Last night we had our second Positive Birth Movement Paris meeting!
The theme for the May group meeting was : « The first hour after birth »
One woman shared with us her beautiful memory of her first baby’s breast crawl immmediately following birth : how amazed she was that – when left undisturbed - her baby knew exactly what to do and latched on straight away. The whole group shared in the awe of how miraculous it is to see a Baby’s first instincts at play.
Another member of the group described how important it had been for her to avoid any routine separation from her baby in the first hours following the birth « I just wanted my baby to be with me : I needed to see where she was all the time.» This is something she had anticipated before the birth of her baby and so she ensured that she would be supported with this at her maternity hospital « Les Bluets» where any routine examinations were delayed until after she had bonded with her baby.
These heart-felt accounts re-enforced just how precious the first hour following birth is to women & their babies, and therefore how important it is for health care professionals to disturb women and their babies as little as possible during the first hour – and indeed hours –after birth.
In my own training as a Midwife I was taught - and indeed tested! - on the importance of delaying any routine examinations and separation until after mum and baby have had the chance to have skin-to-skin and to bond.
However, so often in the busy hubbub of hospital life there is an imperative to quickly weigh and measure the baby, and get the new mum down to the postnatal ward within a couple of hours of birth, to free up the labour room for someone else.
Sometimes it feels there is no space, there is no time for these precious moment to be fully given the importance and respect they are due.
It’s something that I think we can all reflect upon, both as mother’s and as health care professionals. Whilst there are clearly times in hospitals when labour wards are very busy and there is a genuine need to move women down to the postnatal ward- freeing up a labour ward bed for another women who is waiting for it – there are not always these time imperatives.
It’s thus important to question routine ‘systems’ that have been blindly respected because « that’s the way we do it » and find creative solution to respect & protect the sacred first moments in a baby's and a new mother’s life.
In short – putting women and babies at the centre of care and not the needs or assumed needs of the hospital ‘system,’ and thinking of new ways of re-structure our ‘routines.’
More generally, it’s about listening to what women are telling us is important for them and important for their babies, and adapting our care as much as possible to accommodate this: Building systems of care around women and babies – and not woman & babies around systems.
Undoubtedly this would all be simpler to facilitate with more hospital resources and more midwives – but that’s another story for another day.
Back to the positive birth meeting… In our conversations around the « power hour » we also explored delayed cord clamping, what are the benefits and how does it work in practice - including thinking about how this could be best negotiated for twin births.
Most of the group were amazed to realise that it is simply a question of delaying clamping & cutting the cord for just a few minutes – and it has such massive benefits to baby! But again this comes back to potentially unexamined hospital routines, and therefore it’s important to speak to care providers in advance, to discuss your preference around this.
Beyond the 'power hour' discussions our conversations last night moved onto all kinds of other birth-related subjects and sharing lots of great local events that are taking place for the "Semaine mondiale de l'accouchement respecté" in Paris next week.
The great thing about the positive birth meetings are that the flow of discussion is open and spontaneous, so conversation is free to go in any direction it takes us...I feel like this lack of rigid structure allows what is important to the group – at that moment - to come out, and what the group really needs at that time to emerge…
For me, personally, I had just arrived back in Paris the night before the meeting, after a lovely long week spent at home back in the North of England. Transitioning back into city life after a whole week or glorious nourishing countryside air, and being at ‘home’ with family and friend, is always a bit of a physical and emotional leap. So for me, last night, I simply enjoyed being in an open and supportive women’s space – enjoying the laughter and the passion - of women working together towards something important for women.