Don’t cut the cord: A lotus, free birth story

3 Jun

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The words ‘natural birth’ often conjure up images of a relaxed home birth with a birthing pool, homeopathic remedies and few interventions from midwives, sometimes even a doula is present. To me natural birth means a whole lot more than just birthing in the comfort of your own home without forceps and drugs.

To truly understand how nature intended women to give birth we must look to the wild animals who are untouched by man. When animals are near the end of their pregnancy they instinctively know when to retreat and allow their offspring a safe passage into the outside world. They choose a quiet and peaceful place without too much stimulation from light or noise and begin their labor alone. Nothing else intervenes for this would cause the mother stress, contracting her birthing muscles which must remain relaxed in order for the labor to progress successfully. Once the offspring have arrived there is no weighing, measuring or wrapping in blankets; the young mammals simply find their way to the breast to suckle and to connect to the vital touch of the mother’s skin who will help regulate their body temperature and provide a feeling of safety and comfort. This closeness with a familiar smell and touch also provides a much-needed buffer against the shock of the transition from a warm, dark and quiet womb to a harshly over stimulating outside world.

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The placenta is the baby’s life source delivering oxygen, food and also expelling waste for a lengthy nine months in most cases. It has grown with the baby, constantly present. Even after birth the placenta continues pumping oxygen to the baby for at least five whole minutes whilst the baby learns to transition to breathing fully with it’s lungs. For as long as the cord pulses, not only oxygen but also other precious nutrients such as iron and stem cells are also being delivered to the baby’s stores, providing an optimal chance for survival and growth.

When we clamp and cut the cord too soon we risk loosing this precious fluid and gas exchange. Some wild animals such as our closest relatives, the chimpanzees must know this instinctively as most of them continue to carry around the placenta with the cord attached to their babies until it naturally drops off and is returned to the earth; what we otherwise refer to as a ‘lotus birth’.  Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me.

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Just recently there has been much concern amongst the medical profession of Obstetricians regarding the potential danger of cord non-severance possibility of causing Septicemia. Interestingly even though this subject is talked about with much concern there does not exist any evidence/cases of actual Septicemia or deaths of newborns caused by a mother opting not to sever the cord. There does however, exist many cases of Septicemia in instances of cord severance.

The physical benefits of not cutting the cord include optimum immune protection and reduced risk of infection as no open wound is created. Other benefits are, in my opinion, of a more spiritual nature.

I decided to opt for an unassisted birth without any intervention. I felt strongly to allow my baby to be born at the exact time and in the way that I felt most comfortable. Even though I had emergency numbers on hand, I chose not to have any midwives or medical professionals present as I felt I could not trust them to respect my wishes and follow through on my birth plan. After hearing numerous stories from other women who had birthed with the medical profession I did not feel reassured that I would be fully supported. For these reasons I chose to only have my husband present at the birth.

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We adopted a child-led parenting approach to raise Ulysses, which allows the child to take more control of what happens in their life. Child-led parenting involves raising the child with freedom alongside guidance, without force and punishment. In allowing children to take life at their own pace they learn to trust their own instincts and develop a set of morals and values based on their own experiences rather than the parents interpretation of the world. Such practices as baby-led weaning, non-violent communication and unstructured play form part of a non-forceful approach, much like lotus birthing where the baby’s body decides when to let go of the placenta rather than a third-party.

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Growing up as a conventionally parented child I often felt a sense of powerlessness that in turn created a dependency on others and lack of self-confidence. Natural birth and child-led parenting provides ways you can show the most precious person in your life that you respect, trust and honor their innate wisdom.

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The lotus flower is a symbol most widely recognized from India. Many times I get asked from where does lotus birth originate? I am not entirely sure how it became named, but I would guess it has something to do with the placenta resembling the flower. If you have ever observed a placenta with the cord attached it has a beautiful network of veins running through it as the leaves on a flower have, the cord also bears resemblance to the stem.

Central to all spiritual paths is the concept of ‘letting go’; everything in nature takes its cycle and in it’s own time transforms into the next phase. Just as the mother’s body knows instinctively to release the placenta after it has received the chemical messages released from the baby suckling on the breast, so does the baby’s body know exactly when to release the cord from it’s point of attachment without any intervention.

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During my lotus birth, a lovely six-day period of bonding and closeness was established. We washed and wrapped the placenta everyday to keep it clean and placed it in a waterproof pouch. As the placenta did not release until five hours after the birth this provided for a special bonding period in a close embrace, without separation. During this vital period of bonding between us I felt strongly that it was important that no one else take the baby away and having the placenta still attached to the cord helped to ensure this.

Shortly after the birth, the cord dried quickly into the texture of an electric cable. During the nights we slept with the baby on the bed and the placenta was placed next to the bed. Transporting the placenta with baby around the house was made convenient by using a stretchy wrap, which had a pocket in the front to hold the placenta.

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After six days of healing and bonding we woke up one morning to find baby Ulysses had gripped hold of the cord and detached it by himself, leaving a neat and healthy looking belly button. For the 6 days the placenta was still attached he was very peaceful and slept extremely well. Due to the damp environment where we lived and also choosing to wrap plastic around the cloth, the placenta did not dry out as well as it should have and did leave a musty smell for the last few days however, as the cord had already sealed off and we kept the rooms well aired, I didn’t feel this posed any threat to Ulysses. Despite the minor inconvenience of learning to maneuver around the cord for 6 days and dealing with the cleaning of the placenta I feel the potential benefits of lotus birthing far outweigh any cons and will definitely be having a lotus birth for my next child. With regards to the unassisted part of the birth I’d like to say most likely yes.

In cultures where they maintain their placenta after cutting the cord, a tradition exists for the placenta to be buried to the right side of the front door for a male and the left side for a female. We lived in a block of flats at the time so did not have this option and decided we much preferred the idea of returning the placenta back to the land through the sea rather than burying it. As we love to travel, the sea is a symbol of adventure and freedom, a life I hope Ulysses has the opportunity to experience.

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One Response to “Don’t cut the cord: A lotus, free birth story”

  1. mightzi October 26, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    good for you to do the things the way you want to do them!

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