Considering A Baby’s Birth Experience In Birth, Postpartum, and Parenting
As a doula, I spend a lot of time with my clients talking about the birth experience. We prepare for birth through education, discussing fears and concerns, learning relaxation, and self-discovery. One of the most ignored aspects of birth and postpartum is the baby’s birth experience.
Firstly, our babies experience birth right alongside us. They take in the vibrations of everyone in the room, especially their mother. We know that maternal stress affects babies. This is true in pregnancy and birth.
Babies live in the realm of slower brain waves through instinct and reflex responses. A baby’s birth experience is greatly affected by the responses of everyone involved in the birth space. I recently attended a workshop with Karen Strange, and you can hear a great podcast with her here. This is really a MUST LISTEN.
Secondly, the baby’s birth experience is linked to their ideas about the world. The baby’s first experiences in the world can hard-wire their brain and tell them what the world is like. Also, consider some of the things that may happen to babies in birth. The baby’s experience is greatly affected by assisted deliveries and cesarean section. Emergencies and resuscitation also greatly affect the baby’s experience.
Effects of the Birth Experience on Babies
As a postpartum doula, one of the first things I discuss with families is their birth experience. So many challenges of the postpartum time can come right back to birth. Birth is the beginning, and the newborn experience unravels from that moment. Often mothers who have had an induction might say something like, “My baby just seems to want to do everything on their own terms!” Or, babies who have experienced a separation immediately after birth can sometimes have issues with separation from their mother as infants. This is a result of their imprinting and the impact of their experience on their ideas about life.
If you consider the birth experience, then you can often unpack the postpartum experience. Babies are intuitive. They live through instinct. Also, our babies have no knowledge of the rational thinking world we live in as adults.
Babies don’t understand why certain things happen to them in birth. They feel the pulling. They feel discomfort. Babies feel shock and disturbance.
Also, babies feel the stress and adrenaline of those present at the birth experience. If a mother experiences trauma during birth, then the baby feels the stress response of that moment.
Supporting a Positive Experience
So, we know that babies are deeply affected by their birth. What can parents do to support a positive experience for their baby?
Firstly, we know that there are often events in birth that we cannot control. Situations arise that call us to make hard decisions. Talk to your baby. Tell your baby what is going to happen. Secondly, partners, birth workers, and other professionals can gently support the mother through the experience to limit maternal stress. Help mom relax so she can connect with her baby.
Your presence in birth is felt by all. Consider how you show up during the birth experience. Are you anxious? Fearful? Full of adrenaline? Then consider using grounding and relaxation strategies to calm that energy. Be present in your body. Take a breath. Give space.