Sunday, 6 March 2011

Maternal intelligence: Calling the baby in

I've just read the most intense and illuminating blog post of a woman's birth story.

Rixa, of Stand and Deliver fame, posted the story of her baby Inga's unintended unassisted birth at home. One of my favourite comments, showing Rixa's wonderful presence of mind is when she was seeking to understand how close to birth she was...
"I knelt and reached inside. Sure enough, there was a hard round head about two knuckles deep. I felt around for a while, trying to figure out what was what. With all of the folded tissues and wrinkly baby’s head, it’s sometimes hard to tell where you end and baby begins!"
Baby Inga needed resuscitation, which Rixa did brilliantly.  You can see how Rixa managed the resuscitation of her baby with great mindfulness and focussed attention in the second video on her blog about Inga's birth.

Rixa explained that she had been certified in neonatal resuscitation a few years before. I'm not sure what other midwives do, but for anyone I considered could labour and birth quickly, I made a point of taking them through resuscitation of the newborn in case the baby arrived before I did. These days I recognise everyone needs that information, both for birth and beyond. We never know when those skills may come in handy; a woman told me that she was so glad I'd taught her as she had resuscitated a friend's child who fell in a swimming pool.

In terms of a newborn's transition to extrauterine life, certainly having the cord intact helps. Anyone who has seen a newborn with the cord clamped and cut immediately at birth would recognise the extra effort it takes for those babies to ground themselves and recover from the birth process.

Watching Rixa resuscitate her baby with five quick breaths and words of encouragement is a useful and informative experience for anyone to view. The way she talks to her baby is so important and I encourage mothers and fathers to do the same when they are in labour and when the baby is born.  "Calling the baby in" to its body is an essential part of the birth and transition to extrauterine life process and the importance is an understanding shared by Indigenous cultures and homebirth midwives. "Calling the baby in" is a recognition of the spiritual essence or consciousness of the baby and indicates an understanding of the way that the spirit can separate from the body (also known as 'out of body' experiences) during intensely emotional and/or challenging times. My personal view is that a mindfully aware, welcoming and lovingly focussed on the baby mother (and father) is the most important safety feature of labour and birth.

Rixa's birth and action to help her baby reminded me of the maternal intelligence in this video (following) of an elephant mother.  Some people may be offended by the association of an animal's behaviour with that of a human. However it is important to recognise that scientists use animals in all sorts of  ways to see how they respond to get insights into human experience and behaviour. Therefore it is highly appropriate to think about the commonalities in these two mothers and their attention to the needs of their newborn babies.  We are wiser with the way we treat animals as we realise we have to leave them alone to birth normally. We recognise that surveillance and well meaning intervention does more harm that good with animals. We have yet to fully appreciate that with human labour and birth.

The elephant mother is Nikki, her baby is Riski.  Note the mindful attending presence of the elephant mother and the way she calls her baby in. Watch the baby's eye as the spirit enters and stays.

Whatever your perspective about spirit, consciousness, birth, danger, surveillance, mother's innate intelligence, newborn babies resilience etc, these videos and the maternal intelligence that is evident in these videos invites us to think deeply about these matters.


Lisa said...

thankyou Carolyn. Birth undisturbed...there is nothing like it, the intuition of the mother, the response of the babe was really clearly demonstated right here. I would love all women to read, watch and think about this, birthing undisturbed, uniterupted and with all instincts alive...birthing would be so much less managed today.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for your comment Lisa. I agree with you that the messages are powerful ones for women to see and think about. Blogging and sharing these dynamic stories is one way of promoting what's possible. Would be a great thing if you started sharing your thoughts and experiences too. We can't have too much of the right information!

Sarah Stewart said...

OMG! Love the elephant video. Lots of messages there about leaving birth to take care of itself.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Truly wonderous and breathtaking isn't it Sarah! Awesome intelligence in action.