If A Whale Can Do It

Sarah Strapp

Posted By: Sarah Strapp

I am eager, anxious, nervous, and exciting to get this baby to my breast.

If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend Planet Earth, a five-part documentary by the BBC. The movie is just packed with incredible detail and information. Apart from that, it is one of the most beautiful things to watch. A lot of the information is centered around varying species' mother and their young. As a woman preparing to mother my first born it was so amazing to see the way that animals in nature care for their babies.

It was impossible to capture an actual birth on video because in the wild mothers are too protective of themselves and their newborns to allow strangers that close. (Typically they find a private and secure space where they would be safe and undisturbed.) There was one shot of a panda bear with her three week old cub. The cub was still blind and unable to fend for itself. The mother did not leave the cub or the cave where they were both safely tucked away until the cub was able to see and walk on its own. In that whole time the mother did not eat or drink but was able to continually nurse her cub until he was able to take care of himself.

Perhaps the most amazing was the story of the humpback whale. Humpback whales migrate nearly the entire globe in their quest for food and for reproductive purposes. The whales will spawn in the shallow waters of the tropics. This is a great place for the newborns to learn to swim and breath in the warm shallow waters. There are no predators and the waters are calm and peaceful. However, there is nothing for the whales to eat. No matter, the mothers will nurse their calves – giving them about 500 liters of milk per day for a period of five months – all the while she herself is starving. It is only once the calf has grown strong enough to withstand the colder and tougher waters of the oceans that the mother will lead her child to one of the poles where their food is plentiful.

There are so many situations in nature that nursing and caring for young seem tremendously difficult if not impossible. If modern obstetric practices were applied to nature, we would live in a very different world. Seeing these animals do what is natural for them gave me so much strength and inspiration. I figured, if an animal can give birth in a cave, or the ocean, or on a glacier surely I can give birth in a New York City hospital. My concern is that there will be too many people intervening in a course of nature that should be left to happen on its own. My doctor and the other doctors in the practice know and are happy about my birth plan. I guess then it will be a matter of my determination and focus.

My good friend gave birth to her first born son at home with a team of doulas and midwives just a few days ago. When I spoke with her about her experience the first thing she said to me was, "you can totally do this." I don't think she will ever understand how much those five words meant to me. Until her baby was born she and I were just two pregnant friends. We knew each other well and learned a lot from each other. Now she is a mother. She has overcome labor and delivery and has a beautiful baby boy. With her knowledge of labor and her knowledge of me she has complete confidence in my ability to succeed as well. When this baby is ready to come out I will surely draw upon the strength of the animals that I saw from Planet Earth, from the strength of my friend and her confidence in me, but most of all I will draw upon the strength and power that I carry within myself.

12:32pm on Thursday November 11
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