Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wisdom from Ina May Gaskin ~

"When you destroy midwives, you also destroy a body of knowledge that is shared by women, that can't be put together by a bunch of surgeons or a bunch of male obstetricians, because physiologically, birth doesn't happen the same way around surgeons or medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women." 

Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart. ~ Unknown

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Entry from the Diary of a Doula

April, 2013
Last Tuesday I went with Makda (not her real name*) to her clinic appointment. The midwives had referred her to an obstetrician because they were concerned that she still had 2 weeks to go until her guess date (originally called the due date) and her baby already felt rather big. The other concern they had was that her last baby had gotten stuck during delivery with a complication called shoulder dystocia. It was scary enough that the last midwife made sure to attach an alert to Makda’s chart. So, here she was, due with another big baby and a bunch of very nervous midwives.           

The doctor did an ultrasound and guessed that this little guy, a boy was about 8 ½ pounds, which was what the last baby weighed, though she was only at 38 weeks now. She had two little girls at home, a 5 yr. old named Qwara, and a 3 year old named Retta. They had gotten used to me by now, though remained a bit skeptical -- especially since I couldn’t understand a word of their language, Amharic, though they tried to talk to me. They settled on high fives as a greeting and went back to the toy box in the waiting room while she and I went into the exam room.
            I was impressed that this doctor didn’t rush into the early induction option, especially since the weekend was fast approaching. (Most C-sections in the U.S. happen before 10 p.m. and not on weekends.) He explained that since this was her 3rd baby that she should be able to push out another big baby which she did after all last time. However, he hoped she would go into labor on her own in the next week. He hesitated and said that he would think about inducing labor after that if things didn’t start by then. He mentioned that he would be gone over the coming weekend but that they had a great group and he felt confident that she would be well cared for in his absence. We thanked him and left.
            I was also going to be out of town the next weekend (which is very rare for me) so I told her about my backup doulas, reassuring her that she wouldn’t be laboring alone. Her husband, Semere would be staying home with the other children when she delivered, which didn’t seem unusual to them. Men are not usually in attendance at births in traditional African cultures. It is one reason why our doula group in Minneapolis has become so popular with the immigrant women. They have aunts, sisters, sometimes their mother, and girlfriends to go with them when they have their babies, but the idea of a doula who can help them negotiate the often mind boggling American medical system, to them is a godsend which they are truly thankful for. (Hamduli’Allah! – thanks be to Allah!) In turn, I tell them that I am deeply honored to be invited to be a part of their most intimate moments and feel so welcomed at their births.
            It is always hard when we have set our sights on our birth going a certain way and all of a sudden, either before the birth like this one, or during labor everything changes gears. Makda and I had talked about what her wishes were, what she liked or didn’t like about her last 2 births and together had written up a birth plan. She and I had spent some of our prenatal visits watching YouTube births, especially water births, home births and natural births. I wanted her to understand that she has many options to explore and unless she knows about them, she really doesn’t have those options. She was especially intrigued by water birth, so we talked about that and included that in her plan too, but now this wrench in the works.
            She was discouraged. I could tell this was worrying her so I suggested that before she left that day we get the interpreter back and talk about it a bit. I come from what we call the ‘midwifery model of care’ where we trust that our bodies know how to birth and that they also know how big to grow this particular baby. The other model of care is the ‘medical model’ that has crept into our collective consciousness and the American way of life for over a hundred years now and in the process undermined much of our instinctual knowledge.
            So we have to find a way as doulas to navigate between the two, letting women know they are both out there, encouraging them to find that power that we believe is in each of us, but also stepping back when our sister is on this journey of self-discovery and may not be ready to be as daring as we would be (or wish her to be) at the place we find ourselves at this very moment.  I have to respect her choices and hesitations and not show even the least disappointment if she doesn’t choose what I would have chosen for this birth. A doula has to be there to unconditionally support whatever a couple feels is best for them. That isn’t always easy for some of us who are rather radical when it comes to crusading the cause of birthing women.
            And while we crusade for all woman-kind to become empowered, why do women who end up with a C-section or have chosen to use medications at birth feel that they have somehow failed? Do they think they failed us? Or themselves? Or their baby? Why do they think that we as women or as doulas and midwives will judge them? Have we set some imaginary standard so very high? Or have we made birth into a contest, a marathon or triathlon for that matter? How can we support each mother better and be able to say, “I am so very proud of you!” and mean it just as much at a Cesarean birth as at a natural un-medicated birth? I believe that it is up to us to change this self-worth, self-image contradiction we are seeing. I also believe that the para-medical community is partially to blame if women even perceive that they have somehow failed. We have to explore this further and be able to affirm each other better if we cannot answer a woman who has had a C-section with more than, ‘well, better luck next time.’

If we are to heal the planet, we must begin by healing birthing.
~ Agnes Sallet Von Tannenberg

            I talked with Makda and told her that there were also a few other things that might be able to help avoid having to be induced, if this baby was indeed ready. I suggested walking -- a lot, and that sex can actually trigger labor. Then I told her about Jeannie (who I wrote about earlier in March at this blog) who had been told that she needed a C-section the next day. I had told Jeannie back then that she could also talk to her baby and connect and perhaps find a way through the problem together. It had worked and she had a vaginal birth without complications just in time. I wished Makda a good night and hugged her goodbye.
            At 6 a.m. sharp two days later Makda called. She was feeling sick and not sure what to do. She had the chills, her stomach was upset, she couldn’t eat and had cramps but not contractions. She complained that her back hurt, too. I am not going to even try to figure out what is going on. As a doula it is my job at this point to direct her back to her midwife or doctor and let them decide what to do. It sounded like either early labor or a urinary tract infection, but I told her to call the clinic and let me know what they think she should do. She called me back and told me that they wanted to see her at the hospital, but she didn’t want to bring in the kids too, so she wanted to know if I would meet here there so Semere could stay home and watch their girls. She asked me to call the taxi which I did and soon met her at the hospital. Of course they had her on a monitor to track the baby’s heart beat and another monitor to pick up any contractions. There were both. She didn’t feel the contractions at all, and her water hadn’t broken. They ruled out anything else that might be causing her discomfort and decided to watch for an hour and see if anything changed. She was only 1 centimeter dilated.
            So I visited with her and figured we’d be sent home in the end. An hour later she was actually dilating and the contractions were picking up. We weren’t going anywhere – yet. I ordered some lunch for her and snacked on what I had brought, though I didn’t have my big doula carpet bag. I just didn’t think we’d be staying. I was wrong.
            Hour by hour she continued to open up though it was slow, but definitely progress. At one point the contractions picked up a bit and she started to feel them, but then they stopped all together. We walked for a while, glad to be able to move around finally. Her doctor came by later in the afternoon mostly just to encourage her. This was her third baby, but he was not in a big hurry. I kept her drinking plenty of juices which I think got rid of the chills or whatever fever was threatening to show up. Dehydration alone can cause symptoms like Makda was having. By evening things had pretty much stopped. The nurse called the doctor who suggested she just sleep and talk again in the morning and see where we were at then. I was glad they didn’t want to hurry things along with interventions. I was very impressed with this doctor’s level of restraint!
            I went home at this point but assured Makda that I would come right back if she needed me. I made sure she had my number handy and tucked her in. She had a good night, and so did I. The next morning the doctor suggested a very low dose of Pitocin to get the occasional contractions a little closer together. They were still there, but not at all effective. That did work quite well. Finally we entered that point-of-no-return called “Active Labor”. With my own five births, I remember this is as THE moment when you ask yourself each and every time, “what could I ever possibly have been thinking to want to be back at this point again in a million years?!” It is the moment when you think, and some say it out loud, “Let’s all just go home now and come back and do this tomorrow instead.”
            One of the resident doctors came to introduce himself to us and asked permission to observe this birth. Makda didn’t understand what this was all about, so I explained to her that he would like to stand in the corner and just watch and learn from this birth, that he was a student doctor and that this how they learn – and how we can contribute (hopefully) to their education including natural birth. That is how I learned, by watching midwives and doctors when I was in school. I explained that she had every right to say no, that there were enough people already involved, but she said it was perfectly OK and even put her hand out to welcome him. He read the chart and asked the senior doctor if, in light of the last shoulder dystocia, he was considering using the Gaskin Maneuver? I was floored! This was the first time ever that I have encountered a doctor who not only knew about Ina May Gaskin and the successful management of shoulder dystocia that was named after her, but was actually hoping to see it in action! The OB who was overseeing Makda’s labor at this point said, yes, it might help and he was familiar with it, but then added that a small vacuum might also help. I assumed he was more familiar with the latter intervention by the way he was explaining it. I couldn’t resist putting in my own two cents at this point and said, just as an aside, “Ina May Gaskin was at my twins’ birth on the Farm in 1982.” (See “Twin Birth on the Farm”© story on pg. 130 from Spiritual Midwifery 2nd ed. by Ina May Gaskin at this blog. Also see “Twin Vertex Birth”, a DVD from the Farm Video at
            The resident practically hopped up and down and said, “ REALLY? I just saw that video! That was YOU?” Well, wonders never cease! I said, yes, that was us. Later that night he came by with another young intern to meet me. I was able to give them my card with the blog address and upcoming book information. When did medical school ever look like this? I still find it mind boggling!
            So we walked, and labored, and breathed, and thought about giving up, and walked some more and took a long bath, the only sound water slowly trickling over her belly in a dark quiet bathroom and then our breathing together in unison, trying to slow down, and then blowing that rush away forever. Finally fully dilated we tried different positions for pushing. Hands and knees worked well, and the doctor was in agreement with staying there, especially if it would help with big shoulders, but Makda wasn’t sure this was working. The nurse checked and the baby hadn’t come any further down even with some really good pushes. Then the doctor checked and became concerned that he couldn’t feel the lines in the baby’s head. He wondered if he had turned somehow and could even be breech, so they rolled in an ultrasound machine to check. No, the head was still down, but looked posterior. That would explain the back labor, but not that he wasn’t budging. The doctor was fine with her pushing as she had the urge, but it didn’t look like she was getting him to move. At this point he ruptured the bag of water, hoping that would help with some progress, but what happened next was a surprise. Until then the baby had sounded great with nice variable heart tones. But the water was full of meconium. Baby wasn’t happy.
            The heart tones continued to look good, but all of the pushing wasn’t doing much good. Finally the doctor suggested trying a small vacuum that might help the baby’s head to move which he was sure by now was acyclic, or turned to one side and aiming down the birth canal at an awkward angle, which Makda agreed to right away. We all just wanted to see this baby out at this point. So that was tried and after three attempts, the doctor gave up on that too. Baby didn’t move. We had tried different positions and just about every trick in the book by then. All of a sudden I looked over at the monitor at the same moment that one of the nurses announced as calmly as possible, “fetal heart tone 50… 60… 50…” which meant that our baby was in trouble. 
        Back to hands and knees and monitors. I was the closest one to the oxygen port in the wall and unraveled the tubing, plugged it in and turned it up to 10 liters at the nurse’s direction as I passed the mask to her who had Makda breathe the oxygen and help out her baby. We tried having her on her side, then the other side, then upright. Nothing helped for long. After every contraction the baby’s heart rate fell dangerously low. The doctor wondered out loud if the cord was being pressed somewhere next to the baby’s head both preventing further descent and causing the low heart rates. He explained all of this to Makda and asked if she would be OK with an emergency C-section because the baby wasn’t doing well and we didn’t want to wait further. She agreed. She had been begging for a C-section around 8 centimeters but I had explained then that they would not even consider that for a healthy baby and mom. Little did we know that he would be in trouble so soon.
            At the moment she consented, the staff went into high gear. She was asked to sign a consent form. Compression bags were put on her legs and a sterile cap covered her hair. The IVs were all detached at the pole and monitors were shut off. A catheter was put in and a fetal scalp monitor to listen to the baby directly. Every minute counted. He still sounded OK which I was glad I could tell her, and I helped Makda pant through the contractions and take deep breaths as they passed. I tried to sound calm and quiet, hoping to diffuse the sense of panic around us. As she was being wheeled out of the room the interpreter and I were each tossed a set of scrubs, hats, booties and masks which we caught mid-air. We ran into the bathroom in the room and wiggled out of our clothes and into the scrubs as fast as possible without even closing the door and then ran down the hall to catch up to Makda. 
            While she was prepped for surgery I was able to hold her forehead and tell her what was happening. The IVs were all reattached, the epidural line was being transferred to the O.R. (operating room) equipment in the room, her belly was being scrubbed and then covered with a sterile sheet that would stick and stay in place during the surgery. Within 10 minutes or less the doctor was starting the first incision. I explained that she would feel pulling as they held back each layer of skin and muscle and then they’d be ready to lift out her baby. I told her he still sounded good – better even since we left the room. Within minutes I told her to expect some tugging and pressure…then I told her I could see lots of curly hair and before I could say more he let out a huge cry as they lifted him up. He looked pink and didn’t even need to be suctioned. Because of the earlier meconium the resuscitation team was on hand but he did better than anyone expected. He was in the warmer now and I lifted up the sheet to Makda’s left so she could see him as they cleaned him up and checked his breathing. He was doing great. I whispered in her ear that he was beautiful, and that we were all so very, very proud of her. As soon as it looked like the nurses were starting to wrap him up I asked if she could hold him now. They brought him over and I held him next to her so she could see and kiss him while they freed up her hands so she could hold him. He was blinking and trying to see her, too.
            Finally she was brought back to her room – this little hospital didn’t have a recovery room, so we settled back in where we had started. I was glad to see that for the trip back to the room they didn’t put the baby into a crib to wheel him down or send him to the nursery, but plopped him right next to his mom and covered them both with a heated blanket. The interpreter called Semere and explained that his son was finally here and he should come when he could find someone to watch the little girls. Makda instructed the interpreter not to tell him that she had a C-section because she was afraid that he would race to the hospital and get in an accident. She asked me to explain to him what happened and why when he arrived.
            About an hour later he came with the 2 little girls.They were dressed alike, and their daddy had even fixed their hair. One was holding a huge bunch of flowers and the other one had two balloons on strings for their new baby. An aunt was also along to watch the girls so Semere would be free to visit with his wife. Baby was left in the room when we explained that she wished to room-in and that her husband would be caring for the baby during the night. I explained to him briefly that the doctor was concerned about the baby and after trying several interventions, decided to do the C-section. I gave him a very brief outline and told him we would talk more when I came back the next day. I did say that I was very glad for the doctor we got and that the whole staff had been great, actually very caring and competent. I told him we had been very lucky. I told him, too, that he had a very brave wife and he should be very proud of her. I hugged them both goodbye and went home.
            When I came the next day Makda was up and walking around the room taking care of her baby. He was nursing well and she looked exceptionally well and happy. She had a few questions as she was trying to process the rushed chain of events before his birth. We talked about it all again, and also I told her that we were all very grateful for how supported she was and the great team she had.
            The midwife part of me still tries to analyze alternative possible scenarios, and what we could have done differently. The doula part of me knows I was there every minute to try to bring a calm and balance to her birth that she would remember always. I wanted her to feel that she had done a good job in spite of the problems and that she was still a strong, beautiful woman who was on an incredible journey of motherhood.
            We visited over lunch in her room, just so very grateful that little Azmera was here. She marveled that he was so peaceful and nursed so well. I reminded her what a good mama she was and that the older we get, the more laid back we often are, which babies can pick up on, too.           

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou

*all names, ages and identifying characteristics have been changed.
 STAY TUNED: this and other stories will be appearing in the book, Call The Doula!: a diary© pending by Stephanie Sorensen

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wet Nurses and other Alternatives to Bonding (and Free-range Children)

Only in our Western Society has anyone ever asked, ‘what will I feed my baby?’ and ‘where should my baby sleep?’ No other mammals dress their little mammals after birth, nor has another mammal ever looked for an alternative to breast milk (or decided that breasts were for sex and not milk.) We are so very smart that we have thought up all these wonderful anti-bonding behaviors, probably while seeking our own convenience (or pleasure, or both) apart from our babies. This goes back in our history to at least the Middle Ages.
            I also wonder about the whole mindset behind employing wet nurses when it first became fashionable. Were the gentry too ‘dignified’ to nurse their babies? Did only animals do that, meaning breastfeeding?  During the 16th to 18th centuries, well-to-do mothers in Europe and the Colonies rarely nursed their own babies. The infants were given to wet nurses and returned home only when they were weaned, if they lived. Most fashionable women of the period wore corsets made of leather with stays of bone. The corsets not only broke ribs but often damaged breast tissue and nipples, making breastfeeding impossible. Employing wet nurses was also a sign of a family's elevated status in society. (A History of Wet Nursing, LLL International, March 2007)         
Did wet nurses bond with their charges, and vice versa? And then were these babies weaned and abruptly separated once again, for the second time, from the one person they thought they could rely upon? I can understand employing a wet nurse in an emergency, for example if a mother died in childbirth. But to choose not to or refuse to nurse one's own baby intentionally and give him to a peasant, who, back in the Middle Ages hardly lived up to the same standards of hygiene and cleanliness as that of her mistress. Besides, the wet nurse would often abandon her own newborn in favor of this new, more economically advantageous arrangement: she would be housed, well fed, and paid for her 24-hour-a-day services, though the wet nurse would often have no child of her own in the end when all was said and done.

            About the same time, during the Middle Ages, the first pacifiers were invented. A rag soaked in chamomile tea would sedate a crying infant, replacing the much needed calories in mother’s breast milk. In Holland, I read in one book, the rag was knotted and dipped in whiskey. The infant mortality rate was known to be high during this era and I don’t doubt that practices like these contributed significantly.

            The cradle was employed during this era. A mother could multi-task finally: get another child to rock the baby to sleep so she could cook or clean. She could rock the cradle herself with her foot while spinning or weaving, another convenience. When the cradle went out of style it was the (un)doing of one doctor in particular whose thesis was that infants were being trained to be rocked to sleep, would never learn to sleep on their own, were smart enough to manipulate their mothers (sounds familiar?) and that the cradle was producing spoiled children, though adult size cradles were not being produced to accompany young adults to college that I know of. But I wonder again why cradles were replacing the important skin-to-skin contact babies needed. Another little piece of non-bonding trivia: In the 1700s, “…cabinetmaker Sheraton, in his Cabinet Dictionary, designed a cradle which included a spring mechanism designed to keep the cradle rocking for an hour and a half-- a function now accomplished by electric motors in this age of preoccupied childcare providers”. (Graham Blackburn, furniture maker, author, and illustrator, and publisher of Blackburn Books, Bearsville, N.Y.)

            Exactly! Preoccupied childcare providers. Why do we value our non-bonding time and space above the needs of our children? I believe we honestly think we are not harming them, otherwise how could we have been so oblivious for so long? To our small minds do we think we must be able to tangibly see abuse or harm before addressing it? The long-term effects of behaviors don’t cross our minds in most circumstances. I have written about it already, but I come back repeatedly to my observations of the researchers in Minnesota turning over every single minute pebble in their search for the hidden cause(s) of autism. Everywhere except the broken bond we have created ourselves, perhaps because it is invisible, versus vaccines, for example, whose levels of mercury we can quantitatively measure, though I don’t think we can ignore their side effects any longer, either.

            While we employ nannies, baby sitters, and daycare we not only raise the expenditures in our budgets, we also create more non-bonding time for ourselves. Convenience? We have more time to create more ‘important’ (and costly) things to do. No wonder our standard of living in the U.S. in particular and the Western World in general is so high. We think we must have a two-income household to survive, but in reality, we often create that level of need ourselves.

Making the decision to have a baby – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

            When we were having our children, we lived below the poverty line intentionally, not because we knew about the importance of bonding, but because we didn’t want to pay taxes that would be funneled into the military and the (then) Vietnam War. We homeschooled, gardened, eating locally and seasonally, canned a good portion of our food using a pressure canner on our woodstove, raised a pig named ‘Bacon’, made our own clothes or shopped second hand, and created our own ‘organic’ entertainment. I didn’t work outside the home (a log cabin at the time). Our children were amazingly independent very early, which surprised us. We did not realize that by having one or both of us present all the time – they didn’t have a baby sitter once during those years – they felt completely secure and chose their own time to branch out into other levels of relationship. We called them our ‘free-range’ children. I didn’t feel like some camp activities director, either. I was too busy. If I was kneading bread, they each got a little lump to destroy on their own. Theirs fell on the floor, gaining a few cat hairs along the way, got over-kneaded, tasted and licked, and poked, and then went into the oven along with my loaves. They ate theirs for lunch, slathered with homemade jam. If I was cleaning one of the cabins with a baby tied on my back, (we maintained a retreat on 70 acres of virgin oak forest in Wisconsin back then, receiving an average of 600 guests a year) they all came along, inspecting bugs along the paths through the woods, eating wild black berries, having mock weddings in which they threw acorns in lieu of rice at the conclusion, the boys having peeing contests, seeing who could hit the farthest tree. Ruth tried but never scored.

            They met people from all over the world: a pianist who played for them on our old upright (that I had bartered for a handmade quilt), a cleric from England whom they introduced to Dr. Seuss and employed him to read to them every night during his month-long stay; artists, priests, nuns, writers, storytellers, monks, hermits, travellers – they all came for shorter or longer stays in the cabins. Our children observed all of them and gravitated toward the more well-adjusted folks among them; believe me, we got all kinds. This was the world our fifth child, Hannah was born into.

            The year was 1987. She was born just under 3 years after Rachel who was born 2 years short of 5 weeks after our twins, Isaac and Ruth who were born on the Farm* with Ina May Gaskin and the Farm midwives in 1982. The twins were born 2 years minus four days after our eldest, Abraham. I had breastfed all of them well into their second year, using breastfeeding alone to space our babies. (See Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies, by Sheila Kippley.) They identified with Laura and Mary as we read every single Little House on the Prairie book to them, stopping to make Almanzo’s pancakes, or Pa’s button lamp, or dolly quilts from scraps like Mary’s. (Yes, Abe and Isaac also learned to sew by hand.) 
            Hannah was the easiest baby yet as all her siblings adored her and entertained her constantly. I did not realize then the level of bonding that was happening between them as siblings but it has remained with them to this day. They are all grown up now and we are grandparents. The time really does fly by. We did not always find the right way with each child as this or that one tried to find their own independence and looking back we see things we could and should have done differently, but we are proud of each one and who they have become.

Note: By the way, like her sister Rachel before her, the $25. Hannah cost us bought 1 box of maternity sanitary pads, 1 box of Chux for the bed afterwards, and Slippery Elm tea which I used to prevent bleeding after her precipitous birth. The others had all come very quickly which can cause hemorrhage sometimes, so I wanted to be prepared. The receipts are in her baby book. There isn't much else there, though. It never became an item on my list of priorities.

*see 2nd edition Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin, p. 130 or A Natural Delivery of Vertex Twin Birth DVD, c2005 Birth Gazette Video.

STAY TUNED... This and other stories will be appearing in the book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century,© or Call The Doula! ~ a diary©, both pending by Stephanie Sorensen   

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prenatal Bonding: Material or Spiritual?

Ways of bonding prenatally
Sing to your baby. She can already hear you, she knows your partner snores, and that you sneeze, burp, hiccup, and rant and rave when the dryer stops working. Babies can already hear before birth; the ‘sh-sh-sh-sh-shushing’ we do after birth as we try to soothe a crying baby actually imitates our heart beat sounds heard prenatally. Massage your baby (or Bump as they are now calling a pregnant tummy), talking directly to her, trying out names, playing music. Your partner can also do all of these things. I just discovered belly casting. There are kits you can order to make your pregnant bump a permanent work of art. (See Belly Casts, Babies and Negasi’s Birth at this site.)
Meditation (or prayer, or yoga) is important during this special time. A walk alone with your baby in the woods where you can describe the trees and birds, the sky and mosses; your hopes and dreams, how he will grow up. You can tell him about who is already in your family. Who is waiting to see him. To a certain extent many women experience a nesting urge at the end of their pregnancy. I had a new surge of energy each time, which surprised me, though I used it to capacity: the house was never so clean, even the shelves for my pots and pans got scrubbed. I mended hand-me-down baby clothes from friends and baked and froze dozens of suppers ahead of time. With our fifth baby, after the cleaning was done and I still had energy left over I shingled the outhouse! (We were homesteading in Wisconsin at the time.) When that job was done I could have her. When I was expecting our twins, my (almost) 3 year old Avi and I made a birthday honey cake together for the big day and froze it. That was the first thing I did when labor started: I took the cake out of the freezer to thaw it. I wanted him to welcome them, too, and worried he would be jealous. After all, he had been treated as a little prince for almost 2 years, my pride and joy. I need not have worried. He adored them when they did finally arrive, though he wasn't convinced that I hadn't castrated Ruth and demanded that I put 'it' back on her!
Ways of bonding during labor
            Talking to your baby, inviting your baby to join you, and telling her how much you love her, has actually been proven to shorten labor and reduce pain. This works by helping a mother focus on her baby and not on her discomfort, which in turn helps her to relax and let the contractions produce dilation more efficiently. By focusing on seeing your baby very soon you will already be beginning to bond. While slowly breathing, say your baby’s name with each breath, focusing on the person of your child. YouTube has two very amazing videos of mothers singing to their babies during labor. (see woman sings in labor templetunes75, and Beautiful Singing during Labor DragonflyDoula)
            I used imagery alone for all of my 5 babies’ births, so I know that it is possible. I had not taken Lamaze or other classes, but put aside time before I fell asleep each night to visualize how this particular birth should look, how beautiful the room looked, how quiet, how calm, how the waves or rushes of contractions would rise over me and wane and how I could ride each one until the time came that I could push. I would continue to imagine my beautiful, wet, fat (they were all quite pudgy) baby quietly sliding out, and lifting her to myself, checking her cord for a pulse and reminding David to clamp and cut it. I trusted that Nature had planned birth this way. I trusted that my body would and could know what to do. I knew I had cared for us well during the past nine months and I knew what I did not want interrupting such a sacred moment. The only problem was that for the last two births I had forgotten to fit the midwifes' arrival into the plan as I imagined it, as I had mapped it all out in my mind, and they arrived too late, both times. Baby and Daddy and I greeted the surprised ladies as they walked in later, twice, just 3 years apart.
Ways of bonding immediately after birth
            Most hospitals now offer birthing room and rooming-in choices for normal, low risk births. These options make a significant difference in mother-infant attachment during the first hours after birth. Only recently the medical profession has realized all the amazing things that happen when we allow skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Babies stay warmer, bonding is not interrupted, breastfeeding begins earlier, and babies are more alert. Some hospitals are even promoting skin-to-skin contact immediately after cesarean sections while still in the operating room. The benefits to mother and baby far outweigh any inconveniences. In Australia, the U.K., and some places in the U.S., some amazing studies are coming out showing us that by delaying cord cutting and even bathing of the baby or weighing, more precious bonding can happen with the mother, but also allows for more skin-to-skin contact with your partner and baby, too. I always have a dad or partner have skin-to-skin time also before I leave after a birth. I remind them that even if baby is exclusively breastfeeding that he or she needs to bond with them too, either at nap time or fussy times, and bath time.
            Factors that are vital during bonding include eye contact, smell, touch, and voice. The longer time your baby remains with you at birth and during the next hours and days, the more fully you and he can experience each of these bonding ingredients. Even in the case of an emergency separation of mother and baby due to complications, it is important to resume bonding again as soon as possible. Statistics prove babies are not permanently disadvantaged if we concentrate on bonding as soon as we are again able. This is also shown in cases of adoption. Prolonged skin-to-skin contact will make up for any time lost.

Today, it seems that a tradition of womanhood that properly belonged to women themselves has been replaced by a tradition of technology. ~ Nicole Lundrigan
Ways of bonding in the first weeks and throughout the first year
            The importance of the first year in child development cannot be emphasized enough. Continuing skin contact whenever possible, with you and dad or your partner, and also siblings should be your first priority. Wearing your baby is one way to optimize your opportunities for bonding. Every culture in the world has created a baby sling, or wrap, or carrier. Many more options are available today than when my babies were born 20 -30 years ago. The concept of “kangaroo care” has also recently been applied to premature babies with startling success. A preemies’ temperature is better regulated and their overall outcome appears significantly improved. Mammals, yes, we humans included, were made in two groups: one are carriers, the other nesters. Deer and bears are in the nester group. The have their babies, hide them in a nest or den and go off for hours to forage. Their milk, surprisingly, contains very high levels of fat, much more than human milk, so their babies can last longer, often up to 7 hours between feedings. Not so humans. Our babies need to eat every 2 - 3 hours or so. We often make them wait, though they try to tell us otherwise: they fret, fuss, and cry. And we ignore them, listening instead to books or doctors and others who think they know.
Humans are actually carriers. Babies need to be with us. I often wonder exactly how much our materialistic society is actually undermining bonding and distracting us from the wonder of the creative power growing inside of you at this very moment. Whether you believe this baby may be an old soul who has chosen your family to be born into, or you hold to the idea that each baby is a thought in the mind of God* from the beginning of time, there is nothing quite as profound as the fact that we are able to create life and participate in it so fully. Just the fact that mothers continue to retell the story about their labors and births tells us something: this is not a trivial event. It is one of the deepest mysteries we may witness in this life. Bonding well is your investment in, and the assured secure future of the life of your child.
*Dr. Eberhard Arnold, "Every child is a thought in the mind of God and our task is to recognize this thought and help it toward completion." (German Christian Writer, Philosopher and Theologian, 1920) 

Stay TUNED... This and other chapters will be appearing in the book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century© pending by Stephanie Sorensen

Twin Birth on the Farm ...excerpt from Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, 2002 Book Publishing Company with permission. Chapter on Twins, pg. 130.

Stephanie: Our first birth was in a hospital. It was wonderful. We worked for months choreographing this event with our doctor. We would bring our midwife with us, we'd have a lovely, homey birthing room, no equipment, no extra nurses, and we'd go home when we wanted to if all went well, and it did. It was a short labor: one hour and eighteen minutes. The doctor never made it to the birth. We ate, napped and went home. We appreciated the hospital staff so much, especially for their respect of our wishes. We weren't treated like freaks. In our conservative state (Minnesota), in 1980 we couldn't find any doctors doing home births and although we found a very small group of midwives who were, they had no hospital support at all. I expected a little resistance to my wishes in the hospital, and I was prepared to fight, but I never needed to. I was used to the raised eyebrows and shaking heads by the time I was pregnant again two years later. We had kept our baby, Abraham, in bed with us, and I was still nursing him at two years of age. We had dozens of offers from people to buy us a crib after they came to visit and were denied a tour of "the nursery," because we didn't have one! When I was three months along this time I was twice as sick as before, twice as big, and twice as pregnant. It was twins! I went back to my doctor, an ex-home-birther who had "reformed" because of the sanctions lowered on his kind by our state. I told him I would have the babies in the hospital with the birthing room arrangement that we were so satisfied with before. My joy and excitement at finding out I was carrying two babies was totally dashed as I listened to him describe his hospital's policies on twin deliveries. High-risk pregnancies (which included all twins) were a whole new picture. To begin with, birthing rooms and midwives didn't touch high-risk cases. It didn't matter that both of my babies were in a head down position. It didn't help that my blood pressure was wonderfully low during the whole pregnancy. It made no difference that this wasn't my first delivery (Abraham had been almost ten pounds) or that the twins weren't coming prematurely and appeared to be gaining well with strong heartbeats. I talked to every hospital in the entire metro area. Twins were normally delivered in operating rooms after the mother was prepped for a C-section, "just in case," we were told. Both babies would be electronically monitored, and ultrasound would be used during both deliveries. An IV was required to facilitate a speedy transition to surgery. Often the first baby was bom "naturally," but the second "required" a Cesarean if things didn't "progress." The babies would also be professionally observed in the hospital nursery for twenty-four hours, another regulation, regardless of their birth weights. The list went on. I read voraciously. Studies. Statistics. Nothing seemed to prove that the precautions were vital. My husband David's support of any decision I would make gave me comfort. Over and over I was told, "This is a special problem. You need the best care. I felt that the "best care" often posed the best risks. Hasty interventions have their own horror statistics too. I had never before felt the weight of bearing so much responsibility for one decision. I would have to fully assume the consequences of my ultimate choice. I prayed a lot and cried a lot and felt like all the joy had gone out of what should have been a time of wonder at the miracle of two precious babies growing inside of me. I considered a home birth then but soon found out that because of the high risk screening factor none of the midwives in our area had even observed a twin birth. In desperation I wrote to the authors of a book on birth that my doctor had given me a couple of years before. It was Spiritual Midwifery. I knew nothing about their community, but after my first call to relay the information they requested, I felt peaceful for the first time in months. Above all, I trusted their skill and experience and was warmed by their understanding and compassion. 
           During this whole time, David simply continued to assure me of his support: "I want you to have these babies wherever you are going to be the most comfortable. That's where I want you to go." We finally agreed that I would go to Tennessee and he would come later when he had vacation time a week before my due date, stay, and then we'd all go home together. Of course, we took the chance of the babies coming early before he could come, but we resigned ourselves to that possibility.
            I spent my first three weeks on The Farm in bed. My checkup found a thinning cervix and I was dilating slowly, possibly from the weight of the two babies. The midwives suggested bed rest, hoping the babies wouldn't come prematurely. They guessed that they were around five pounds each at this point in time. They brought me lots of books and lots of snacks, which kept me occupied and gaining about two pounds a week. It was hard to eat. During one particularly active kicking session by Baby Number One, a lower rib cracked. My five foot, four inch frame wasn't exactly designed to carry this kind of load for long. Baby One's head was engaged at this time and Baby Number Two seemed to be face up, although the head was down near my left hip. The next week's exam found I was dilated to five centimeters! Back to bed. It was still three weeks before my due date, and I wanted to fatten them up a bit more. A common complication with twins is prematurity and breathing problems. The greater their birth weights and the closer to term they are carried, the better.
            Two whole weeks later, while I was bathing Abraham, with my dilation at seven centimeters, my water broke. Three minutes later—rushes! I grabbed Gerrie Sue, one of the midwives who was staying with me, and off we went to join the other midwives, the nurses, and the video crew at the larger birth house. Then she washed up and examined me. Eight centimeters. I wanted to slow everything down a little because it was happening so fast now. She sat next to me on the big bed and helped me relax. Then Judith came, smiling so sweetly, and massaged my legs. She had become such a good friend during the time I was living at her house. Everyone came in very quietly, so as not to disturb me. This was very calming. No one felt like she had to chat or joke or distract me. Twenty minutes passed, and Gerrie Sue could see the first baby's head. I could push slowly. Isaac came first—seven pounds and fifteen ounces. Everyone cheered. They clamped his cord, and I held him, completely overwhelmed by this little boy. Then Ina May prepared to catch Baby Number Two. The bag was ruptured, and her hand was starting to come first. Ina May tucked it back up inside, which took a few minutes, and finally, I could push again. Just after Isaac was born, I had completely forgotten there was another baby. Ruth popped out, weighing seven pounds seven ounces, only six minutes after Isaac's birth. She was even pinker and much louder than he was. More cheers. The huge placenta came six minutes later, with two sacs. My whole labor was only fifty-nine minutes. I nursed both babies, kissed the cameraman, and called David. We ate some supper, (I felt like a bottomless pit and ate piles of pancakes!) and everyone went home except for a couple of nurses who stayed all that night with me. I slept soundly, waking only to feed the twins. 
            Our whole family was reunited that weekend. I counted each second until David would drive up to the gate. It was so good to see him. He climbed up on the big bed and spent the weekend there, getting to know his new little son and daughter. It was hard to say good-bye. We had become part of this big, loving family. We'll never forget them. We came away with much more than just two healthy babies. I hope we can pass on some of what we learned about giving to others now, too.

See "Twin Vertex Birth", 1982, DVD from the Farm of the twins' birth:
Also see the new movies, "Birth Story" and "More Business of Being Born" both with footage from "Twin Vertex Birth."  
For more information about the Farm see

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Instinct or Social Norms? and Bonding with our Babies

"The greatest danger arises from ruthless application of partial knowledge on a vast scale."
 ~ E. F. Schumacher

          Where have our instincts gone? And why do we deny them? We aren’t completely bereft when it comes to sex, though our bedrooms seldom come under public scrutiny; however this age of psychotherapy finds us feeling guilty and puzzling over conflicting feelings about ourselves and our urges. And our parenting skills. Why?
          We are the only mammals who have devised an alternative feeding method from what we were born with or what Nature intended. We are also the only mammals who dress ourselves, and our baby mammals, as soon as possible after birth. Why have we so de-valued our instincts? Are we so afraid of them? When a baby is born we hurry to dress him, put clothes back on ourselves, cover up and remain like that for the rest of our lives, unless we challenge society and question our own nakedness phobias. Primitive cultures did not, over the past centuries, and still do not fret over phobias or dress their babies so soon, if at all. Carolyn Flint*, my favorite midwife in all of Britain, advocates that after birth we go home, if we are not there already, take all our clothes and our baby’s clothes off and go to bed with our naked little mammal for at least the next ten days and properly bond, not to mention mom getting enough rest and establishing a good milk supply. (Nappies or diapers allowed). How many readers cringe at that thought? Why?
          Why has Western culture dictated which instincts are socially acceptable and which are not, and why have we not rebelled? How has it gone on for so long? Why have we succumbed to letting so-called experts -- who often propose only theories and hypotheses and not even hard evidence, -- dictate how we treat our babies? When did we begin to doubt our instincts? Why do others have so much collective sway over us? And why have we relinquished our rightful places as protective, nurturing mothers and fathers? Is this progress? Is this what evolution teaches?
          Why would it? Logic tells me otherwise. Logic suggests that instinct would be preserved over and above transient ideas that individuals invent. When did we begin valuing un-tested, structured, formal education over natural instincts? Are we so afraid of being blamed or appearing different from a newly conceived norm that others are enamored with, that we rush en masse into nonsensical behaviors? When did this irrational behavior begin? Why have we not seen our error, perhaps moved on to learn from it, and corrected it? Why not?
           Do we see this in other mammals? I think not. Bears build dens in the fall just like they have been doing for hundreds of centuries; eat what they will need to sustain themselves through the winter, just as they have been doing for millions of years, deliver their young before spring, nurse them even while half asleep, then eventually fully wake up to go out and forage, returning to their dens at just the right intervals to feed their cubs. Their milk contains high levels of fat so that their cubs will be fine for several hours at a time until they return. Human milk does not contain such high levels of fat. Human babies know this, but we have ignored them (and their insistent cries) in the past and instead nurse them on a schedule, often making them wait to feed for up to 3 or 4 hours, though they actually need to nurse by two, and did try to tell you that.
          Why do we doubt ourselves in favor of contradictory information? In retrospect I marvel at my own passivity. Before I had my own babies it never occurred to me that babies didn’t need processed baby food. I never wondered what happened before corporations made millions of dollars producing miniature jars of over-cooked, tasteless (and often far too starchy) baby foods. Taste it – go ahead and try some! I did and I was amazed that it sold in the markets at all. I didn’t even wonder what infants ate in China or Africa or New Guinea in my lifetime or thousands of years ago, for that matter. It never occurred to me that mothers in other countries had already figured out how to feed their babies after breastfeeding without buying strained food. I assumed we were so very much smarter in the Western World. There is enough evidence around me that proves we aren’t the only race to have survived in spite of the possible deprivation of not having access to Gerber foods. What did the rest of the world do, anyway? Would instinct serve me here too? Could Nature really have answers that we have discredited all these millennia? When did we stop listening? Why?

"Women today not only possess genetic memory of birth from a thousand generations of women, but they are also assailed from every direction by information and misinformation about birth." ~ Valerie El Halta

          One hunch is that we stifled many of our instincts around the same time that modern man became more mobile, and the intact family unit with its generations of wisdom, care and continuity became threatened. What happened when we no longer had grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles all sharing their two cents over everything the youngest members of the group did, or didn’t do? Perhaps we turned to ‘experts’ in all the various disciplines who happily offered ‘wisdom’ to us in their place. We have reinforced their position of authority by returning to and honoring their advice. In turn we have increasingly doubted ourselves. We have perpetuated a farce, and our newborns, who are not yet polluted by these errors and know better, cannot tell us we are wrong. They try: they cry, fret, fuss, some refuse to thrive. Others develop colic, learning disorders, attention disorders, and a gamut of disturbing physical and emotional problems – I doubt we will ever realize the enormity of the entire scope of avoidable disasters that our errors have and are continuing to cause.
          When I first began observing groups of people who have been able to retain their extended family system, I also saw very primitive bonding behaviors. Perhaps I was seeing this because the child that was raised in this way, was being prepared to become the healthy adult who in turn would choose to perpetuate the extended family with its continuum of bonding still intact.
          The Age of Enlightenment may be at least one other player in the demise of our instincts. This was an intellectual movement in Europe that may have begun as early as the 1600s and developed throughout the 1700s. Intelligence became based on ‘enlightened’ rationality. The goal was to establish an authoritative elite body of knowledgeable ‘experts’ who would lead the world toward Progress. The masses were viewed as poor souls wallowing in irrationality, superstition, and tyranny which were what this new school now called the Dark Ages. This so-called ‘Enlightened’ era set the stage for the American and French Revolutions. It also resulted in the rise of capitalism, the invention of socialism, and a new renaissance in music and art.
          Men decided they had finally woken up to The Age of Reason and appointed themselves the designated leaders of Progress. They assumed that quite suddenly they knew better as enlightened humans than the animal kingdom. They believed they had somehow woken up that morning instantly brilliant and insightful and intuitive, when in fact they had just thrown out all the intuition they ever had. The churches also jumped in to do their part. They taught the unfortunate masses that they must now rise above their animal natures (think instinct) and renounce sin (now equated with instinct).
          Now, in this light, using their newly acquired, enlightened thinking, they viewed marriage as an inevitable sin, and as a result, the great age of monasticism soon reached its climax, flourishing with tens of thousands of men and women literally arriving in droves at the monasteries and convents, convinced that they would gain God’s favor by renouncing their instincts, and being ‘good’. (Good = holy). I do not believe this was the Creator’s intention.
          Scripture tells us, “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis: 1:31) It still amazes me that God tells man and womankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7) and then might change his mind 360 degrees. Permanently. Why?
          We have also seen in the past century where renegade individuals have rebelled on behalf of their children, against the norm, though far too few to make a world-wide impact. In Japan, just during the past decade, a small group of families dared to defy the status quo and blew the whistle on a country-wide system that was virtually destroying their children. They began the homeschool movement there for the first time in 2003 after a decade of school violence and a rise in teen suicides directly related to the pressures of the educational system. South Korea now has a never-been-seen-before epidemic of suicides among young people and recent studies are telling them that most happen around high school and college finals week. This is completely unacceptable. Is this what we call Progress? So, are we enlightened, finally? Are we? Where does this lemming-like behavior come from? Shall we also dive head first in the same fashion? Will our own country have to look like this before we wake up? Why? Not surprisingly, as parents grapple with the evidence there is also a resurgent interest in baby-friendly activities, numerous classes for new parents, and the baby carriers their grandparents and great-grandparents used. We see today in these Asian countries, and countries around the globe that slings, amauti, wraps, rebozo, parraje, cradle boards, manta, and numerous other age-old baby carriers are replacing the American-made strollers they worked so hard to purchase in the past. Breastfeeding, baby wearing and even homebirth are making a comeback in Korea, Japan, Mexico, and China – and the list goes on and on. Finally some courageous people are becoming truly enlightened. Finally some families are insisting on bonding with their babies and risking the ire of entire countries full of skeptics. But at what cost. Why?        

Stay Tuned... this chapter is one of many which will appear in my upcoming book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century© pending by Stephanie Sorensen
*see Carolyn Flint: (with permission)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stone Age Babies

What instincts are babies actually born with? In 1891, a certain British Dr. Louis Robinson* set out to prove that instincts had indeed been passed down through time from our prehistoric ancestors, the primates. He tested 60 newborns during their first hour of life and was “triumphantly successful in proving this Darwinian point” in the author’s words, for he showed that “by watching these babies, after being helped to grasp a rod with both hands, all could actually cling and swing by it, and be suspended, supporting their weight with their little hands by the half minute. The baby monkey who could cling best to its mother as she using hands, feet and tail while she fleed in the best time over trees, or to get at more inaccessible fruits in time of scarcity, would be the baby that lived to bequeath his traits to his descendants, so that to this day our cradled human babies would keep their clinging powers as a reminiscence or our former treetop days.” Interesting, but I am not going to try that one at my next birth.
We do know that babies are born knowing how to suck. We even know that babies have been seen via ultra sound sucking their thumbs. A recent trend in Australia, which is quickly gaining interest in Europe and the U.S., is suggesting that immediately after birth, when babies are placed on their mother’s chest, no one interferes with the baby but instead allows him time to rout around, raising his own head, unassisted, and finding the nipple himself. We know from observing his earliest reflexes that a baby appears to step or ‘walk’, when held upright and his feet touch the ground. This is also called the Dance or Walking ReflexResearchers have taken this reflex and shown that the newborn can and indeed does crawl, much like puppies and kittens or piglets at birth, and will actually push his way up his mother’s tummy with his feet until he can independently latch on. He can see short distances and the dark areola or bull’s eye first attracts him through sight. Then his incredible sense of smell guides him on. A fascinating study was done in England in 1990 on this called, “Delivery Self-Attachment” by Dr. Lennart Righard, and Margaret Adlade.** They took 72 mother-infant pairs and found that if the baby was left naked on their mother’s abdomen for at least one hour immediately after birth, these babies began crawling unassisted after about 20 minutes and were suckling by 50 minutes in the group that had un-medicated deliveries. Half of those from the group of medicated deliveries eventually did find the nipple without help, but the remaining half of the 2nd group did not. UNICEF*** recently published a video called “Breast Crawl” to educate their medical teams around the world of infant-led early nursing and unassisted latch.
Herd animal babies also have this early scent instinct. A baby sheep will lick his mother’s nipple after birth and immediately imprint her scent that way; should he wander off, he will still be able to know when he has again found her and that it is indeed his mother. Human babies’ sense of smell is equally inherent: if you took your nursing pads and placed them on one side of your baby while he is lying down, and place another mother’s nursing pads (or bra or shirt) on the other side of him, he will always turn toward yours. Colostrum smells surprisingly similar to amniotic fluid which is why, the UNICEF study says, the newborn is attracted to the nipple. They also suggest that the infant’s crawling action massages the uterus, causing it to contract, and avoiding hemorrhage.
So, we know thus far, his instincts include his sense of smell, ability to suck and crawl, and he is also born with a sense of touch. He has been completely enveloped by your body for the past nine months. It is not time for enforced separation. Our First World, Western culture is the only place in the world where babies are separated from their mothers at birth, taken to a nursery, often brought home to a separate room from our bed room, placed in a separate bed and forced to ‘learn’ to sleep alone. What he learns instead, in truth, is that his cries will not be answered. He will grieve his ‘lost’ mother. There is nothing in his experience to tell him that she might ever return. He is not capable of placing her ‘somewhere else’ from where she can come back to him. She is simply gone. He has no concept of time. ‘Now’ is an all-encompassing ‘forever’. She is gone. Babies in institutions who were separated at birth often fail to thrive, especially if they aren’t tended by the same nurse at the same time every day. They grieve, loose their appetite, sleep poorly, waking often to look for their mother, give up, and grieve again. If they do survive, they grow up with very disturbing attachment deficits. We see this in children who are in foster care, having bonded with their foster mother, often several foster mothers in succession, in several foster homes, and if they are ‘lucky’ and are placed for adoption, often refuse to bond with the newest mother while they are still grieving the last mother; the adoption fails, the file stating ‘severe emotional problems’. Many states in the U.S. have laws prohibiting foster parents from adopting foster children they have come to love (and successfully bonded with), siting the fact that the adoptive parents have been on a waiting list for a child longer than they have.
Baby geese make noises as soon as they hatch and their mother responds immediately with her own sound, unique for each brood each year. This initiates a life-long bond with her baby goslings. Human babies also seek this bond with their mother’s voice. We usually respond quite enthusiastically whenever our baby coos or makes any noise, for that matter. Motherese is the name we have given the high pitched way in which we often speak to babies. The first documented use of the word baby-talk, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1836. Motherese and parentese are more precise terms than baby talk. Most caregivers, not only parents use distinct speech patterns and vocabulary when talking to young children. Motherese can also refer to any language spoken in a higher, gentler manner, which is otherwise correct English or Spanish or Chinese, etc., as opposed to the non-standard, shortened words in baby talk. It is usually delivered with a "cooing" pattern of intonation different from that of normal adult speech: high in pitch, with many glissando variations. Baby talk is also characterized by the shortening and simplifying of words. Baby talk is seen to be more effective than regular speech in getting a baby’s attention. Studies have shown that infants actually prefer to listen to this kind of speech. Some researchers, including Rima Shore (1997), believe “that baby talk is an important part of the emotional bonding process between the parents and their child that help the infants learn the language.” Other researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Wisconsin confirm, “That using basic baby talk helps babies pick up words faster than usual and that infants actually pay more attention when parents use infant-directed language, which has a slower and more repetitive tone than used in regular conversation.”
Human language development has intrigued emperors, kings and scholars alike for many centuries. The Greek historian and scribe Herodotus recorded that Egyptian King Psamtik, in the 7th century B.C.E. proposed an experiment with babies to determine the "mother" tongue of humanity. He suggested Hebrew was the original language, but allowed that Greek, Aramaic or Arabic might have preceded Hebrew. To test his theory, he devised an elaborate system to test several dozen babies. They were taken away at birth and raised by specially trained wet nurses who could feed, bathe and dress them, but were instructed not to play, talk or sing to the babies.  He never got a chance to prove his hypothesis because all of the babies failed to thrive and died before they were old enough to speak intelligibly. Perhaps this should tell us something about bonding, too.****

Many Western doctors hold the belief that we can improve everything, even natural childbirth in a healthy woman. This philosophy is the philosophy of people who think it deplorable that they were not consulted at the creation of Eve, because they would have done a better job.

Dr. Kloosterman, Chief of OB/GYN, University of Amsterdam, Holland

          Babies already know a lot when they are born: they can smell, suck, crawl, and see more than we have given them credit for in the past. They turn their head upwards, seeking their mother’s face, after they have sought out the nipple which is so color-coded to make it easier for them. Mothers turn their face toward their baby’s and a form of imprinting begins between both. We know that bonding is reciprocal; that not only the mother needs to bond with her newborn, but that her baby does also. He first looks for her eyes and only later, when speech becomes the next priority does he begin to take in her lips and her entire face.
   Nature does not make mistakes. If we could strip our lives of all distractions: electronic, material, interactive, over-scheduled, rushed events and to-do lists, and return to a time when the present moment was the most important thing in that space within all of eternity, and could focus on the one (albeit tiny) person before us, just for that short time, I believe we can bond with our babies properly. It will take time. It cannot be sandwiched in between a myriad of errands nor work if scattered into minute fragments throughout days or weeks. It can be done. We must try.

*The Biography of a Baby, by Milicent Shinn, Houghton Mifflin Company, U.K. 1900
**Dr. Lennart Righard,MD, and Margaret Adlade, RN, BSN, MS, The Lancet, Vol. 336:1105-07, 1990, U.K.
***See and
****Paraphrased: About Language Development, a paper by Enzo Silvestri, 2008

STAY TUNED... this is one chapter of many that will appear in Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century© pending by Stephanie Sorensen

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Babies Don’t Keep!

I hope that my child looking back on today
remembers a mother who had time to play
for children grow up while you are not looking
there will be years ahead for cleaning and cooking
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed. 
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo.
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs, Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!
~ Ruth H. Hamilton