Motherhood can be challenging. But one of the hallmarks of our culture, is that we tend to complicate things, and this is certainly the case when it comes to the childbearing year. My parenting philosophy really comes down to Leave it alone, Wait and see, Relax, Be Present. (And I wish you had been there to remind me of my brilliant parenting Zen earlier today, when the supermarket was put on lockdown until Treva finally emerged from behind the bank of freezers, giggling uncontrollably and uber-enthused about the fact that she had heard the announcement on the loudspeaker about “Could the tiny little unkempt blond-haired girl wearing a green coat please return to the front of the store”. So great.)
This list could be a heck of a lot longer. And I think I might do a full-out treatment with each one of these items at a later date. I just had to get some of this off my chest, because these myths just persisting: in conversation, through facebook, on websites, and on and on.
1. Induction is dangerous, but “natural” induction is ok!
There is absolutely no such thing as a “natural induction”. I had thought the induction question had been put to rest, honestly, but in the past few months, I have encountered several people who have told me that while they would never go in for a hospital induction, they are quite keen on taking a little blue & black cohosh here, or a shot of castor oil there. When we mess around with herbs and potions during the end of birth, we are putting our babies and our bodies at risk. We live with the constant expectation that *now* is the right time, but birth doesn’t work that way. Apart from the very real physical dangers of ingesting emmenagogues and uterine-contracting substances, there is, I believe, a psycho/emotional/spiritual danger in allowing oneself to become caught up in a sense of urgency and impatience during the end of pregnancy. To attempt to “induce” the birth process in any way at all, is to function from the perspective that there is something imperfect or wrong about the timeline your baby has chosen. The risk in this case, is of missing the opportunity to tune in to that hazy, earthy, heavy cloud of unbearable ripeness of late pregnancy. But this time is a world unto itself, and the last couple of weeks of pregnancy can yield visions and great wisdom. Not to mention the fact that the grand majority of women who enter their 42nd week of pregnancy remain pregnant precisely because their babies are extremely healthy, and are stubbornly refusing to leave the womb until the perfect moment. Leave those genius, brilliant babies alone.
2. The cord wrapped around a baby’s neck=complication!!!
The nuchal cord, (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck), is a variation, and normal. The umbilical cord is designed to withstand pressure, and is filled with a substance referred to as “Wharton’s Jelly” which gives the cord unbelievable strength and flexibility, and which protects the integrity of the arteries and veins within. Approximately 20% of babies are born with a nuchal cord, and the cord may be wrapped around the neck more than once–while still being entirely normal, and safe. Often however, women are told that the nuchal cord itself is the reason for their induction, episiotomy, forceps, or c-section, when this is rarely actually the case. The proper procedure when faced with a nuchal cord, is to simply unwrap it. Here is a great video of my beloved Gloria, dealing with a nuchal cord in the most sensible way: here.
3. If you are having a home birth, you must INSIST that your midwife carry Oxygen!
Oxygen is a controlled substance, is dangerous, and can harm babies, potentially causing brain-damage. It is almost never appropriate to resuscitate using anything other than room-air. The Neonatal Resuscitation Program Guidelines have been revised to reflect the suitability of room-air and the dangers associated with Oxygen, and it behooves birth attendants to practice according to the best and most current evidence. Less than 1% of babies require extensive resuscitation efforts. Oxygen tanks don’t have a place at homebirths.
4. All babies cry. Crying is how babies communicate. Crying is normal.
I strongly believe that babies cry for the same reason that adults cry: distress, sadness, anger, powerlessness, fear. It is not “normal” for babies to cry often, or for continuous periods of time, and I think that the cries of babies has become normalized in our culture such that we have come, collectively, to believe that indeed, crying is a whole and healthy form of language, or communication unto itself–that babies have few other effective modes of expression. From my own experience of mothering 5 babies, I find this perspective quite dazzlingly blinkered, and exceptionally tragic. My theory is that most babies who cry frequently are processing trauma from birth. This idea is gaining some traction from the wider community, but there are still many people for whom the concept that babies might actually affected by their birth experience, is outlandish.
To me, the suggestion that babies are anything *but* highly sensitive, intelligent, sentient beings–or that they are not impacted by the birth experience–is a sign of the deep disconnect that many people have from their bodies, the earth, the source. And for many, this disconnect stems, tragically, from their own experiences of childhood trauma. It has been noted that the extent to which the crying of babies is accepted as normal is quite often culturally based. In many societies, babies simply do not cry–why would a baby cry, if not for the fact that something is wrong? In the case of all 5 of my babies, they have cried only rarely, and only when pushed to their absolute limits of discomfort or frustration.
From birth, my babies have spoken to me with their eyes, the movements of their body, their gestures, the shape of their lips, and all the mellifluous sounds that constitute an infant’s aural language abilities (extensive!) from the moment they are born. The first year of life is close, and slow, and extremely intimate. Mothers who are able to just sink into the reality that they are being given the gift of one whole year of sitting and holding their babies, and staring into their eyes, and nursing and nursing and nursing, will find not only richness, but the incredible joy of communicating with a highly articulate, blissed-out baby.
On a similar note, none of my babies have ever had even the slightest issue teething. And I also believe that extreme teething sensitivities tend to be related to birth trauma. For babies who did not experience quiet, peaceful, totally unhindered births, any future “emergence” (like teeth) may be met with resistance. This is not a value judgement, and I hope that mothers with sensitive babies who tend to cry will take comfort in my conviction that the fact that my babies have been very happy has actually very *little* to do with my fantastic mothering skills–and much more to do with simply ensuring that the conditions, since birth, have been optimal for human satisfaction and flourishing. I hope that caregivers will come to view crying not as “normal”, but as an extreme response to stress. I hope for all little babies that when they *do* cry, that their cries are immediately attended to with care, compassion and tenderness.
5. I had to stop breastfeeding, because I had severe mastitis.
This is absolute ridiculousness, patently untrue, and yet I hear this all the time from mothers as a reason for why they no longer breastfeed. The best way to treat mastitis is to nurse continuously, more than usual, and not to stop at all. The best way to build, bolster and protect a baby’s immune system, is through breastfeeding. There is no danger to a baby, when nursing from their mother who has mastitis. Furthermore, the baby has *already* been exposed to any infectious factors that might have perpetuated the infection. For the mother, the very best way to alleviate the pain of mastitis, is to nurse her baby. Mastitis is a direct message to the mother that she needs to immediately rest, focus on herself and her infant, and drop out of the world for a while. With every one of my 5 babies, I have developed a very serious case of mastitis about 3 weeks after birth. I am a fool, and I never learn. If you choose to breastfeeding your baby because you choose to stop breastfeeding your baby, then ok. But there is no instance in which mastitis is ever a reason to stop nursing.