Do it like the animals

Ok get your mind out of the gutter!  We have goats.  For the past two years we have had little goat babies born in either January or February.  It has amazed me each year that I have witnessed the process.  They are sneaky so I usually only catch them right after the birth or during the clean up process.  The day before they give birth, they isolate themselves.  They try to get alone for the labor process.  When it is time to push the baby out it is a no-fuss process and then the baby is here.  Afterward, they clean their baby and eat the afterbirth.  That way there is no blood smell to draw in predators.  Then they get started nursing their young.  They stay in one spot until they can get their young cleaned, fed and practicing walking.  It is a very simple process and one that repeats itself every year.  That isn’t to say that we don’t occasionally have a problem.  Last year, we had a first time mommy and her baby decided to come out on the coldest day of February.  She tried to have it in the shelter where we feed them so that the wind would be blocked.  When the baby came out it appeared fine.  A few hours later, it had died.  I am not sure if it was sick when it was born or if the cold was too much for it but death occasionally does occur.  We lost one out of about ten or eleven babies that year.  It was terribly sad.  We knew something was wrong because the momma goat was hollering over and over again.  When we went to check on her she was standing over her baby making these horrible noises.  We took the baby and buried it and then she walked off.  It was like she was telling us that she needed help and once we took care of the situation, she was able to move on.  It was almost like that was her grieving process.

As I watch this process, it always gets me thinking how much of our birth processes are so much different.  Instead of letting nature take its course  the majority of the time we depend on doctors, medicine and procedures to bring our babies into this world.  Now I completely agree that there are times when doctors and interventions are needed in order to save the lives of mother or baby.  I also agree that interventions are needed occasionally to for the health of the mother or baby.  These interventions I completely agree with.  I had unnecessary interventions with my first daughter.  I was uncomfortable and asked them to induce me to reduce my discomfort.  That was selfish of me and completely unnecessary.  At the time, I didn’t realize the ramifications it could have for my child and I really was more concerned about me being comfortable.  My condition wasn’t life threatening to me or my child, but of course the doctor offered me the easy way out.  I took it at the time not realizing that later down the road when my child developed asthma and pneumonia during her first year of life, I would look back and wonder if I took her out too soon.  I also understand that some women cannot breastfeed for one reason or another so for that I do agree that formula is the way to go.  For women with supply issues, medicines that they take or other medical issues breastfeeding might not be advised.  With my first breastfeeding seemed too scary so I formula fed right out of the gate.  With my second I was committed to breastfeeding but it didn’t go as smoothly as I thought.  But because I was committed, I finally found a way to make it work.  It took 11 days of pumping and supplementing with formula before she would latch on.  After that it took a week to perfect her latch and after the latch was perfected it took 5 days for my nipple pain to subside.  Now breastfeeding is great but I had to struggle to get there and I did have to supplement until my milk supply came in.  I also cried a lot and felt defeated but I had committed so I wasn’t going to give up.  My mother also had issues with me and had cracked and bleeding nipples before things worked out breastfeeding me and then she fed me that way exclusively until 11 months.  In both of those circumstances, we didn’t have a medical reason why we couldn’t breastfeed and we just had to struggle through the difficult parts to make it work.  In those type of circumstances, it just took commitment. 

So all my rambling leads me here:  If goats and other animals can let nature take its course, why can’t we?  Why do I hear so many mothers saying they want pain medication before the first contraction? Why are the induction, epidural and cesarean rates so high?  If we just looked at what the animals were doing and copied them I think that these rates could go down.  If we got ourselves in a calm and quiet environment during our labor where we could just relax and move as needed through contractions, I believe we wouldn’t need as much pain medication.  Being chained to a bed where you cannot move around is enough to cause discomfort and pain.  When I was able to move with my contractions, they didn’t hurt near as bad.  If we were left alone with our babies right after birth, we could take time bonding and breastfeeding.  I think that bathing and all the tests should wait until mom has had time with her little one.  Unless there is a medical reason, I believe mother should get the first moments with her child…bath’s can wait this time is too precious.  I believe that breastfeeding should be initiated before the baby is taken from the mother.  Maybe if this happened in a majority of cases breastfeeding wouldn’t be such a challenge.  In my case, I had uninterrupted time with my daughter when she was born, but my flat nipples and large breasts made it really difficult!  I had to work to get my nipples to come out where my daughter could latch on.  Now I am not telling you to also eat the afterbirth like the goats do, but I have heard several accounts of women encapsulating their placenta and it helping with post partum depression so maybe there is something there.  I didn’t do it.  We took our placenta to the hospital in a Tupperware bowl after Roz was born and the hospital made it disappear. 

So here are my tips to do it like the animals:

  1. Go as natural as possible
  2. Get in as dark and quiet a room as possible and with as much privacy as possible
  3. Relax through contractions-make animal sounds as needed…not screaming but groaning is helpful.  I practiced my mooing in advance to my labor. Ha!
  4.  Follow your body’s lead.  It knows what to do and will tell you when to move and what position to be in.  I really didn’t believe this but when I had Roz accidentally unassisted at home, I found this to be true.  I wanted to be on all fours in the tub and I wholeheartedly believe that is what caused me not to tear. 
  5. Spend time with your baby immediately after birth.  If there are no medical reasons ask that tests be postponed and you be allowed to bond and start breastfeeding.  I know that most hospitals will not play along with this request, but you can try!
  6. If you are prone to post partum depression you might consider eating the placenta, however this was one that I researched but couldn’t wrap my head around doing.  I know several people who swear by it though and know a women that does the encapsulation who swears it makes a difference.

These things really make a difference.  Preparation to go natural was something I thought about the whole time I was pregnant and something I prepared for.  I decided early on in my last pregnancy to trust that my body wasn’t broken and could do this.  I believed that with my whole being and discovered that my body really did know what it was doing.  We are perfectly formed to give birth.  Occasionally we do have things go wrong and pregnancies go high risk.  That is where a doctor should step in and keep things as safe as possible.  Life sometimes has different plans for us than we anticipate and nothing is guaranteed so we have to be prepared for that as well. 

And here’s my dirty little secret…Natural labor is uncomfortable and some would say painful, but in the end it feels amazing!  The natural high you get from it is like nothing I experienced with my first medically induced birth.  When she finally slid out into this world it felt amazing!  I still get misty eyed thinking about the overwhelming amazement that I felt.  Words can’t even adequately describe the height of emotions and feelings right after her birth.  The high is incredible and like nothing I have ever felt before.  I would hope that everyone could experience that just once!

If the animals can do this why do we think we can’t?  Thinking you can’t pretty much guarantees that you can’t.

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