Falling in Love: The New Family
I love working in the Birthing Center. I wake up in the morning looking forward to work, and when I’m at home or away, I’m thinking about how to do my job better. I know – I’m really lucky!
Sometimes people say, “Oh you are so lucky! You get to hold babies all the time!”
Well – no. In fact, I try NOT to hold babies all the time. And you can’t be effective working with babies unless you are ready to hold new moms and new dads too.
What does a new family need most? An environment that leads to love. We learn best about people and relationships when we are using the right side of our brains. Oxytocin – the hormone that brings us our babies – needs to flow free in these early days, because an oxytocin-enriched brain helps us do all these right-brained things.
Enemies of Oxytocin
Sometimes in our haste to be helpful, we can really squash this love affair. The baby’s crying? Hand it over, I know how to quiet that baby down. The baby’s cold? Let me show you how I swaddle a baby. You say you’re tired? I’ll give that baby a bottle so you can sleep.
As nurturing, caring women, we want to help. But every one of those reactions takes the baby out of mom’s arms, and dismisses her as the expert on her own baby. Instead, we need to get the oxytocin flowing – it will calm everyone down and make things better.
Researcher and birth activist Michel Odent calls oxytocin “the shy hormone…that does not appear among strangers or observers.” That starts to give us some tips about what to watch out for! What will make oxytocin hide? Bright lights, loud noises, a mom or dad who feel they are being observed or judged. Being physically uncomfortable – cold, in pain – or psychologically uncomfortable – hospital gowns and all that they “show off”, a person in room who give you the heebie jeebies.
Friends of Oxytocin
When you visit a new family, take a moment as you walk in, to see and feel what’s going on. If baby is in mom or dad’s arms, and they can hardly tear themselves away to talk to you, that’s good. Sit down and just be for a little while – don’t change that environment!
Look at the baby with mom’s or dad’s eyes. What I mean is – what are they seeing? “Oh look at those ears – they are so pink. Those are your ears.” Encourage touching the baby – we need to keep babies warm, but sometimes there are so many blankets in the way! Be especially careful of those cuddly polar fleece blankets. The very soft ones feel a lot like a newborn’s head of hair – but you don’t want to stroke the blanket! Stroke the baby!
Make sure mom has food and drink handy. That she’s warm and comfortable. Use a soft voice. Don’t try to take her attention away.
And what will all this oxytocin give new families? We’ll talk about its magic next week.