I wish I had my camera there with me, so I could show you. There on the single baby warming table in the delivery room were four babies, each wrapped tightly – swaddled – like a white linen burrito, quietly squinting at their blurry new world. They were propped against one another like the mangos on the roadside carts outside, or like puppies in a litter, but no, they looked more orderly than puppies, in their compact little torpedo shapes. One started to cry gently, and the others joined in, and soon the whole pile of blinking baby burritos was wailing softly.
There was no one near them. There is no guard rail on that particular warming table, but they didn’t look in any danger of rolling off. After being whisked from their vaginal birth-canal squeeze (birth) onto their mom’s belly, their umbilical cords are cut lickety-split, and they are hustled to the baby warming table at the far end of the room. There they are rubbed vigorously to help them begin to breathe and cry*, and wiped clean of the moisturizing, protective white layer of vernix, and any other bodily fluids. They are measured and weighed, shot with vaccines, and their eyes layered with antibiotic goo. Then they are swaddled tightly (babies love this, or at least are greatly calmed by this) in a new white rough-edged piece of linen, and set aside until mom has birthed her placenta, had help to stop any post-partum bleeding, and had her tear or episiotomy sutured up, nice. Mom is given a handful of colorful pills to swallow, including the first dose of a five-day round of antibioticsthat each of them get (or is it just the ones who needed sutures? still working to distinguish that). Then she is ready to climb down from the delivery table with its metal stirrups by way of a plastic step stool to the ground. She is led with her newborn baby, and followed by a nurse holding her IV fluids aloft, like a miniature parade, out of the sterile-looking delivery room into the thriving, colorful inpatient department to recover.
Babies might sit off to the side alone after they are cared for and swaddled, while all this other stuff happens with mom, for up to an hour. The moms don’t protest. Most seem too preoccupied to reach for their babies in that first split second when the baby is on her tummy between the birth and the umbilical cord cutting steps. The babies don’t protest either. Each little baby-burrito is wrapped tightly enough that their small kicks or wiggles don’t have enough torque to dislodge them from their stable perch. There they sit, quietly, gently blinking at the bright lights and sounds of their new world. I wonder if they feel lonely or shocked, if they feel afraid when they hear the cries of their mother during the suturing, or of other women in labor or giving birth. They just rest there, accepting it, taking it all in, their soft faces seeming wise and equanimous in the face of the mystery.
* I recently read an article that said that cutting the cord right away can be unnecessary or detrimental, as it is still helping the baby by continuing to facilitate gas (oxygen, CO2) exchange, red blood cell formation, and the transition from placenta to lungs and all of the other system changes that take place in this transition. The umbilical cord connecting baby to placenta can keep pulsing and working for a handful of minutes, and does not need to be cut right away, usually. There are logistical challenges to keeping the cord intact longer, though, such as trying to rescusitate a baby right on the mom’s belly/chest, but this can be accomplished if it is a priority to keep cord intact and mom and baby together. It’s all about priorities actually. And they are harder to change than they could be. The protocols are protocols, no matter where you are. Relationships, respect, hierarchies, diplomacy, courage…
Thanks to Sarah I. for the link to the article where I learned about this topic – check it out at:
Here is a placenta closeup – pretty huh? (from the link immediately above)