Baby’s transition Earthside and the ‘tincture of time’
Inside the womb, a fetus is a water ‘breathing’ human. Their lungs are fluid filled and the blood flow to them is minimal. Their circulation is wired in a special way - pulling freshly oxygenated blood through the umbilical cord to be circulated throughout the body - something us air breathing humans use our lungs for. There are several mechanisms intricately designed to make this system work, and I'm sure there are more that have not been discovered yet. A fetus’ circulatory system is ‘open’ meaning the arteries and veins are connected via special ducts - leaving partially oxygenated blood to travel throughout the whole body and back to the placenta - there is no separation of oxygenated blood vs deoxyenated blood as there is us air breathing humans. There is also an opening covered by a flap within the wall of the heart to compensate for the increased pressure due to the arteries around the lungs being so small - this hole allows blood to travel from one side of the heart to the other but not back again (thanks to the flap!)
When a baby is born and the umbilical cord is left intact as nature intended The baby will receive a bolus of one third of its blood supply - freshly oxygenated, warm, pH balanced blood - from the placenta. As the baby was squeezing it’s way through its mother's yoni, blood had been pushed back into the placenta where it was revitalized before heading back to baby after birth. Baby is now going to start to switch from having lungs filled with fluid to having lungs filled with air. It is also going to switch from having an open circulatory system to having a closed circulatory system. Some fluids that were in the respiratory tract are ideally squeezed out during the trip through the yoni - and the remaining fluid that is in the lungs is absorbed out of the alveoli and into the bloodstream. The special fetal adaptations to the circulatory system - the extra ducts and opening the heart - will now close. This ensures that oxygenated blood can make its way into the blood vessels surrounding the heart that are now bigger than they had been in the womb.
It is not fully understood what signals the baby to start breathing (other then needing to for survival in the event the cord is cut). As you can see from what I have shared here, however, a baby has a lot of work to do, and it would serve us all well to start holding space for baby to do what it needs. To give the tincture of time. I’ll add that this is only a small portion of the physical/biological transition that is happening AND the spiritual aspect adds a whole new layer. Babies who are born in the water, born breech, or experience difficulty with the birth of their shoulders will typically take a longer time to transition.
One of the most common causes of babies having a difficult time transitioning is baby having a hard time to clear the fluid from the lungs. The Neonatal Resuscitation Program teaches that ventilation of the lungs is the single most important and effective action in resusicatition. Ventilation means blowing air into the babies lungs to help clear the fluid and then oxygenate the blood. This is something that can be done calmly, with love, by the mother, parent, loved one, and if necessary a loving birth attendant. This is also something that can be explained to the baby beforehand. “Baby, I'm going to give you some breaths now” There is no need to move baby to resuscitate, midwives all over the world use simple tools right beside mom, still attached. When baby is left attached to its umbilical cord it will be receiving oxygen all along and this experience will be that much less traumatic to them. Apprximately 10% of babies will ‘require’ some resuscitative efforts such as breaths to help clear the lungs, and 1 % will require extensive resuscitation measures. (Keep in mind that these statistics are largely for disturbed births and third stages- meaning the normal physiology of birth has not been honored).
The mother will be the single most important factor is calling the baby into its body and encouraging it to breathe. Her voice, (which baby knows well), her smell, her warmth, her love - all of these are designed to make the baby WANT to make the effort to survive. As long as baby is attached to placenta (with a functioning cord) and baby is making improvements in color, tone, breathing efforts, and bonding - there is absolutely no reason to interfere (unless mother asks for help). Anyone in the room can take three steps back and witness the miracle of a mother and baby discovering each other.
The way we (as babies and mothers) are welcomed into the world sets the stage for the rest of our lives. As human consciousness expands - it only makes sense for the consciousness of the birth process to expand too. Many mothers are feeling called to explore all that their body and babies are beyond the values and practices of the medical obstetrical paradigm. Exploring new possibilities and that which is not yet understood is a part of the evolution of our species. Some women may not be interested in this way of experiencing birth - for themselves or their babies - and that’s OK. There is no right way to do this. Just know, you are not alone if your soul is directing you to bringing more consciousness to those first few moments (and beyond).
Anyone attending a birth would benefit from asking themselves - Can I sit in my own discomfort and allow the mother to do what she was designed to do? Can I witness and hold space? Can I heal my own birth trauma from when I was not trusted to transition to breathing air on my own? Can I honor the experience of the mother and baby above my own needs to help, to use tools, to do anything but nothing?
Anne Frye : Holistic Midwifery Volume II
Sister Morningstar: Newborn First Breaths - Protecting the first moments of life
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or replace medical advice