Invite Fluffy to Your Birth: Pets as Labor Companions
By Laura Shanley
When making out your birth guest list, don’t forget to include Fluffy and Fido. Pets make excellent birthing companions. Not only do they help us reconnect with our animal natures, they are loving, forgiving, comforting, trusting, patient, humble (well, maybe not cats), and loyal. They have all the qualities you could ever want in a labor companion. And best of all, they offer their services free of charge.
The concept that animals can help us in labor is certainly not a new one. Russian waterbirth proponent Igor Tcharkovsky has long believed that dolphins have mystical powers and can help us overcome our fears. He dreams of a day when women will give birth in the ocean surrounded by dolphins and other sea creatures.
French obstetrician Michel Odent takes a more practical approach: give birth at home with your beloved house cat. “Is there a correlation between the presence of cats in a house and a fast birth?” he writes in The Nature of Birth and Breastfeeding. “Years ago such a question would not have occurred to me. Nevertheless, evidence gathered by my own eyes now tells me there is such a correlation.” Cats, he believes, can actually help regulate the levels of stress hormones in the people who are near them.
Having the freedom to labor with our furry friends by our sides is just one more reason to give birth at home, as most hospitals don’t allow animals in the delivery room (unless they’ve been to medical school!).
My Dane girl Shreen was always great when I was pregnant. She’d come up and POKE me in the belly and just give me the SWEETEST look – EVEN since the time I simply THOUGHT I was pregnant. Whenever I’d get home from work or go to work she would walk with me outside, walk in front of me guarding me, and even make a couple noises to make sure the other two Danes didn’t bump me or anything.
During contractions she would lie by me and just be more of a cuddle bug than usual and had such understanding looks. I always figured she KNEW well what I was going through, as she had had thirteen pups about a year before. Yikes!!
The morning we took off to the hospital she didn’t want me to go. She kept nudging me back in the bedroom door and wouldn’t move…ANOTHER sign to stay home for the birth – silly me, shoulda listened!!
She’s also the best with the baby. She lets her cuddle up to her on the floor and poke her in the nose.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.”
Here is a picture of Roger sitting on my belly during labour. It was taken in the very early hours of the morning, after my waters had been broken for a few hours. He sat up there for quite some time, waiting for something to happen perhaps? It was great to have him for company, especially for the brief periods that Bruce was asleep.
Mel and Roger
Only cat lovers know the luxury of fur-coated, musical hot water bottles that never go cold.
As labor approached and during my three weeks of prodromal labor she became more and more solicitous and would snuggle with me if she felt I was having a difficult time.
When I went into active labor, she snuggled with me and kissed me through the dark hours of labor while I waited for my husband’s ship to send him back to shore. While my doula slept on, my sweet girl’s warm presence at my side, at my feet and on my shoulders helped make those long night hours so easy.
Thanks for giving me a chance to tell this story.
Loneliness is comforted by the closeness and touch of fur to fur, skin to skin, or–skin to fur.
My cat was my constant companion during this last labor and birth, from lying on my back as I dozed between contractions to meowing at me from the head of the mattress. I was squatting at the foot of the bed as the baby was pushed out of me. She was never more than a few feet away, much to the dismay and agitation of my mother, who feared she’d try to eat the placenta or other blood products of birth. Fortunately, my mother knew better than to suggest “germs” or she’d have to have been put out of the room. When I had birthed my son and was sitting on the edge of the bed trying to get him to nurse to bring on the placenta, my cat sat quietly by my side, one soft paw on my thigh, just waiting for something to do to comfort me. She accompanied my husband and me to the shower later (with grandma and my other son holding Kyle) and sat in the shower meowing encouragement. She has always been close to the boys and from the beginning would lie on them/me while nursing.
Marla and Dax
When it comes to knowing how to relax, cats are the original yoga experts.
Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that is how dogs spend their lives.
-Carla (from In the Newborn Year by Elizabeth Brutto Hallett)
Alex and Agnes
I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.
When I was pregnant with my second child we had two cats – an old one Pushkin who kept mostly to herself except at dinner time and a young burmese Mia who pretty much lived on my shoulder. Throughout the whole pregnancy Mia would hop on my stomach whenever I sat down and really seemed to know there was a baby growing inside of me. During the actual labour both cats never left my side – until the second stage when they both quietly disappeared for a few hours. My old cat would push her head firmly into my leg at each contraction and purr double time. I relly felt her love and support. Afterwards when I reminded my midwives how special it had been they commented that they see that kind of thing all the time.
Leilu and her midwife cat Mia -
still close and co-sleeping after all these years
I went into labor around 12:30 a.m. on December 9th, 2000. Just hours before my labor signs were visible I was taking pregnancy photos with my dog. Onie was a loving Australian Shepherd who had been my companion for nearly 5 years at that point. I knew I could feel her presence while I labored at home, but she made herself quiet and invisible while I did my job. The labor lasted the morning, afternoon and into the early evening.
When I went into transition I needed to know that my midwife/friend Cori was right there each time a contraction started. My primary midwife was out at an appointment, and Cori wanted to call her to ask her to come quickly since things were shifting very fast. Cori was trying to be polite and make the calls in the other room but Onie was not alright with her leaving her mama, so to get Cori in the room with me Onie would constantly nip at her ankles until she would get back to my side. Onie is a herding dog and was herding the midwife back to me each time she left. The only time I was aware of it was when Cori finally said that Onie was nipping her ankles. I managed to call Onie’s name but that is all the energy I had at that time.
Onie had no intention of hurting her, all she wanted was Cori in with me. She could sense how Cori soothed me through my labor and wanted me to be alright. That was Onie’s contribution to my labor, herding the midwife into the laboring mother’s space!
After the baby was born Onie got to spend a year and 9 months mothering my son with me. We were both parents to my son, the only ones he had. Sadly we found out that Onie had a bad liver and she is no longer able to mother my son with me. But her body is a part of our garden and our yard and my son and I often go and talk to her and tell her how much we love her.