Transitions

As my family makes the transition to having three children from two, I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions. As I thought about transitions, it occurred to me that my main goal with the specific ways I parent my newborn babies has been to ease their transitions into this world as much as possible. I hadn’t thought about my parenting choices in that particular light before, but it’s certainly how I’ve practiced them.

The transition from womb to life outside the womb must be one of the most difficult transitions that we humans ever experience. It’s probably rather a good thing that we cannot consciously remember that time of our lives.

The book Magical Child has a wonderful chapter in it that describes how the transition must feel to a newborn baby… coming out of the nice, warm, wet, dark womb into the dry, cold, bright air. Then having the cord cut immediately and, in order to survive, having to immediately draw breath into his lungs that are unaccustomed to air at all. Being handled by several different people and being examined before being held by his mother. If the baby is unlucky enough to be a boy, he also frequently will have to undergo a painful surgical amputation that he definitely feels and equally definitely doesn’t understand before he’s more than a couple of days old.

Then, also, commonly being fed quite infrequently after being used to getting constant nourishment inside the womb. Being left alone in a bed by himself, sometimes to cry pitifully, after being next to his mother and hearing her breathing and heartbeat 24/7 before birth.

How then can this transition be eased? Certainly the baby eventually needs to learn to be independent of his mother and how to sleep by himself and not eat constantly, but just because these things need to be learned eventually doesn’t mean that the transition has to happen immediately. Nor does a gradual transition mean that the child will never learn to do those things.

Choosing a gentle, natural birth when possible can help ease the immediate womb to air transition because the baby is receiving the proper hormones that he was created (or evolved) to receive during this transition. Having dim lights can help the transition from dark to light. Not cutting the cord immediately can help ease the transition from being underwater to breathing air by not cutting off the baby’s supply of oxygenated blood prematurely and allowing him to receive his full blood supply rather than depriving him of up to 40% of it with an immediate cord clamping. Keeping the cord intact for a while also means that the mother gets to hold the baby for a little while before he is whisked away for a newborn exam thus easing his transition from birth to being weighed and measured and poked and prodded by strangers.

Choosing to leave the baby boy with his whole body instead of chopping off a perfectly healthy and normal part of his anatomy not only prevents all the risks that every surgery inherently possesses, but also allows him to grow up with the knowledge that his body is perfect the way it is and doesn’t need to be altered to fit an outdated cultural fad – to “fit in” with only half the boys in the current American generation. Just because his father had a body part amputated, doesn’t mean the son needs to have that same body part amputated. If daddy has brown eyes and son has blue, will daddy wear blue contacts so his son’s eyes will “match?”

Choosing to hold or wear the baby as much as possible and keep a new baby’s crib or cradle in your bedroom – maybe even to co-sleep for a time – helps to ease the transition from being with mom 24/7 to getting used to being with other people and eventually by himself.

Nursing on demand helps to ease the transition from getting constant nourishment to eating only periodically with greater lengths of time between feedings gradually over the first few years. Everyone knows how much toddlers need to snack still and they’ve been born for a while! Nobody I know looks at the clock before eating to determine whether or not they’re hungry – why would we look at the clock to determine whether a newborn baby is hungry? They’re used to eating all the time – of course they’re hungry extremely frequently, especially for the first few months of their lives!

Babies’ needs and wants are the same for the first few months at least – I believe that it’s really on us, as parents, to make sure that all of our babies’ needs are met. They do not only need nourishment and to be comfortable physically, but they need help through their transition. They need us to be responsive and to try and help them to navigate this extremely difficult transition as smoothly as possible. I believe that the more smoothly it goes for them, the easier it will be for us as well.

Not to even mention: They will be independent soon enough… the baby years go by so quickly!

~B.

My Third Birth

When writing my 2nd birth story and this last birth story, the most difficult part for me was to figure out where to start… my last two births both had a clear-cut “beginning,” but most of my laboring was done before the “beginning” which is why I can’t really call it an actual beginning. It’s a bit muddling when figuring out how to put it down on paper/computer screen!

For my last birth though… I suppose the real beginning was the day before my third beautiful daughter was born. I had been laboring for several days at this point, but my prodromal labor, while very effective, didn’t interfere with my life much at all – which is what happened with my second daughter’s birth as well. The contractions weren’t difficult or very uncomfortable at all and yet they got me more than halfway dilated before active labor ever began.

Anyhow, back to the day before my daughter – I’ll call her “Little Anne” – was born. I was done. I was more done than a burned Thanksgiving turkey. There was no room in my midsection whatsoever. My ribs were sore from the baby pressing against them constantly and kicking the right side. Every time I had a contraction, the upper part of my uterus felt sore just like my ribs did. The space was maxed-out to the extreme.

I don’t think I’ve ever been *that* done with a pregnancy before. I thought I was done with my other two, but I wasn’t. Not really. Not like I was this time. I honestly, for the first time, doubted that the baby would ever come out. She was just going to stay in there, getting bigger and bigger until I popped a few ribs or needed a c-section or something. I knew that I was about 6-7cms dilated because I checked, but even that didn’t help the feeling in my mind that I would be pregnant forever.

At the same time though, I had the feeling in my body that if I moved too quickly or rode in the car over too many bumps the baby would just fall right out. I knew that feeling… it’s the same way I felt a few hours before the precipitous (fast) birth of my second daughter. So, that evening, I called my midwife to give her some warning. My body felt as though labor was going to start that night or the next day at the same time as my mind was convinced that it would never begin. Ever.

Needless to say, this was very confusing and I probably wasn’t particularly convincing when I called my midwife because I wasn’t completely convinced myself.

We went out fairly late that night to pick up some good Chinese food and to get a few things from Wal-Mart that we needed before the baby could be born. Then we came home and ate some Chinese food. My husband set up the birth tub and then we went to bed.

I woke up the next morning at 5:24am with a quite strong contraction. I had another one about 8 minutes or so later and decided to get in a nice warm-hot bathtub to see if they calmed down so I could go back to sleep or if they got stronger and closer together in which case, it was probably the real thing.

My husband woke up as I was filling the tub and he helped me keep track of the timing because I really wasn’t able to do much in that area. I would forget the previous time by the time another one would start. The contractions were still not particularly close together or regular (ranging from 5-15 minutes apart), but they were definitely getting stronger and not calming down at all.

At around 6:30am I called my midwife and told her that I was pretty sure the baby was coming. I still wasn’t 100% sure, but by the time she arrived at our house about 15 minutes later, I was definitely in transition and was working through very intense contractions that were just a couple minutes apart.

My mom and my midwife’s assistant arrived not long afterwards. When my mom arrived, I was out of the bathtub because the birth tub was full. I made a stop at the toilet to make sure my bladder was empty and *WHOOSH* my water broke. On the toilet. Perfect! Just like last time 🙂 I felt stuck on the toilet for a bit – whether because of the contractions or because my legs just wouldn’t work, I don’t remember. I didn’t think I could walk, but my husband helped me and somehow (I don’t remember exactly how) I made it into the birthing tub where I knelt, leaning against the side and held onto my husband’s hands through every contraction.

I didn’t push for very long before the baby’s head crowned. It crowned for what felt like forever, but was really only about 4 minutes. I was able to reach down and feel the baby’s head – complete with hair! – as it crowned. I had to go slowly because it was quite a large little head and I didn’t want to tear, but it was extremely difficult to keep from pushing as hard as possible to finish up my least favorite part – the crowning – ASAP. I tried doing some panting-type breathing that helped to slow things down a lot. When the head finally came out, it only came out part-way because there was a little hand on the little cheek so I had to push an extra time to get the chin out. I had a wonderful short break between pushing the head out and pushing the body out – no crowning sensation anymore!

When the baby’s body came out, at 7:24am, I was able to catch her and bring her up to find out that she was a gorgeous little girl! Not so little either… she weighed 9lbs. 10oz. I still have a hard time believing that I – not quite 5’4″ tall and 110lbs when not pregnant – pushed out a 9.5 lb baby with a nuchal hand! Without tearing. Before I got pregnant last time, I could still fit into a size FOUR (might never be able to again though!). It’s no wonder that I felt there to be no room in my womb – there really wasn’t any!

The rather corpulent placenta came out 9 minutes after Little Anne was born and my husband cut the cord about two hours after that.

I remember my older daughters (2-yo and 4-yo) asking me questions periodically – “Is the baby coming out?” throughout this whole time. They woke up soon after I got in the bath and were very excited about the baby coming! My mom stayed with them and read them books while I was pushing. I think they were more interested in what was going on though. They also wanted to stay in the room. I think my mom suggested going into the living room, but they wanted to see the baby come out.

Before my baby came, I watched birth videos and slide-shows online with both girls so they’d know what was going on and I think that helped a lot. They weren’t worried or scared at all and afterwards they were thrilled to have a brand new baby sister! They both wanted to hold her as soon as possible and my oldest told me that I was very strong and brave to push that baby out!

It’s so amazing to me still that this birth even happened… the baby came out! And she was huge! Still is, actually 🙂 There’s so much of her to love and she’s the snuggliest, chubbiest little baby ever ❤ At least, she's the snuggliest and chubbiest that I've ever had! She's a good little sleeper (whether I'm next to her or not) and she nurses like a champ.

Welcome to our family, little Anne! We're so glad to have you with us!

~B.

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