This video showing the birth of a baby elephant is all over Facebook, and I even posted it to the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond Page. Now I have been known to post all things mamas and babies on this page, so it probably was no surprise when this video appeared. However, I want to call your attention to some very specific details in this video that should be mandatory for any birthing female-of any species! I truly believe that if we practiced the habits exhibited by the elephants in this video, birth outcomes in humans (especially in the US) may very well improve!
1. Allow Mama to labor in whatever position is most comfortable for her. Throughout this video, the laboring mama elephant is moving about the elephant pen and doing what she can to find comfortable positions while her baby makes its way through her birth canal. This mama is not placed in the lithotomy (on her back, legs up in the air) position! And mama is not being given any medications to “speed up the labor” or to dull the pain. This mama elephant’s birth is following nature’s course and in due time, this mama elephant gives birth to a healthy baby elephant.
2. Mama should make whatever sounds she needs to make while laboring and delivering. This mama elephant cries out when she needs to and in a way that is natural to her. No one is telling her to “Get mad” and push her baby out! She is using sound and movements natural to her to manage her labor and delivery.
3. Mamas may snack while in labor. At one point during the video, another elephant offers the laboring mama a branch to snack on as she labors. This is in stark contrast to laboring women her in the US who are not given food and water but instead are hooked up to an IV fluid bag “In case a c-section is necessary”.
4. Mama took all the time she needed to labor. No one told mama elephant that her labor was taking too long, she wasn’t given pitocin and she wasn’t told she’d need a c-section if her labor went beyond a certain time. Mama Elephant simply kept roaming the pen and moving about until finally her body pushed her baby out “at the perfect time”.
5. Other female elephants were there at the birth. African Elephants are known to be very tribal and when a female is giving birth, the other females of the herd care for her and support her during her pregnancy, are present and assist as needed during labor and delivery and help the new mama raise her young one. African Elephants have a 22 month gestation and only get pregnant once every 5 years, so supporting the growth and development of the babies is critical to the survival of the herd. As seen in this video, when a mama elephant is laboring, the other females of the herd offer her food (tree branches), keep her cool (throw sand on her body), check the birth progress (sniff and lick her bottom) and help clean and care for the new baby when it was born.
In many cultures and species, birthing is considered to be “women’s work”. If we look throughout history, women traditionally attended births; be it the mom, aunties, cousins, or other women in the community. In this way, the wisdom of childbearing and childrearing was passed down. Modern day obstetrics severely hinders this passage of information from woman to woman and generation to generation. It has in many ways thwarted the knowledge many new mamas have at childbirth and the shared commitment to the mother and infant from families and communities. In Elephants, once the elephants mate, the male moves on to another herd while the newly pregnant mama elephant is now cared for and supported by the mamas, aunties, sisters and cousins in her herd. A pregnant elephant is never left on her own because her herd recognizes that the survival of the entire herd depends upon everyone being healthy and well. So mama is nurtured throughout her pregnancy, labor and delivery and once the baby is born, the entire herd raises the baby.
We could learn a lot from elephants and quite possibly improve our human birth outcomes!!
Father’s Day is upon us! Have you spoken with your partner about his feelings on being present at the birth of his child? On becoming a dad? I ask this question in light of this post on one of my birth providers chat lists: (Paraphrasing to protect privacy!)
Have any of you ever had this happen: You connected wonderfully with the momma and the energy between you two was phenomenal, yet you weren’t able to click with their partner? I feel a very awkward energy with the dad, even though the momma said that he is pretty much on board with my presence and role in the birth and is glad I’ll be there. He doesn’t attend prenatal visits and hasn’t really seemed interested in the pregnancy or my services. I’m not sure if he is avoiding me or if there is something deeper. Thoughts?
Ladies, there are a few things to consider here.
First, let’s face it. Even those of us facing our first pregnancy, completely in the dark about what is going to happen, we are lightyears ahead of our male partners (unless they are obstetricians!)! We are “accustomed” to “the weirdness of womanhood” and all that entails (i.e. menstrual cycles, feminine products, bras, make up, concealers, body shapers, hair extensions, etc…) So yeah, a high risk pregnancy with bed rest is just one more adjustment we’ll make. We will do like we always do-make the necessary shifts and accommodations and make it happen! Men don’t accommodate as easily or as readily to change as we do. So we have to be patient as they “catch up” to us.
Second, the idea of actually being present during childbirth totally skeeves some men out! Oh yeah, they are all about “gettin’ with us in the moment” but getting down and dirty with something (actually someone) coming out of their “pleasure palace” really messes with some men’s minds. In hindsight, I really pushed for my then husband to be present at my daughter’s birth. And when she came out not breathing and then I hemorrhage, it nearly took him out! I should have listened when he told me he wasn’t up for being in the delivery room and chosen another, more capable childbirth support and advocate. Ladies, some men are not up for childbirth. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love us or support us, they just can’t be present at such a raw, visceral event. We must hear them and respect their limitations. (FYI I had my sister come in with me when I had my son. Much better experience!!!)
So Mamas, Find out where your man is on the spectrum. Is he all in, ready to be of utmost assistance? Is he totally freaked out and secretely signing up to become a merchant marine? Or is he somewhere in between and really just needs to process all that is happening and about to happen to someone he loves dearly, and is petrified that he has caused to have to go through unspeakable pain?
Ladies, do we ever really ask our guys what they think about what we are going through? In our book, From Mamas to Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest, One dad shared poignantly about his experience when his wife went on hospital bed rest saying, “It felt like she had died and suddenly I had all this responsibility heaped on me.” It is so easy to get caught up in what we are going through; after all, we are the ones who are growing and changing and we are the ones who are enduring the brunt of this experience. But you and your partner are a team and he is going through this experience, too. And many men don’t say anything because they feel like they have no right to “complain” given all that we are going through. I want to reiterate, you and your partner are a team! This pregnancy isn’t just happening to you, but also your partner and any children you already have. Everyone’s thoughts and feelings need to be considered and attended to so that everyone’s needs are met and the wee one you are carrying will come into a cohesive, loving family.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! We love you and thank you for your love and support! We’d love to hear from you. Share your experience regarding your wife’s pregnancy and bed rest, labor and deliver (if applicable) in our comments section below.
Get your copy of From Mamas to Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest Today!
Mamas, “Who should be at your side when you deliver?”
Current wisdom is that it should be the baby’s father. But what if the baby’s father is unavailable? The birth of your baby is one of the most monumental moments of your life! You need to be completely comfortable, able to freely express yourself and receive nothing but support. You must choose a birth partner who is not only completely supportive of how you are birthing, but they must be able to advocate on your behalf if you are unable to advocate for yourself. With those parameters in mind, who will be at their birth of your baby as YOUR support? Share who you chose to be in the delivery room with you and why in the comments section below.