What’s Better Than A Birth Announcement? The Moments Before
It's a magical time when your baby belongs to you and you alone. You're not obligated to allow a loving family member to hold them. You're not guilted into saying yes to an ill-timed visit from friends. You don't owe the details of your birth, the measurements of your baby, or the contents of your heart now existing outside your body, to anyone. For once in a woman's life, there is no need to perform, to emote, to translate, to satisfy ideas about how she should feel and look and act. In the time after birth, your baby is yours and you are theirs. The world as you know it is reduced to the room you share. I wish I could live longer in those moments before the birth announcement.
The period of mom-and-baby centered serenity known as "the golden hour" is undoubtedly beneficial to the exhausted mom who has worked to bring her child into the world, and studies have shown this uninterrupted time is also crucial to the baby's development, too. Immediate skin-to-skin contact and an attempt at breastfeeding can improve infant survival rates, release hormones in mom that facilitate bonding with baby, and can help a mother's uterus to contract and halt bleeding, according to a Stanford Health.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends a baby is placed directly on a mother's chest immediately after birth to help facilitate bonding and create a better post-birth experience for all involved, urging physicians to administer any routine physical assessments while the baby is on the mother's chest and working to make sure the mother and baby remain together during the recovery period.
It is what I wish for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Now that Baby Sussex's assumed due date has come and gone with not so much as a whisper as to the baby's name, the world has grown downright invasive, poring over clues that Meghan has had her baby, and clamoring for that long-awaited royal baby announcement.
But there are better things than a baby announcement, like the moments before anyone outside a new parent's most intimate inner circle knows their baby has arrived. The serene minutes, hours, or days with a new human have the power to blur the edges of reality so effectively that they become the sole focus — everyone else ceases to exist.
It's the equivalent of one large, overwhelming and well-earned sigh in which you breathe out your pregnancy and inhale every detail of your chubby baby: their impossibly long eyelashes; their soft skin; their grunts; their absurdly small toes; the smell of a new beginning permeating from the tops of their, admittedly, oddly-shaped heads.
What's even more magical, more powerful, than the knowledge that a baby has finally arrived is the silence that comes before it.
Perhaps Meghan knew all this when she bucked royal tradition and declined to introduce her baby to the world hours after birth. Maybe this was always part of her birth plan: to remain hidden, secluded from the media and the public and the unrealistic expectations we place on women who've just given birth (especially famous women); protecting herself and her baby from the inevitable questions about the birth, the baby, and her postpartum life.
This precious time staves off the additional labor demanded of new moms; labor that lasts much longer than what is required to bring life into the world. She doesn't have to be an emotional regulator, the designated empath, the conduit for other people to view, take in, and respond to her child. In these moments she isn't translating her experience for others, worrying about whether or not her baby announcement ticked the right boxes. She isn't forced to worry about how she looks, or whether or not she seems happy enough, or if she's capable of sitting up and just right for that first family photo. When the passing of times fades in the background so, too, does the demand of a new mother's emotional labor.
Instead of having to be what is expected of her, she simply gets to be.
Because this one-on-one time is fleeting for any new mother. While the seconds, minutes, hours, and, if we're lucky, days after birth may shrink our worlds to the size of a birthing suit or a living room, the world does spin madly on. Eventually, it comes calling for us all, demanding we pay it attention and provide it with details, and then the quiet calm of a new life realized becomes an elusive experience we're forced to chase. It's no longer provided to us; we have to fight for it, among baby visits and a dwindling maternity leave and necessary runs to the grocery story for diapers we should have ordered a week ago. We'll cling to it during 2 a.m. feedings and look for it on Sunday mornings, because schedules emerge and obligations are imposed and our lives pick up where they left off.
The arrival of a new baby is worth celebrating, to be sure, and at a time when negativity dominates the news cycle, there's nothing more cleansing, more pure, more hopeful than news of a new life entering the world.
But what's even more magical, more powerful, than the knowledge that a baby has finally arrived is the silence that comes before it; silence that says a mother is spending uninterrupted time with the life she spent 40 weeks, more or less, creating inside her body.
In the absence of an announcement is the promise that a bond between a mom and her child is being stitched together with the sight of impossibly long baby eyelashes, soft skin, tiny grunts, absurdly small toes, and the smell of a new beginning.