Birthing. Catching. Receiving. And the in-between moment between a baby being born and arriving in his or her mother’s arms for the very first time, a face-to-face, skin-to-skin meeting between mother and the new human she’d been growing inside of her for the better part of the last year.
The language we use around this moment and the respect we give this time can make all the difference for the birthing woman and new family. Whapio Diane Bartlett calls this moment “The Return”.
Our western birth culture has taken small but important steps forward in recent years. We’ve been working away, trying to undo all of the mistakes we made during the peak of medicalized birth, where women were routinely separated from their babies for hours or days. More and more hospitals are recognizing the importance of “skin-to-skin” contact between mother and baby after birth, for its hormone-generating effects that facilitate a safe birth of the placenta and maximize breastfeeding sucess.
Women can, and often do, catch their own babies… or their partners can do so with them. Often the most respectful thing attendants or support people at a birth can do is stay hands-off altogether unless the occasional mother or circumstance is wanting some team-support in that moment. The woman in the photo above birthed her baby on her bathroom floor before their midwife and doula could arrive. Their doula/photographer caught their very special family moment on camera shortly after their independent birth, as the whole family was reacting with amazement to the appearance of the newest addition to their family….. and look at their faces as they all react in their own natural time to what just happened. They are given plenty of space for the biological hormone release that happens in this stage to take place.
If someone other than the mother/partner is involved in the the moment of welcoming a new baby, there is still ample space to give a mother the opportunity to receive her baby in her own time if she’s not already reaching for her.
Look closely at the images in this post. In two of the births, the mother birthed her baby in a hands-and-knees-like position (a very natural, instinctual position to give birth in), and her midwife caught the baby behind her while her partner was providing the woman support from in front. The midwife then gently places the baby underneath the mother, between her legs. Mother looks down. Begins to takes in what she just accomplished. Reaches down for her baby and pulls it up to her in her own, instinctual time.
(To all the newborn-hat-critics out there (my militant self included), yes, we see the baby’s head is covered in this photo series to left, but we are requesting not being nit-picky for 25 seconds so we can all appreciate this amazing, inspiring moment that it is – a lovely respected birth that gives the parents their time to be awestruck by what they just accomplished! ;) )
Women remember their experience giving birth for the rest of their lives. If can be such an amazing, powerful moment, where women realize how incredible and strong they are. Where they can look at themselves, their new baby, their partner, maybe their support people and think (or shout!) “I DID IT!!!”
Inviting only attendants into your birth space who are mindful about the importance of this moment, both from a physiological and emotional level, can make this moment extra incredible, fulfilling and natural.
For an amazing article on this moment of “return”, and of the other parts of the birth process, we encourage you to check out The Holistic Stages of Labour by Whapio Diane Bartlett, who we quoted above. It’s highly recommended reading for all my doula clients and student doulas!
Thank you to the powerful women in these photos who allowed us to share the photos of this intimate moment to inspire and educate both birthing women and their attendants, and to the awesome midwives at these births who are so respectful of the physiological process of birth. Share this post to pass the inspiration along!