will wiggle up to a mothers’ breast at birth. A mother and child need to be given this opportunity immediately.
Again, why not just wait? Time is your enemy here. Birth is an overwhelming experience for mothers and babies. Babies and mothers become increasingly tired and less alert as time after the birth elapses. This makes both bonding and breastfeeding more and more difficult. While some infants don’t fall asleep for the first hour or even two, many do before the mother has the opportunity to attempt the first feeding. Attempted feeding in this alert period is critical for success.
We know that babies, particularly babies born by cesarean section have a difficult time regulating their body heat. We have also found through many studies that skin-to-skin contact is the optimal way to help babies regulate their body heat. It is a gentle, natural heat at the temperature that they need to be. Might additional heating methods be applied to the mother and baby together, yes. Once again nothing that cannot be overcome with some preplanning.
We also know that some babies, especially babies born by cesarean section have a difficult time regulating their breathing. Once again, the natural solution has been found to be very successful. Having the baby lay on mother and listen, feel her heartbeat, her breathing is the least invasive natural intervention and has been proven to be successful!
While many woman are able to overcome this road blocks, why should they need to if it isn’t absolutely medically necessary? After childbirth a woman is most likely at her weakest physically and emotionally. She is at the point that she most needs help, support. She needs all possible roadblocks to be removed. We know that bonding and breastfeeding are important for both emotional and physical development. By sticking to methods which hinder these, we are creating harm. We may not be able to quantify it, but the harm exists.
Mothers who deliver via cesarean sections are also much more likely to develop post partum depression. Early contact with her child has been proven to diminish this risk. Isn’t this one way to quantify how harmful not being able to hold her baby after birth can be to some woman?
Many women I speak with are amazed that this can be safely done. They have been told by their doctors that it cannot. They have been told that their arms need to be strapped down. They can’t physically handle holding a baby at that moment. They have been told that it isn’t sterile. They have been told that they need to be monitored in a way that they cannot possibly hold their infant. They have been told that the baby needs warmed. They have been told that the baby needs to be monitored.
All of these issues are able to be overcome.
A woman’s arms do not need to be strapped down, they can be held in place, if necessary, by her partner and anesthesiologist. They can be release after the baby is born. Not having her arms pinned down will also help her remain relaxed helping her heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration all to remain more normal. Once again this is an intervention that is helping to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome for mother and baby. Just by having her arms pinned down creates such anxiety in some woman that she needs more medication and more interventions. The drape can be placed a little lower on the abdomen, allowing space for the baby to lie between a woman’s breasts. Actually placing the baby here demands very little physical strength on a woman’s part because the baby is generally held in place by gravity and the mother only needs worry about side to side movement. Once again, her partner, a nurse, her midwife can all provide her with support to do this successfully. A nurse is usually in the OR whose sole purpose is to care for the baby, they can watch over baby there. A newborn baby also does not take the entire space from a woman’s breasts down to her abdomen, they are tiny. The monitors can be placed elsewhere. Ever think about where the monitors are placed on someone having heart surgery? The babies do need warmed, but warming by skin-to-skin contact is the preferable method. A baby does need to be monitored, once again if the drape is placed correctly this can be done on the mother’s chest it does not need to be done in a table in the corner of the room. This is done for the nurse’s convenience more than anything.
Are there times when this cannot successfully happen? Yes! A mother might have a bad reaction to the anesthesia and might be shaking, vomiting, or otherwise incapable of holding the infant. There are times that the infant may need to be truly taken to the nicu for assistance. But this should not be done as matter of routine. If a woman has too much anxiety and cannot hold still even with her partner holding her hand, her arms may need strapped down.
It is being done, SAFELY! It is being done safely in the United States! England has instituted this in many places and they have seen a dramatic uptick in breastfeeding among women who have had a cesarean delivery. They have seen overall better outcomes and happier woman and babies. They have seen a declining rate of post partum depression among cesarean births done in this manner. They have not seen any increase in complications or death either by the mother or baby. However, still there are places that are too worried about being sued to allow a woman and her baby this right. There are some doctors that just don’t know there is a better way.
Postscript- When my first child was delivered I was extremely ill from all of the medications that were given to me including magnesium. I could not independently sit up, lift my head off the bed, nor reposition myself. I had a total epidural which kept me from sensing anything from my breast level down. Yet, with the help of a wonderful nurse I was able to hold my little one. He had to be taken to the NICU for breathing issues shortly after birth. These same conditions would have existed had I delivered by cesarean section and yet I would have been denied the opportunity to hold him.