A Moment

January 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Watching this beautiful HBAC birth video last night reminded me of some important things I learned at my neonatal resuscitation training back in December. I want to share them here, in part because my own experiences have been a reflection of them. Let me explain.

Many of you have probably seen the beautiful video Birth in the Squatting Position depicting women in Brazil giving birth. After those Brazilian women’s babies emerge from their bodies, there is always a moment (or two or three or four) where the babies are lying on the floor in front of their mothers. Those mothers do not instantly grasp their babies into their arms, enraptured. Those mothers (and most mothers who give birth normally) need a moment to breathe and allow themselves to process what has just happened to them. Likewise, their babies benefit from those few moments in a place below their mothers,¬†allowing gravity to aid bringing all of their blood to them from the placenta (<–this wouldn’t be wise in water, however). Then, once these physiological and emotional processes have happened, once these mothers have come back into their bodies,¬†then these mothers begin to gently touch their babies and finally claim them and bring them into their arms. It is beautiful to see these things happen without interference. No one hands the baby to her. She claims her baby herself when she is ready to do it.

I have experienced this “needing a moment” after every single one of my births. And it surprised me, especially the first time. I expected to be instantly enraptured and ecstatic upon my baby’s arrival. Instead, I needed a moment! I had just experienced something so hard and foreign and difficult, and I was still trying to process the fact that it was over. I needed some time to breathe in and out and come back into my body from that otherworldly distant space I had been inhabiting for hours.

Moms, it’s OK. It’s normal. It’s OK to take a few moments to allow yourself to come back into your body, to tell yourself and your baby, “It’s over.” In fact, my neonatal resuscitation training instructor, Karen Strange, stressed these things over and over. She talked about the importance of acknowledging verbally that something big and powerful and sometimes traumatic (like a birth or a resuscitation or accident) is over… to place the ending… to hear or speak words (as you see in the HBAC video I linked to above) such as:

“That was a lot. But it’s over. It’s over. I know that was so hard, but it’s over. We did it. We did it. You’re safe.”

We need not feel as though we’re somehow broken for not instantly switching from laborland to enraptured-with-my-baby-land. Each of us will process those big events in different ways. Some women are instantly enraptured, and I love watching those moments in their birth videos when they weep for joy as soon as their babies are in their arms. But if you need a moment, there’s nothing wrong with you.

As you and your baby experience those powerful moments, remember to be gentle with yourselves, remember that your baby has just experienced something big and difficult too, remember to validate and comfort yourself and your baby. It was a lot, but you did it.