I’ve been wanting to post about birth and healthy guts for a while now. Years ago I read an article that had a profound impact on me. It was Jeff Leach’s “C-sections, breastfeeding, and bugs for your baby.” His piece changed the way I viewed the birth canal. Cesareans aren’t just another way to give birth. Being born through an incision bypasses an extremely important step in the birth process–being colonized by the “base population” of the mother’s vaginal and fecal microflora. Following birth, breastfeeding continues the transfer of healthy microflora (probiotics) from the mother to the infant.
Back in January, my baby was admitted to the hospital with a bizarre rash and swelling. During his illness and our hospital stay, I’d say he was at my breast at least 70% of the time. When the nurse wanted to give him an I.V. for fluids, fortunately I asked, “Are you worried he’s becoming dehydrated?” After assuring her that he was breastfeeding almost constantly, they agreed to hold off on the I.V. as long as I kept track of all his feedings and he continued to have lots of wet diapers. So they gave me a chart to mark all his “feedings.” It was kind of a joke. When a baby is almost constantly nursing both day and night? Ha.
I’ve encountered several statements similar to this one over the last week:
“While I do not agree with home birth…”
A few things come to mind when I hear this statement.
1) How can you “disagree” that home birth was right for me or anyone else? Do you know my medical history? Do you know my midwives’ level of experience and the quality of their outcomes? Do you know your own care provider’s? How many home birth studies have you examined?
I’ll be transferring over some more of my most popular (and some of my own personal favorite) posts from the old blog over the next few days. Enjoy a little walk down memory lane with me… or don’t. Anyway… just wanted you to know what’s up.
[This post was written in 2010… don’t want you to be confused by the pregnancy announcement. ;-)]
Before I jump into my latest possibly-crazy musings on morning sickness, I have an announcement first:
I’m sporting a 9-week pregnant baby bump!
My cycle had been wacky for a few months, so it didn’t phase me much when my period was 8 days late in June. Even so, I thought I’d take a test (on Father’s Day) just to verify to myself that my cycle had, indeed, taken on a new unpredictable personality. I did not feel the least bit pregnant and had been experiencing none of my usual pregnancy symptoms, so I was completely shocked when I found myself looking at a positive test a few minutes later. Huh?! Really?
We hadn’t been preventing pregnancy for the previous four months, but we hadn’t really been trying or expecting to become pregnant either. We had decided back in January to leave things up to God, so we’re putting our trust in the divine (or at least attempting to trust) that having our 4th baby two months before my spirited toddler turns two is exactly right for our family. ETA mid-February 2011 (the perfect month to give birth in AZ, or so I’m told).
I’ve got this theory. I’m not going to suggest that I’m the first to come up with this. It’s only “new” in the sense that it’s “new” to me. I’d love to see it tested with some research on mothers and infants.
A few weeks ago I got thinking about the profoundly intense bond I developed with my son following my home birth. I had never experienced anything like it. Sure, I developed a deep love for my daughters, but it took much longer and came far less naturally. I have come up with many possible explanations for the intensity of the bond with my son…
* No Pitocin to interfere
* More intense oxytocin rush being in a comfortable, private setting
* Immediate and prolonged skin-to-skin contact
* First feeding within 15 minutes of birth (I can’t remember exactly, but it was the first thing we did after holding him and delivering the placenta.)
* No hospital staff coming in and out of our room at all hours
As I was thinking, I realized another factor I hadn’t thought of before. My baby boy spent his first 20-ish hours of life still smelling of birth (it’s a sweet smell) with amniotic-fluid-and-vernix “gel” in his hair, and even bits of blood here and there (I should clarify that he was wiped with dry towels following his birth, so he wasn’t slimy). Sounds gross, but we didn’t really want to bathe him in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t get around to it until the next evening. Even then, we didn’t use any soap. Just rinsed his hair with water (not all the waxy vernix came out) and did a quick sponge bath. So I’d wager he still “smelled of birth” until the first shampoo eight days later. For over a week, my nose and brain were bathed in those primal smells.
Research indicates that babies are highly attuned to their mothers’ smells. They are imprinted on the smell of amniotic fluid, and the areola of the breast carries a very similar smell. In fact, an infant who is placed between his/her mother’s naked breasts immediately following birth (and left there), can find the nipple and latch on without any adult assistance. Just through his highly developed sense of smell and instincts! (If you’ve never watched this amazing process, you simply must. I found this YouTube video with the “breast crawl” in action. I am hoping to experience it with my next baby!) It has also been shown that infants are calmed and cry less when exposed to the smell of amniotic fluid.
What about mothers? When a mother gives birth (particularly without intervention), she experiences the highest oxytocin rush of her lifetime. When oxytocin is released, other processes are working behind-the-scenes as well. Oxytocin is tied to memory and smell. It is the “bonding” hormone in large part because humans become “bonded” to those with whom they experience surges of oxytocin. And the brain/body remembers those individuals largely through the olfactory triggers that are present when the oxytocin-surge-bonding takes place.
It is nearly standard practice to clean infants within a few hours of birth. And it is almost a given that Johnson’s baby shampoo will eliminate all but a trace of that amniotic-fluid-and-vernix coating babies come smothered in. If the smells of the womb and birth have a profound influence upon infants, why not mothers? Wouldn’t it make sense that biology/God/Mother Nature would also instill within her instinctual responses to those primal smells? In fact, an olfactory-oxytocin-maternal-instinct connection has been demonstrated with rats.
I’m now completely convinced that smell played a huge part in the rapid and intense bonding and maternal drive I experienced with my baby boy. Any future babies I have will spend at least as long smelling of birth. I don’t care how gross anyone thinks it is. Just try taking in a long breath of a freshly-born baby’s head and tell me it doesn’t smell good to your core. I’m in no hurry to wash it away. No hurry at all.
Yippee! Scientists are studying this phenomenon!
“The scent of a newborn baby really does tap right into the pleasure centers of a woman’s brain, whether the smell comes from her own baby or someone else’s, scientists have discovered. The new findings have been described in a study just published in Frontiers in Psychology” (Source).
Some related links:
New baby smell creates ‘very strong’ bond in mom’s brain, study finds
Tie between oxytocin and smell
Rub It In: Making the Case for the Benefits of Vernix Caseosa
Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment
Amniotic fluid smell
Optimal position for breastfeeding (lying down with baby on chest)
When I was looking for music to include in my first home birthing playlist, I had a hard time finding suggestions via Google. So, after creating my own list (with help and suggestions from my blog readers), I wanted to share it for other birth music seekers. The following was the soundtrack for my fastest, easiest birth:
1) Storm – Powerful, Exhilarating Thunderstorm Sounds (Calmsound, Nature Sounds)
This is a long track of a thunderstorm. It starts with a huge crash of thunder (a little jarring), but there’s something about the power of it that soothes and energizes me at the same time. I love the sound of rain.
I frequently peruse the clearance fabric looking for anything stretchy and breathable. You can never have too much stretchy, breathable fabric. That is, if everyone you know is having babies. Wrap-style baby carriers are my new favorite gift for pregnant mommas because they are a must-have for busy moms who need their hands, and they’re incredibly easy to make.
Here’s how (I consulted this site to figure out the details):
[Originally posted on my old blog April 16, 2008.]
I have experienced what I believed to be two [now three] very early miscarriages in my past, both while actively trying to conceive. How do I know they were very early miscarriages and not just late periods? The truth is, I have no concrete scientific evidence. The only evidence I have is my own intuition that I was pregnant and beginning to experience my body’s pregnancy cues. I did not have positive home pregnancy tests to back-up my hunches. There are some who want to exclude me (and others who lack concrete proof of pregnancy) from the club of “true miscarriages.” They would dismiss our experiences as insignificant, make light of our anecdotal “proof” of pregnancy, or chuckle to themselves at our apparent “wishful thinking.” Unfortunately, for those experiencing very early miscarriages, finding understanding and comfort is no easy task.
This is an updated version one of the first blogposts I ever wrote, back on my old blog, in April of 2007. It brought a lot of traffic to that blog, much the way my “Pitocin’s untold impact” post has brought a lot of traffic to this new website. Apparently, lots of people want to find out more about Pitocin! This is good. I hope more and more research will give us further answers about the short and long-term effects of this powerful drug. In the meantime, here are some of the things I’ve discovered in my own truth-seeking journey…
“Pitocin is the most abused drug in the world today.”
~Roberto Caldreyo-Barcia, MD
(former president of the International Federation of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
• Pitocin is not approved by the FDA for elective (patient or provider convenience) inductions or elective stimulation of labor (moving things along).
• Pitocin generally produces contractions that are much longer, more intense, and more painful than normal contractions.
• The intense contractions caused by Pitocin can abnormally restrict oxygen supply to the fetus. This decrease in oxygen can lead to fetal distress and, when prolonged, emergency C-section. Some providers even use this side effect to “Pit to distress” when they want a short-cut to a cesarean.
• Pitocin has the potential of causing tetanic contractions—contractions coming so frequently that they merge into one sustained contraction—which can result in premature separation of the placenta, uterine rupture, cervical tearing, excessive bleeding postpartum, as well as severely restricting oxygen supply to the fetus. Some of these complications are potentially fatal to mother and/or fetus.
The following is a re-post of my August 2008 post Wanna Improve Your Odds?:
I mentioned back in April that I had been skimming the book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, by James F. Clapp M.D. I was really impressed at that time with the amazing benefits of exercising through pregnancy. But I didn’t read the book in-depth. I decided earlier this week that I wanted to take a closer look. Now that I’ve read several of the chapters and examined the data thoroughly, I am telling you… it absolutely blows me away.
There are risks inherent in pregnancy and childbirth, but we can do things to minimize those risks. We all know that good nutrition is essential for pregnant women. Poor nutrition often leads to pre-term and low-birthweight infants as well as pre-eclampsia in mothers. Eating well is one of the absolute best things you can do for your unborn child’s physical and neurological growth. But now I’m convinced that exercise may be just as important.