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

1 comment:

  1. Bonding for me started during pregnancy. Not completely naturally, though, but somewhat intentionally. I was very ill during my pregnancy with my son, but we began the bonding process by regularly reading a week-by-week development book. It is truly amazing to track the miracle that is taking place. It really made a difference for me even after birth. Now, there are a lot of great books and blogs out there to serve this purpose, but the one I'm reading now blows all the others away, and it's great for every pregnancy, not just the first. Not only does it have even more development details than usual, and personalized, it has a section in it where you can journal or write letters to baby. It's called “The Wonder Within You: celebrating your baby’s journey from conception to birth” by Carey Wickersham. It’s an awesome combination of week-to-week information, what’s going on with the baby, “Did you know?” plus health advice about what to eat, cravings, nutrition, etc, BUT also with awesome 3D/4D pictures and videos you can link or QR with your phone to and see what your baby looks like at each week stage. I've just not seen anything exactly like it! It’s got famous quotes and real mom stories, too. The pregnancy information is as up-to-date as it gets and it’s such a great keepsake. I want to get one for everybody I know who is expecting! I highly recommend it!