Birth Story Revisited

I am blessed. Let me say it again, I am blessed. I have two beautiful children, an amazing husband, and an overall rich and full life.

I am also sleep deprived. Like, from the last 8 months, sleep deprived.

Ever since we tried transitioning our 14-month old son from co-sleeping in our bed, three out of four of us haven’t slept more than 2-3 hours at a time, sometimes up repeatedly for hours during the night. Thankfully our oldest sleeps soundly.

I’ve read books, talked with moms, spoken to the doctor, vented and cussed and struggled overall with how to help our boy. Pick him up, don’t pick him up, let him cry it out, don’t over-stress him…And until this week, I now realize, I was looking at the entire problem through the wrong, foggy-eyed lens.

We went to a sleep specialist, who is actually a pediatric nurse practitioner with a holistic philosophy. I find her utterly fascinating. I’ve known about her for some time, went to her once with our first-born, have friends who use her and am awestruck at how she weaves her understanding of biology and chemistry, perinatal psychology, energy therapies, nutrition and more, all within the family context of what she calls the “heart centered relationship”.

Milo wakes up often each night, in a highly agitated state. The specialist stated it was neither comfort seeking nor night terrors. She looked deeper and further back. She asked about his birth story.

Ever since his birth, December 10, 2012, I have looked back with great pride to the water birth, the one hour delivery from the time my water broke and the two pushes that carried him out and up into my arms. It was so fast that his head did not mold.

I never considered what his experience was. Could it be possible that what I considered -from my perspective- a beautiful successful birth was, for Milo, likely traumatic?

According to our specialist, an abrupt transition from the womb into the water was for my baby likely rough and rushed, flooded with adrenaline. She spoke of the cranial nerves which carry the impulses down from the brain and have ties to the nervous system. She mentioned that the presence of adrenaline will diminish the body’s natural release of oxytocin, the calming hormone.

Because of the nature of Milo’s birth, a pattern was set early for tension, hyper-vigilance, and adrenaline imbalance. This helped explain some of the early behaviors we have observed as well, extreme sensitivity to noise, need to touch my skin while he slept, hyper sensitivity to diaper changes, and a strong desire to be held.

Where do we go from here? We have a list of behavior modifications to try such as earlier bed time, increase melatonin rich foods to help stabilize sleep cycles, massage and joint compression to help him feel comfortable in his body, and more. We were also encouraged to visit an Osteopath who could provide manipulations to assist in calming Milo’s nervous system. Paramount here is to pattern behaviors that reassure our young Milo that the world is a safe and secure place.

Being a therapist, and advocate for children it was hard to realize I had overlooked Milo’s experience at birth and the ripples it could produce. We all are sensitive beings and our feelings, behaviors and physiology are connected to the experiences we have had. From the perspective of an infant entering the world, it is no different.

12 Comments on “Birth Story Revisited”

  1. harvestmoonproduceme says:

    Have you tried music, like the sound of waves playing lightly in the back ground?

  2. Heather Misterka says:

    Oh Becca, what a beautiful message. Thank you for this. xoxo

  3. bam says:

    my beautiful becc, oh, darling, i feel, i hear your pain. the pain of being blindsided. the pain of realizing there is a struggle for your boy that you had never imagined. the pain of being a mama who so thoughtfully considers every move, and lives so full-heartedly, and then, kaboom, realizing there might be more to the story. i am so sorry.

    it seems one of the truths of motherhood is that we cannot control it, cannot make it — despite our heart’s DEEPEST yearning — the unblemished, unbumpy path we want for our child.
    and what a miracle for milo that he has you as his mama, and you set out to find the heart-depth answer to the riddle — why is sleep so hard for him, sleep which we think is nature’s cure-all tonic. except when it’s not. how beautiful that you have sought beyond the mainstream, and that you’ve been pulled to a place where light is shed, and solutions are laid out, ways to ease his beautiful little soul back into a womb of safety and comfort and all will be well.

    my second born had a terrifying delivery. after months of praying that his old mama would pull through for him, in the final seconds of delivery the numbers on the machines all dropped precipitously. i knew something was wrong, and i mustered all the forces of the heavens and the universe and every muscle inside me to deliver him to safety. which i did. but before he was on his own, still in the birth canal, the darkened room had filled with a phalanx of doctors. i knew something was wrong. even amid my concentration and focus. he was born with the whitest face i had ever seen. i was terrified that blood might not have been perfusing his blessed brain.
    they told me all was well within time. but have i, as his mother, secretly wondered at so many turns what happened in those flashes of moments? have i wondered and worried? you betcha. i think we learn to live with what’s unfolded, and we move forward with eyes and heart wide open. and we are so blessed when we find beacons along the way — you have found a beacon. your boy will be blissfully, peacefully well. and we love you so much. xoxo

    • Thank you so much Barb. I didn’t realize or remember this birth story. It amazes me what we do survive, overcome and often with such resilience. Thank you for sharing and thank for your endless support.

  4. Mary Reutener says:

    Hi, Becca. I love your birth story! (Of course, as a childbirth doula, I love any birth story! Lol.) I didn’t know that you had such a wonderful—and fast—water birth. (I’m envious!) That must have been quite an experience. But, I’m fascinated by what your sleep specialist told you. And, I’m skeptical. So many infants have difficulties with sleep, and I would imagine their birth experiences vary widely. It is said that birth, by definition, is “traumatic”, though we may never know if that is actually the case from the baby’s perspective. After all, we have all had the experience, so it must actually be “normal”, unless some unusual injury occurs. It is likely that the journey through the birth canal and resulting compression helps facilitate the transition to the breathing side by stimulating the nervous system, forcing fluids from the lungs to prepare for that first breath and causing needed changes in the circulatory system. Nature has finely tuned the process to be most beneficial to the baby. Perhaps with a quick vaginal birth, Milo had less opportunity for those things to occur in the most ideal fashion. But, does that mean that babies born by c-section are destined to nervous system problems, including hypersensitivity and sleep issues? Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Every baby is unique, and temperament can play a huge role in infant behavior, along with many other factors, both hereditary and environmental.

    I’m not just being a naysayer, and I truly hope that you are able to get some rest. But, it always concerns me when practitioners explain away complex behaviors with simple explanations that often don’t hold up to reason, or science. And, worse yet, they make money doing it! It’s easy prey for them because we so desperately want answers to problems that seem not to have any! Sometimes, the solutions they recommend are extremely helpful, like the behavior modification methods you are now using. But, I hope the explanation that Milo’s problems with sleep, his need to touch your skin, his strong desire to be held, etc. were caused by his relatively rapid transition to the world doesn’t make you feel somehow responsible and that you had overlooked something important. (And, don’t make you devalue your own birth experience!) His issues seem well within the realm of normal baby behavior to me, frustrating as they can be for parents needing some rest. In fact, his behaviors seem to define what it is to be a sweet, dependent and sensitive infant. A perfectly normal one! Hang in there. This sleep phase will soon pass! xoxoxo P.S. I love your blog!

    • bam says:

      dear mary, i love your reply. i love it because you are a doula, and i love it because we mothers so quickly assign blame to ourselves — we are SOOOO adept at that. i love it because it offers another perspective and reminds us that we might never know THE answer, only a host of answers and it is our job as discerning, heart-led mamas to divine the one that leads us most richly toward the light. i love that you are backing up becca, i love that you are shedding light. as one who loves becc with all my heart, thank you…..this is really interesting. the whole conversation. and i love how you frame all of it. blessings.

    • Thanks Mary for your sharing your thoughts and experiences. First let me say having grown up in a science minded home, I too can be cautious and skeptical when information comes from other sources. And please don’t see my short essay as the entire dialog we had with our practitioner. I think everyone needs to be careful and selective in how and who they approach for help. For us, Milo’s patterns have been beyond anything we have heard about from other families, and it was becoming acute. We needed support and insight.
      The career I chose in art therapy has helped me open up to a more holistic way of thinking about our minds and bodies. While my field is working hard still to provide hard data to support what we see working, it is giving results. I stay open to practices and am willing to listen and learn as long as it seems appropriate to. I think we have a heck of a lot more to learn about how we tick, why we tock and what we can do to enrich our lives. Our practitioner offers a perspective, from the infant, which I think is valid and deserves attention. Lord knows there are a gazillion issues our youngsters struggle with and if there is learning to come from a challenging birth, which can inform how we help and guide them going forward, I think it’s worth looking at.
      We chose our practitioner carefully. She comes to the table with an impressive background, both hard and soft.
      Thanks again for providing another perspective and for continuing the dialog

      • Mary Reutener says:

        Oh, so true, Becca! And, please forgive if it sounded like I was doubting that you were proceeding with due diligence. I know you are, and only you and David can know what seems to be the best way forward, given your little sweetie’s difficulties. I totally respect that. I always think any new information is worth looking at. Always. I may have sounded too strong because I’ve seen so many parents accept responsibility for things that are simply speculation based on observation and anecdotes, and the only way to really see your way through the many speculations and opinions out there is to have some substantive data. (How else do we know what IS actually valid?) There’s just a lot of myth and inaccuracy regarding birth, not at all evidence-based. I’ve seen it hurt people through making them feel unnecessarily guilty and responsible (and then feel bad about their birth experience). So, my intention was to be supportive, even if it may have sounded challenging. I think the behavior mod techniques can be really useful. I was only questioning the attribution to Milo’s birth experience. It could be many other things, especially when so many babies have similar problems that would be hard to attribute to their births. Anyhow, please know I wish you only the best, and a freakin’ good night’s sleep!! 🙂

  5. Thanks Mary for your comments! I love how you advocate for positive birth experiences. I still feel good about both of mine – blessed. Thank you for your support, it means a great deal!

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