Birthing Without Fear

Born to smile

When our son was about to be born, the Obstetrician gently took my hand and placed it on top of the part of the head that was already visible. I remember being overwhelmed by the sensation of touching my baby´s little body while he was busy moving towards the “finish line” – breaking through to his new life outside…

There was no way I could have imagined my baby being taken away straight after birth by an unknown set of hands to be washed or measured (We avoided this standard procedure by having expressed our wishes in form of a letter to the midwives prior to going to the hospital).

With the support of the Obstetrician, I assisted my baby to emerge and find his place on my chest where he rested his head on my heart, listening to the familiar beat of my joyful heart – a familiar sound and a safety anchor. There was apparently no need for him to cry.

After a quick look around with curious eyes, our son was ready to take his deserved rest. For about over half an hour, the three of us were in our own world,mesmerized and in awe of the miracle that had just taken place. We softly spoke to this little being, gazing into each others eyes and riding an overwhelming wave of love. Our baby did not cry.

Then, our baby got weighed and measured. During this short phase where he was not in my presence, his Dad was by his side, never loosing the physical contact with him by gently talking to him and placing one hand on his head.

Alice Miller (Dr. of Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology and author) states in an excerpt of her book Pictures of a Childhood that:

“Untold millions of people who have been in attendance when babies are born (doctors, midwives, nurses, family members) have taken it for granted that the newborn will cry out of physical necessity. Amazingly enough, they did not perceive the obvious fact that the face distorted with pain and the little creature’s cries were nothing other than the expression of psychic distress. Frédérick Leboyer, the famous French obstetrician, was the first to ask the long overdue question of how babies must feel when, after an often difficult struggle for survival, they are lifted up by their feet and submitted to brutal routine procedures instead of being comforted. He proved that if the newborns are treated with great care, in keeping with their psychic state, they are able to smile just minutes after being born and do not cry. It actually is in the way the newborns have been treated, until very recently, that society makes the first of its many contributions toward equipping a person with destructive and self-destructive tendencies.”

I recently came across a picture posted on Facebook by a new mom, proudly sharing the very first photo of her baby straight after a scheduled C-section (without any apparent medical reason) – I couldn´t interpret the baby´s facial and bodily expression other than horrified and scared.

David B. Chamberlain (Ph. D.) writes that: “Babies are famous for their cries at birth. Is crying normal? Some babies make no cry and instead gaze at their parents with total concentration. Have they no complaints?”

Babies cry when arriving in a delivery room twenty degrees colder than what they are used to in the womb. They cry being wiped and washed or being stretched out and measured. They complain when given injections (vitamin K) and eye drops (antibacterial). They react to skin puncture. Crying rates and heart rates shoot up as heels are lanced for blood samples (Owens & Todt, 1984).”

Frederick Leboyer was one of the first of his profession to believe that babies were, in fact, in as much pain as they appeared to be. Tight-shut eyes, twitching eyebrows, howling and squirming, kicking, clenched fists, and quivering flesh were to Leboyer signs of agonizing distress (Leboyer, 1975). Influenced in these observations by his own recollections of birth pain, he proceeded to modify the birth environment. As he developed his method of birth without violence he watched the look of terror and stress disappear.

Having experienced birthing my child calmly and peacefully in a yet far from comforting hospital environment, I can only agree with Alice Miller when she writes that: ” The contrast between the pain-wracked and the smiling faces of newborns is all it takes for me to realize with horror what we have done to our children out of insensitivity and lack of awareness. Yet this contrast is also all it takes to awaken in me the hope that someday in the future, we will be able to do away with the unwanted seeds of violence.”

Article written by Jana Allmrodt