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15 July 2012

The Mother's Nature

So, how is this a "nature-inspired" blog? Let's talk mother's nature.

I'm sure you've all seen the recently published articles stating that the longer your unborn child remains in the womb the smarter your peanut is likely to be upon exiting her shell. I'm so sorry, but, "unh huh, yeah, thanks for confirming what intuition and a few millennia of common sense has known all along." (True confessions, I love it when science reinforces what our guts have been telling us since we were pre-verbal.)

Seriously, this is a perfect example of mother nature's insistence that we follow her system - for the simple reason that it works - and yes, for reasons we cannot fathom. We all know that the theory of evolution purports that good form along with good function allows some species, and some individuals, to survive where others cannot. And it is that system that has allowed some very worth while 'best practices' to emerge. Among them - allowing the symbiotic relationship of mother and child to direct the time and process of a birth. Now, I was pregnant two years ago, so new things may have come to light, but at that time science couldn't even tell us what in either body stimulated birth - was it the woman's placenta releasing hormones? the baby's litmus gland? the baby's brain? the baby's lungs? a silent conversation between mother and child? When we don't even know what mother nature's process is - but we know it has worked well enough for the last few thousand years to make us the most prominent species on the planet - we may do well to generally (when possible) follow that process. Form follows function.

So, what are the consequences of giving birth before your child is ready (quick disclaimer, there are many situations in which it is necessary to give birth or undergo a Cesarian foregoing natural birth and I'm the first person to fully support anyone who has experienced this; we live in the 21st century, and thank God for that because leeching the sick isn't likely to make them well.)
  • Well, baby may lose a few good days or weeks of brain development in the womb.
  • Baby may not have fully functioning lungs or experience the hormonal burst that tells the baby's lungs to begin functioning outside the womb.
  • New theories about the alarming increase in Type II Diabetes rates among children are connected to Cesarians.
  • And some research shows that children born by Cesarian are likely to lack stomach bacteria they can only receive from the mother's birth canal causing them to be more vulnerable to obesity.
The punch line is this: you can chose to act against nature's better advice, but there will be consequences.

Why am I highlighting the Cesarian epidemic? Because it seems to be the "health" system in America that pushes it on mothers. Some OB/Gyns will only deliver breech children by Cesarian, while some will only be there for you M - F, and yes, birth rates are statistically disproportionately higher Monday through Friday during working hours, than during weekends and evening hours. Holding aside emergencies, and medically necessary "pre-births" like a diagnosis of preeclampsia, etc., this is apparently a highly risky course of action, and let's thank Columbia (full transparency: I work there) for adding to the growing research that just confirms Mother Nature's system, one we don't fully understand, but for which we are coming to see some real advantages.

The litany of positives I could list for following the body's signals toward healthy birth would surely cause you to shut me down tout suite, so let me just jump to an observation I had when my son was right around 17 weeks old:
If every kind of doctor and every group of doctors from the pediatricians to the oncologists insist that the best food our babies can receive from birth to six months is mother's milk, and it is roundly agreed that baby should have nothing but mother's milk for six months, and further, that we should continue to breastfeed our children until they are at least 12 months old, why are we so dismally supported in staying home with our children for at least one year?

Our society does almost nothing, except holding our jobs for a measly three months, and handing us a paltry $170/ week for 6 weeks (natural birth, versus 8 weeks pay for Cesarian) of disability pay, to allow mother to remain with child, who, at that age cannot even sit up, or often, hold a bottle for himself.

The message is clear: Mother Nature insists that mother and baby not be separated for at least 12 months. (Let me punctuate this by adding that I [and every mother I know who was forced to return to work before 12 months] experienced an alarming drop in milk supply.) I was a lucky woman who was basically gushing from the day I gave birth until that time - I should really have been selling the stuff on eBay - and yet, I ended up taking brewers yeast and fenugreek three times a day, sipping water til my bladder was essentially doing all the cardio I needed to get into the office wardrobe, pumping twice a day at work for at least 25 minutes, and then twice more at home before crashing into my bed. I was nothing short of a human cow. All my son's father did was hang out while I pumped all night and make me dinner because I had to eat like I would never see food again every time I saw food at all. This experience only made more concrete for me the notion that there are earnest reasons not to separate mother from child for the first year, and mother's milk is likely just the first ingredient in a recipe we don't know, for bringing our children into this world in a way that is best for them and for humanity.

I'm allowing myself to break the cardinal rule in writing for Blog Post II [brevity, in all things brevity!] because I want to make a point: just as we didn't know what we would f*&% up when we started pushing Cesarians and Pitocin on every poor woman who was infinitesimally inconvenient to the "health" system in some aspect of her pregnancy, we barely know the first thing about what we're f*&%ing up right now by providing virtually no support framework for mothers to stay home with their infants for the first 12 months, if they chose. But Mother Nature's laws are like the Ten Commandments: you don't have to follow them, but if you act against their better advice, you're likely to face serious consequences. I'll wager that we are facing those consequences.

More to come...


  1. $170 per week?! That is criminal. I had no idea. That truly is intolerable and must be changed, as one aspect of overhauling the US healthcare system, so that it actually supports young American families.

  2. Again, thanks for your comments, Memechoux - it's all about education and a dialog - to advance the movement!