When I listened to Karen Strange, CPM for the first time, I wanted to meet her. I met her this July at an Integrative Neonatal Resuscitation Training in Portland. I was happy I could meet her within such a short time and in person. Even though I did not plan to get certified in NRP, it was worth my time to meet this amazing woman and Anne Frye, CPM, a midwife who is another amazing woman. All the attendees were really doing great work in the birthing and breastfeeding communities in their respective areas.
“ BIRTH IS STIMULATING”, not just for mama but for baby too. In Karen’s workshop I learned that a baby’s experience of birth is completely different from her mother’s experience.
The point is what are the babies feeling ? As a postpartum doula, who is not involved in birth directly, I value the work that birth doulas do and try to know about how was the birth for that mother who is asking me to work for her postpartum. Babies have implicit memory or cellular memory upto 18 months of age.
There is more and more evidence that is showing how birth trauma is prevalent and the imprints of birth practices are present on these babies. Karen, said that when you are in a situation where a newborn needs help with taking that first breath, “ IT IS NOT WHAT YOU DO THAT MATTERS, BUT RATHER HOW YOU ARE ON THE INSIDE.” A baby’s brain grows when they feel safe. Cortisol in the brain stops all brain growth.
A pregnant woman is two people having an experience and not just one. So respecting that fact and letting the baby know what you are doing when you work with babies is very important. Parenting and peace on earth begins before birth. She also talked about thermoregulation of the baby and I cannot emphasize enough how much skin to skin contact with mother helps with that. It was really another affirmation for me.
I also learned that when a baby needs resuscitation 100% oxygenation at the beginning of newborn resuscitation should be avoided, contrary to previous evidence. Babies undergo oxidative stress and the 100% oxygen also turns off the chemoreceptors that turn on respiratory drive.
Outcomes improve when a baby starts with room air. Babies in utero are at 60% spO2 and babies passing through the birth canal are at 10% spO2. Babies are meant to handle that low oxygen saturation. So too much oxygen is toxic, regardless of the age of the baby and what the table in the book says, even for brief periods of time.
Karen also talked about how delayed cord clamping can be so vital to a baby’s need for survival. The two things that happen when a baby’s cord is cut are, baby does not get its full blood volume and baby goes into shock. We need to have compassion for our babies.
“We tend to do what we were taught to do.” We have to KNOW NORMAL. The sequence of birth is an embryological blueprint. This blueprint unfolds according to a sequence and within this sequence are PAUSES. Pauses that are less complex to more complex. Pauses that build potency to do the next step. Transition in birth is often a BIG PAUSE. If you think of the embryological forces, they also occur at a much slower pacing. All healing and trauma work occurs at slower pacing too.
We have to be mindful of where has the sequence been interrupted in a birth. The moments after birth are also filled with an extremely complex and precise interaction between the mother and the baby. It is a genetic and an instinctual process. All of the babies senses are being turned on.
As a postpartum doula and a student in lactation, I see babies who refuse to latch at the breast. I wondered why ? This happens when that self attachment sequence that is present in all of us is interrupted. We need to give the mother that pause. We need to give baby that pause.
Trauma is defined as, “more is going on than you can integrate and you get overwhelmed”. All babies who have had some sort of trauma have survived but in this class it was not about just surviving, it taught us about OPTIMAL SURVIVAL. Birth exactly as it was meant to be.
Finally to quote Karen Strange, I would love to end with her statement, “ everything about birth is a story.” Let us all try to make that a beautiful one.