When I was pregnant I knew all about skin-to-skin contact, or "kangaroo care," but it wasn't until I had my baby that I heard the term "golden hour." I suppose any of those terms will do when describing the hour immediately following the birth of a child, but there's something about "golden hour" that really captures the magic of that time. The birth of my baby was the most awe-inspiring experience of my life, so there are more than a few golden hour moments I wish I could relive over and over and, you guessed it, over again.
The 60 minutes following delivery are an opportunity not to be wasted if at all possible. According to Stanford Health, the undisturbed contact between mother and baby is critical to both bonding and the growth and development of the child. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), goes on to say skin-to-skin promotes regulation of baby's body temperature and respiration, has immunity boosting powers ,and helps establish breastfeeding. Fortunately, it's standard practice in baby-friendly hospitals and birth centers, and you can usually request it whether you deliver vaginally or via C-section.
I knew that precious time alone with my baby was something I wanted, so I made sure it was part of my birth plan. I was ready to advocate for myself, but luckily, my care team was completely on board and made it happen. I try to practice mindfulness, but I've never been so successful at being in the moment as I was in that recovery room. The sights, sounds, and feelings are still so vivid for me. It was the happiest time in my life, and a beautiful golden hour is my wish for every mama and her baby.
The Explosion Of Joy
I don't think I've ever experienced such pure, unadulterated happiness as I did the moment my newborn baby was placed on my chest. I immediately burst into tears because I was finally holding her, this beautiful creature I'd grown and nurtured in my own body. The joy utterly overwhelmed me.
The Feel Of My Baby's Skin On My Skin
There's nothing softer in this world than a baby's skin. Mine was covered in fine, downy hair known as lanugo. There was something primal about having her naked body pressed against my bare chest. It was as if I was connecting with my ancestors in the way that all human babies have entered and should enter the world.
The Look On My Partner's Face
My husband is not normally expressive when it comes to his feelings, but I could see that the moment he saw his wife hold his baby was different. He blinked back tears and placed his hand on his chest as if he could hold back the heart that might burst from it.
Looking Into My Baby's Eyes
We often think of newborns as sleepy little fellows, and they are, but the golden hour is special in that they are alert and active. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and staring into the eyes of your brand-new baby is an incomparable experience that stirs the most ardent of loves.
Tiny Fingers & Tiny Toes
Everything about your new baby is so perfect, even when it isn't. It doesn't matter if your baby has blotchy skin or milia or is covered in vernix. If you're anything like me, all you'll see is their perfect little nose, little cheeks, little mouth, and little chin, as yet unmarred by the outside world.
Watching My Partner Cut The Cord
My husband knew from the get-go that he wanted to cut the cord. It's a time-honored tradition, I suppose, but I was surprised by what an emotional experience it was. The umbilical cord is, after all, the lifeline between mother and baby. I was inexplicably a part of my daughter's entrance into the world, so it was pretty special for her dad to physically participate in that way.
The Immediate Bonding
I felt instantly connected to my baby in a "love at first sight" kind of way. The warm fuzzy feelings I experienced during the golden hour actually have a scientific reason. There's a chemical connection that happens. According to Parenting, during childbirth mom's body releases oxytocin (the "feel good hormone), and baby responds to its calming effect. There are also some crazy pheromones going on, which attract mother and child to each other.
OK, so this wasn't a dream come true. My baby had trouble latching, but I still feel like my early attempts were important to establishing breastfeeding. She may not have fed, but the skin-to-skin contact helped my body produce more prolactin, and therefore more breast milk. All in all, it was worth it.
Babies are biologically programmed to interact with their mother. They don't want to be away from you because you represent warmth, nourishment, and safety. Basically, all they want to do is snuggle with you.
My daily life is so hectic, I don't always get the opportunity to cuddle my little girl for extended periods of time (she's also not too keen on sitting still these days). But I got to spend the first hour of her life holding her close to me, and that was pretty damn amazing.
Becoming A Family
Perhaps the best part of the golden hour is that people leave you alone. When my daughter was born, my partner and I became a family of three. We were this new little unit, and the time we spent together (just us) immediately after her birth solidified our union. I think we'll always look back at that golden hour as the moment our lives changed — for the better — forever.