Friday, March 25, 2011
Birthrights is a wonderful new series premiering on Al-Jazeera English. It is a "series exploring maternal health and the power, politics and poverty that impacts it around the world.". The following three episodes are some of their first. The first one is about Hungarian OB turned home birth midwife, Agnes Gereb, and her imprisonment for attending home births in Hungary, a country where it is legal to choose your place of birth, but illegal to attend birth at home if you are a licensed practitioner! The second episode follows the lives of women who have undergone obstetric fistula repair surgery in Ethiopia. Obstetric fistulas are holes that develop, usually due to the prolonged pressure of a baby's head, between the rectum or vagina, leaving women incontinent of either urine or feces, rendering them also socially isolated. These injuries come about largely due to unskilled birth attendants, and a lack of resources. The third episode here follows a group of midwives traversing Ethiopia hoping to change that by either creating birth centers, or training traditional birth attendants, who have no training. Great series, I can't wait to watch more. Enjoy!!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
When my son was about four weeks old, one of my favorite uncles came to visit. I was feeling stronger and excited to show off my new bonny boy! I took him to one of my favorite Afghan restaurants. What a mistake, it was so loud, bright, and busy in there! I had never noticed this before and my son was not having it. He screamed at the top of his little lungs until I walked him outside back and forth, back and forth, weaving lullabies into the cool night air. Meanwhile, my husband and uncle were talking about all sorts of interesting topics, undisturbed by the heavy handed kitchen staff, or the glare of the overhead lights. This was the first of a slow learned lesson, restaurants and our baby did not mix.
I later came across a possible explanation. Ayurveda believes that mothers are in a state of psycho-physiological transition for six weeks after the birth of their child. That after pregnancy, birth, and lactating, the first six weeks their system is transitioning back to a new normal. It is such a rapid and profound time of growth and change, that nothing really matches it. Except the rate of growth and change in a newborn. When I experienced the loudness, brightness and bustle of the restaurant, something that had not occurred to me before (and to be fair, not after my kids are older either), I was simply in tune with my baby. Newborns need stillness, quiet, softness, love. Restaurants might offer the latter, but rarely any of the rest.
It is important for both mother and baby to honor this need for stillness, rest, and beauty. It can be done in all birth settings. Recently, I came across a beautiful example of a mother going to extraordinary lengths to create this for her newborn. Meg, of the Sew Liberated blog, knew that her second son Lachlan was going to be born with a heart condition that would require nearly immediate surgery upon birth. It would require him to be in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) and separated physically from her. Well, this crafty and beauty loving mama, did not let that stop her. She hatched a plan to bring softness, black and white prints, breezy mobiles, and warmth to her son. You can read about her post, Every Baby Deserves Beauty -Thoughts of a Heart Mom, and then check out the lovely Lachlan, surrounded by softness and warmth here. Having spent my fair share of time in NICU's with babies, I know that all of this effort must have muffled much of the noise and beeping that incessantly happens in these units. The babies who need the most quiet to grow and thrive get the least of it. I hope Meg's example inspires others to take control of their baby's surroundings from day one!
The following quote from Cynthia Aldinger founder of LifeWays North America powerfully sums up the needs of a newborn. By taking care of newborns in this way, we will be meeting the needs of ourselves as mothers as well. Say no to the restaurants, the trip to Target, the mall, wherever. Bring sunlight and nature into your space. Celebrate your baby's stillness and tranquility, in stillness and tranquility.
" However, I do want to say something about the first three months. Some refer to it as the fourth trimester, and I feel it is worth noting that it is a time that is completely different from the development we see taking place in the months following. If it were possible to wrap an extra layer of care around these little newborns, that would be wonderful. As a kangaroo mother keeps the newborn in her pouch, I wish we could provide more protection around the child from birth to three months. If you have ever been in a situation where you have had to adjust to an abrupt change in your life, perhaps that experience can build compassion for the newborn’s adjustment from womb life to outer life. Even more than the adjustment from womb to world, I feel it behooves us to consider the transition the individual is making from spirit to matter. Imagine being pure spirit, held in the arms of the angels, so to speak, surrounded by heavenly sounds, then being tucked into the womb for nine months with its own special sounds and warming rhythms, then emerging into the mechanistic, materialistic, ever-moving and somewhat cold and loud world of modern life. Certainly nurses, midwives and many parents know that swaddling helps to mitigate the dramatic change in physical existence for the newborn. If we could imagine taking similar protective measures in regards to the type of lighting, the sounds, and the activities to which they are exposed, most particularly in the first six weeks, gradually expanding their worldly experience over time, that would be a real gift."