Birth Pause: Heard Of It?

"She's here!  Take your baby!  She's here!  Oh Momma!  She's beautiful!"

Mom holding newborn VBAC HBAC skin to skin.

Mom is on her her knees, hair damp with sweat and stuck across her forehead and cheeks, mouth open catching her breath, she's shaking.  "Huahhhhh." The sigh of relief, sometimes disbelief.  Her eyes closed, she is still inward. Her hands have not yet reached out to hold her baby.

It's not time yet. She needs a minute. A moment. A few grounding breaths.  

Mom holds newborn baby immediately after birth eyes closed.

A pause.

Inhale.  Exhale.  Eyes closed.

She rests her head back.  

Another long sigh.

Her eyes open slowly.  It's as if she's come back from somewhere else. Her hands come up from her sides. She looks for her baby and reaches toward her.

Mother and newborn baby look into each other's eyes after birth at Montfort Hospital.

It's time.

She explores her newborn slowly.  Maybe she smiles.  Maybe she falls into quiet tears. 

She sees her infant - fresh, warm, quiet.

It's just them.  Mom and Baby.  

The Birth Pause.

A few months ago I attended my doula training with Mother Wit Doula Training in Ottawa.  At one point, Lesley brought up the birth pause.  I don't remember how it came up - but I will never forget when she began to talk about it.  You know when everything around you goes really quiet and all you can hear is someone's voice and all you can do is watch their actions?

Well, that happened. I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I had seen it so many times.  It just never had a name - a space to have a name...because sometimes Mom is rushed to hold her baby, to look at her baby.  But it's there - that moment, that pause-I had seen it.  After Lesley stopped talking, my soul settled a little bit more - deeper...I had a deeper understanding of birth.


My mind went back to births I had photographed.  I had the images.  I had photographed it so many times and it never had a name until now.

The birth pause is the resolution after the climax of birth. It is the synapse between birth and being, pregnant person and Parent, just born and truly Earth side. The mother’s brain waves shift from being in an “out in the cosmos” zone, propelled there by pain and intensity, as she “comes back” and breathes herself back into her body. Quantum physics tells us that what lies in “the spaces” is pure potentiality. What the mother gleaned from this peak physiological/emotional experience is brought back through the synapse, especially if this space is held by those surrounding her in trust and quiet. Upon full “re-entry” into herself, the transition complete, often just as Baby is drawing their first full breath and releasing a lusty cry, she is chock full of knowledge about what this moment MEANS. I AM Mother. You are MINE. We can do this. As the drum in her chest slows its ferocious pounding, she gathers her child...HER child.. who now realizes the sacred sound is missing.. and holds them to her heart. They sink into relaxation. She looks to her lover. They behold her. Eyes dilate with the heart. Family is born.
— Lesley Everest - Director of MotherWit Doula Care and MotherWit Doula Training
Mom and infant get to know each other after Ottawa Homebirth attended by midwives.  

Imagine if we were given time to pause and gather ourselves after baby is born?  What if we were given a few moments to settle in?  I've noticed - women take this time anyway - baby in arms. She will rest, breathe, take interlude...and then she will open her eyes and look around.  Often women will describe these moments when they see their photos - as exactly what Lesley described above, but in their own words.  

As a birth photographer, this only deepens my reverence for the birth space.  I need to be careful in every sense of the word.  I want to be sensitive of the camera clicks and sounds and be sure to continue to hold space for these important events that happen AFTER baby has arrived.

I took the doula training to gain a deeper relationship with birth, and my own experiences at births and this was one of the most moving parts of the course.  It has slowed me down even more when I'm behind the lens.  Now when I see it - I know what to call it.

The birth pause.  


Mom and Dad head to head smiling peacefully after birth of daughter at Montfort Birthing Unit.