I have shared before in a previous post that my midwifery journey began as I held space for a beautiful creature named Bingo. This dog allowed me to hold her paw, stroke her working body, and serve her as she journeyed into motherhood. I am so grateful for those moments. This week as the circle of life and love continued, another graceful being brought her babes earthside. I would like to congratulate the newest member of the Mom Tribe, Maizie. You are a birthing goddess and noble mother. Bravo!!! (She can’t read because she is a dog… but her doting human, who is also my best friend, will tell her I said so.)

 

Since the moment we found out Maizie was pregnant, we all celebrated.

These pups have been eagerly awaited and longed for. Minds counted down her gestation as hearts waited in expectation and eyes watched for movement of all those squirmy creations. I secretly watched her evolve as she realized what was happening. It was instinctual and exquisite. Can we push the pause button for a moment and consider the lessons an animal can teach us about pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period?

 

Certainly there are far more animalistic strengths than what I can discuss here, but let me share what stood out to me. The gestation period for a dog is 58-68 days. (What a machine! I digress.) The humans around Maizie focused on those days. We counted them down with worry.

“Not too early Maizie!”

“Not too late!”

I am even guilty.

Guess who never agonized?

The mother.

She surrendered.

 

As a culture we have subscribed to a due date philosophy. Traditionally, we hear that one date and put it in our pocket as gospel. If we ruminate on recent evidence, a “due date” is bogus. The worthier estimation would look like a normal range of time. If left alone, about 50% of mommas (human beings) will spontaneously enter labor by 40 weeks and 5 days (plus or minus a few days if a mother has given birth before). That leaves us with 50% that don’t fit neatly into that category.

 

Humans tend to prefer neat. Enter Hermann Boerhaave, a professor from the 1700s. He came up with the disproved Naegele’s rule, an outdated way of calculating the estimated due date still used today. It is NOT evidence based. The improved wisdom points towards a healthy range of normal. We are all unique. It makes sense that our gestation would mirror that.

Maizie knew.

 

Labor is work. That is why it is termed labor. Some would even consider it a marathon. Would we ask Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova to fast before beginning a competition? Of course not! Then why do we expect women in labor to go without? Our bodies were created in such a way that we demand fuel to work with competence. So, it is only logical that eating and drinking as desired lends itself to efficiency. Unfortunately, research is not complete enough to come up with a true determination. We have to depend on common sense.

 

The uterus is made of muscle. Muscle uses energy. We get energy from food. So where did this barbaric idea that women shouldn’t eat during labor originate? The NPO or nothing by mouth order currently utilized was birthed out of fear of aspiration. It is an antiquated policy based on a horrid time for women when inhaled anesthesia and twilight sleep were the norm. I hope we can all agree that the 21st Century has taken us into a progressive technological era with medical advancement. Our equipment is superior yet our practice policies haven’t caught up. But guess what? When Maizie was thirsty, she drank. When she felt hunger, she ate. Maizie knew.

Maizie began her labor dance with stoic energy. She created a space. She prepared. She nested. Most importantly, she put one paw in front of the other as she trusted her body to work. Animals are not burdened by fear. They are free to experience the lighter, normal, healthy places of pregnancy, labor, and birth. As new sensations greet them, they abandon alarm and embrace the magic. As women, we have been bombarded with a trend to fear birth and be cautious of the process thus mistrusting ourselves and our bodies. Wariness and distrust can generate a host of issues. We are fed a diet of “what ifs” and scare tactics, but here’s the bottom line: Our bodies were made to create, carry, birth, and feed babies. Maizie knew.

 

I have witnessed many awe-filled births. Each has a sacred dwelling in my energy. My spirit was with a golden retriever named Maizie yesterday. She chose her birth team. She was surrounded by love and support. She was treated like the queen she is and nurtured as a warrior. Affirmations poured over her, and she enjoyed the waterfall of respect. She leaned on the love around her, but also looked inward for her innate power. She listened to her body. She moved when her intuition called. She changed positions as the waves rolled. She rested. She pushed when she had the urge. She was safe, and she was able. Maizie knew.

 

One after another, she pushed her fur babies, wet and perfect, into the subtle light of the world. Immediately she met them with affection. There were no bright lights or strident voices. It was calm. She pulled each one close to her skin and would not accept a separation. From the warmth of a womb’s water to the warmth of mom’s skin. Promptly she made way for her pups to begin the breast crawl (If you aren’t familiar with the breast crawl I demand you look it up. Babies are so smart). Breastfeeding didn’t come without difficulty, as pups fought over nipples and she attempted to make herself comfortable, but she stuck with it. The benefits of skin to skin contact and breastfeeding are well researched.

Maizie knew.

I could turn this simple blog into a fifty-page article about placentas and parenting, nursing on demand, and even love and loss. Animals are wealthy with wisdom. We can learn so much from them about pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period. I encourage you to reflect on the normal, sensible, and research-based aspects of one of the most glorious parts of humanity because we have lost touch with basic creation. But guess what? Maizie hasn’t.

About the Author

A certified nurse midwife and doctorate student has been in the Houston birth community for over a decade. Her experience includes elementary school nursing, hospital L & D, birth center, and home birth. Andie is confident in a woman's ability to grow and birth her baby. She feels a partnership in care is empowering and hopes to foster that relationship with families. She has a tender, lighthearted, and hands off approach to the evidence based care she offers. She has been joyfully dating her husband of 16 years since junior high and has five children. Her passions beyond bellies, birth, and breastfeeding are mission work and reading.