Saturday, April 04, 2009

I Want You To Want Me- Birth Bonding

What did I say in the last post about NOT running to a trusty, well-thumbed-through tome of parenting wisdom? To write these blogs, I actually DO need to go grab my copy of The Attachment Parenting Book by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN. Trust me that it is not necessarily that we "follow" this book, or even agree with all of Dr. Sears' advice (we do not), but in order to wander through the principles of "AP" (Attachment Parenting), I need to see what they are! The last time I read this book was during one of those late third trimester sleepless nights- where I was so tired I couldn't sleep, and my bladder was so compressed that I practically lived in the bathroom. Needless to say, I have none of these principles memorized, but do have an understanding that I nodded through the book saying, "Yup, yup, uh-huh...okay...sure..." Then, Gianna was born, and this book was shoved into a corner where spiders built their webs, and dust bunnies multiplied profusely.

Let's start at the very beginning.


Dr. Sears heavily encourages the first few hours after a birth to be undisturbed, as these hours are sacred to the bonding experience of the new family. Some people, driven to hysterical bouts of the "Always-and-Nevers," think that this means that if, for any reason, the baby and mother are separated in the first hour, then all hope is lost and the bonding ship has sailed. Let's all stop and remind ourselves that we human beings outlasted the wild beasts and moved on to bigger and better things. McMansions and Youtube, especially. We can still allow our hormones and our babies' natural instincts to glue us together.

Babies know their mamas, who know their babies. Ideally, everyone would have an undisturbed birth- that is, no unnecessary pokings and proddings, no injections of narcotics or 'caine derivatives, and no artificial hormones. Lights would be low, and voices calm (with the exception of the birthing mother, who can make any sound she pleases, thanks very much) and immediately after birthing their baby or babies, the new little family can immediately enjoy each others company without immediate scrubbing of vernix, and all of the pediatric (dare I type it) bullshit that ends up poking a minutes-old infant with holes and gooping up its eyes.

Wishes, as a local lawyer likes to say on his local commercials, do not do dishes. Even when the above birth was the original plan, plans sometimes change. Even when those plans change, and a birthing mother suddenly needs medical attention, the bonding can still take place. It does take a little thought beforehand, and some finessing of the "system."

Here's what we did: Our story begins about 35 hours into labor. My water had broken about 17.5 hours prior, I had pushed for about four hours, Gianna had been crowned and visible for about two of those hours, and we (the midwives, Mr. Clarateaches and my own hallucinating self) had just decided to call an ambulance to take us to the hospital. Instantly, my mind raced- I had no idea what the outcome was going to be, but doula experience told me that surgeons ten miles away were already lovingly caressing their scalpels in anticipation of my arrival. I understood Michigan birth laws- the only single solitary thing legally required was the metabolic "5 Screen" blood test- all else (Vitamin K, erythromyacin, vaccinations, circumcision, tire rotation, oil, lube and filter) was at the parent's consent.

As I've written in the past, I arrived at the hospital to an outstanding team of all female surgeons, nurses, and techs. All I remember of them were their expressions as I hoarsely screamed my list of "Do NOT Consents-" I did NOT consent to ANY of the above optional accoutrements. The only thing they did not acquiesce to, to my heartache, was putting the baby onto my chest after being surgically removed. For twenty-five long, agonizing minutes, while I was having all of my guts randomly assigned new placement in my body ("Bladder, you take Left Lung's place. Lungs, you get in the back. Lower Intestines, this is a snug fit, so I want all of you to squeeze in..."), Gianna was being examined and wrapped up about six feet from my head. Fortunately for our little triad of crazy, Mr. Clarateaches could (and did) stand by while the only male of the night, the pediatrician, gave a cursory exam of the "full-term neonate, female" and declared her A-OK before scurrying back to his natural lair. And then, she was back with me, where she would stay for our remaining time in that prison of a hospital. We bonded immediately- we were completely and totally immersed in each other, and the twenty-five minutes apart didn't come close to mattering. Was it ideal? Was it "undisturbed?" Nope. But we made it work because I had to have it work. I needed to bond to my baby to be able to function. I gave myself no other option.

In the beginning, there we were.


gs said...

Not being a parent myself, I confess I will have little to contribute to this conversation. But I did want to tell you that I had to look up the word "McMansion." I always enjoy reading a piece that makes me look up a word.

Clarateaches said...


When we lived in Naperville, during the Chicagoland housing boom (when Naperville was voted the best city to raise a family, among other things, by a publication whose name escapes me), we saw these things going up absolutely everywhere. They took very little time- maybe a few weeks at the most.

gs said...

They've been going up around here, too, at least until last year. I just never knew the word for them.

You lived in Naperville? I lived in Woodridge for two winters, many many years ago.

Clarateaches said...

Yes! We were there for about a year, and then lived in Bolingbrook for another six months.

Momma Miller said...

Hey there, Clara. I've sorta been away from blogging the last couple weeks. Was so glad to come back to yours and see you're more active. YAY! I love reading your stuff!

I agree, it's not the end of the world when baby isn't with mama for that first hour. When the natural "highest lifetime surge of oxytocin" is missed, we still have the choice to bond just because we want and "need" to. It doesn't mean I have to be happy about missing it. Right? ;) I sincerely hated that my parents, husband, doctors, nurses, and a girlfriend of mine all held, touched, and snuggled my first baby before I could. But life isn't over, and though I deeply regret that fresh-outta-the-womb biological bonding experience, I certainly don't love my surgically extracted children any less.

By the way, our HBA2C baby just had his 1st birthday. I just posted my husband's thoughts on birth today. Come by and leave us some love in our comments if you have a moment. :)

teachertools at gmail dot com

Clarateaches said...


Absolutely it doesn't mean we have to be happy about it! It was torture, and even though I realize the surgical residents were scared of stitching me back together wrong, my hands were still free, and it still gets me down that I couldn't just touch her.

Happy Birthday, little guy! I will certainly stop by and wish him well! What a wonderful anniversary for you, too- powerful mama!