Category Archives: birth


Kangaroology: The First Thousand Minutes

By Mary Esther Malloy after a lecture by Dr. Nils Bergman at New York University in February, 2016 (she apologizes to Dr. Bergman if she’s mottled his words. She was writing as fast as she could)


Neuroscience on the screen.

A packed room of maternity care professionals.

Our brains trying to understand our brains.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, Dr. Nils Bergman launched a mother-baby skin to skin revolution.

I get it, I think.  But I am about to be radicalized.

stock mama baby skin to skin

Dr. Nils Bergman speaks:

Skin to skin unlocks the neuroscience.

Think of the layered, interconnecting jungle where everything functions in relation to everything else. The brain is a jungle, not a computer.

There are more synapses at birth than stars in the universe.

He tell us

It matters how we are born…Early experiences fire and wire the brain…Pathways are connected…Networks make lights go on…Development is ordered…Foundations are laid upon which higher circuits can be built…Critical periods come and go in which aspects of our genetic inheritance are activated.

What is activated depends on the baby’s environment.

The environment tells our DNA:                                                                                                       The world is safe.                                                                                                                               Eat. Rest. Grow. Connect.                                                                                                                       Oxytocin flows through the circuitry.

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Mother-led Skin to Skin: The First Minutes

Open Letter to Dr. Nils Bergman                                                                                     By Mary Esther Malloy

Your research has shown the world

a baby belongs on its mother,                                                                                                                     skin to skin.

You argue:

a baby on its mother,                                                                                                                                      it is where we lay the foundation for healthy people and healthy societies.

You say:

Skin to skin must start at birth,                                                                                                                     Skin to skin must be continuous.

Kangaroo Mother Care is not yet the bedrock of maternity care you’d have it be, but the world is listening. We are reconsidering one of the 20th Century’s grand experiments: the practice of separating mothers and babies at birth.

Now, when it is possible, a baby is delivered to its mother’s chest.

Immediate skin to skin.

But, what if we were to trust birth and women even further? What if, instead of delivering a baby immediately to her mother’s chest at the moment of birth, what if the midwife or doctor simply guides the baby down where she is born? …what if everyone pauses… and leaves the mother to initiate the skin to skin, on her time frame?

What might this look like? Continue reading

Unhurrying the Moment of Meeting: Three Years On

“What’s inside an eye?”

My daughter turns three today and this was her question that started our day.   Then, as we walked to nursery school, she asked, “When Halloween goes, wheNevie holding hobbs1re does it go?” I’m still working on an explanation for the spiraling movement of time and the effort is helping me understand why my daughter talks so often about what she will do when she is a baby again.  If Halloween will return next year, why not her babyhood?

When I think back to her babyhood, what returns for me is the sweet pleasure of first meeting my little girl on the outside.   The moment was poignantly unhurried.  I had the space to see and the time to discover my just-born child; it was a slow meeting, slow enough for me to be present for the arrival of this brand new person.   What was different from my other children’s births was that my midwife, Valeriana Pasqua-Masback, did not hand me my baby, as the midwives had done at the births of my sons.  Instead, she simply guided my daughter onto the bed below me.  Valeriana left the moment of meeting to my daughter and me. The experience was joyful beyond what I had imagined. The labor that got me to that point, however, was not so joyful.

My boys’ labors had been exquisite.  Raw and intense, the boys’ labors had blasted from beginning to end, and surrender was every bit as spiritual as it was physical.  Sarah Buckley, in her book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, reports on her yoga teacher’s belief that giving birth is equivalent to seven years of meditation. The idea had the ring of truth for me.  With each of my son’s labors, I felt I had traveled to the fiery core of life itself and returned with a strong, centered part of myself I hadn’t known was missing.  I still feel it in my bones to this day. My daughter’s labor, however, was more “seven years” than “meditation.”

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Birthing Violet

My mother had died six months earlier as I lay on my bed in Brooklyn and began to time my contractions.

I had never needed her more than during my labor. I wanted living proof that this was possible. I didn’t believe I held enough power or knowledge, enough female strength to do this alone. But she had gone, so I had hired a mother, a doula, to be my guide.

My doula, Mary-Esther Malloy, arrived at three in the morning while I was in the shower. I had taken natural birth classes with her, determined to recreate my late mother’s labor. Continue reading

Christina and Rich’s Story: Those twenty one hours were undoubtedly the most amazing of my entire life.

Christina and Rich meeting their baby

Christina and Rich meeting their baby

A lot of people have asked Rich and I why we chose to birth our son at home. To be honest, I never quite know what to say. It was the obvious choice for us. The decision to bring our baby into the world in the comfort of our own home just felt right.

When we first met Valeriana, she embraced us with the biggest, warmest hugs. We knew from this moment on that she was going to be our midwife, the woman who would help us birth our child. Over the next several months, we met in her cozy cottage and really got to know each other. The cottage was a warm place, overlooking her beautiful garden. During these times, we’d discuss the physical aspects of pregnancy, such as nutrition and my changing body; as well as the emotional and spiritual aspects. These meetings were great preparation and I always looked forward to them. Continue reading

Gia and Greg’s Story: A friend asked me to describe my experience and I said the only word that came to mind… Respectful.


Meeting their second daughter

So the only way I can think of to tell the story of my second baby’s birth is to first talk about the birth of my wonderful daughter almost three years earlier. It was exactly 2:00 am on my due date and my husband had just fallen asleep after working a 12-hour shift when my water broke in a huge gush all over the floor. I woke my husband, took a shower and had planned on going back to bed. My exhausted husband and his frayed nerves, however, had other plans. So I did what he asked and called my OB. That was the beginning of the end of me having any control over my birth and my body. I got into bed and somehow, even though I was giddy with excitement, fell asleep. I don’t remember how many times my OB called and woke me up but I do remember asking her to stop calling. My contractions were barely noticeable and I really wanted to get some rest while I could. Finally, at 8:00 am she really got pushy and convinced me to go to the hospital even though I was barely feeling anything. Continue reading

Amy and Scott’s Story: He made the world a better place just by being born.

When asked about the moment she first saw her son as he rested below her, Amy said: The folks who were there noticed that Miles really took everyone in and “arrived,” so to speak, in that moment. It was great, and I was really happy to have that time to catch my breath. Telling him he was welcome was really beautiful too, I think I was crying. It was so moving!

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