Babies Want to Be Born.
Updated: Jan 8
Originally posted in 2011
Babies Want to be Born…
This idea has been rattling around in my mind a lot lately, and I thought my first blog post was a great place to let it out.
It seems like an odd thing to say, doesn’t it – “Babies want to be born.” Do fetuses have wants? Doesn’t it call to mind the sweet female relatives saying, “Oh that baby is so cozy in there he doesn’t want to come out?” Doesn’t a lot of our verbiage around a woman’s due date revolve around the idea that baby’s going to have to leave his snug warm abode and that mama’s going to ‘kick him out?” Of course it’s always said in jest and with the most well-meaning sentiments. But doesn’t it kind of reflect the way we often look at the baby’s journey – as one forced upon him and against his wishes?
I have a feeling that it’s not quite like that.
One thing I try to instill in mothers and in couples in my childbirth classes is that mothers and babies (and fathers too!) are a team when it comes to birth. That baby is working to be born just as mother is working to give birth – and partner to support and protect the family. Maybe it’s obvious to you and to others, but for me, it was the sprout of an idea that has been forming as I talk to students about this topic… Babies want to be born.
We know that instinctively, babies use the stepping reflex to push off as mother’s fundus pushes down, piston-like, during the second stage of labor. We know that unhindered by narcotic medications, a healthy, alert fetus will perform a series of “cardinal motions,” rotating his head and shoulders, extending his neck, to be born. These are normal responses to the actions of the mother’s body during labor. Babies work hard to be born as mother is working to give birth.
But what about before labor begins? Is labor “kicking baby out” of his cozy environs? Well, it’s theorized that structures in the hypothalamus of the fetus monitor his maturation and help trigger labor when the time is right. So presumably, the fetus is at least subconsciously partially responsible for the onset of labor.
Another thing that got me thinking recently was a video I watched, produced to increase awareness about late preterm birth. A mother in the video talked about the end of pregnancy – how even though women know that labor is not going to be a cakewalk, they look forward to it – they long for it to begin. She said that the end of pregnancy seems to be designed to make women want it to end.
I think it may be the same way for the baby. Cramped and getting cramped-er in the snug warm womb, even though labor must be a difficult journey for the baby, the baby instinctually knows that it’s time to be born. Time to make his entrance into the world of humanity, time to meet the mother face-to-face that he has known always. I am not talking about a cognitive, conscious awareness of this, but of an innate, instinctual urge.
So how can this idea, this concept of babies wanting to be born be translated into something real and meaningful? I think that remembering this can help us to remember to respect the baby. Respect that the baby wants to be born. Let him choose when the time is right. Don’t rob the baby of his ability to be an active participant in his birth by needlessly cutting him out of his mother’s body or by interfering with his labor – by starting it artificially, speeding it up artificially, inhibiting his ability to work with the labor by drugging him (via mother’s medications) or inhibiting his mother’s ability to move and work with the labor and facilitate his movements. Let him find his way – don’t twist and turn a baby’s head who was doing the job very well on his own, thank you very much. And of course, reward baby’s hard work by greeting him with love, sensitivity, respect, consciousness, and by immediately allowing him to go right to the place he was working so hard to get to – his mother’s arms, between her breasts.
I know there are times when intervention is warranted, but really, as Christiane Northrup states in Giving Birth by Suzanne Arms, ‘When birth is done on an eight-hour workshift, we miss the magic. And I think we do more harm than we know.’