Lessons for a New Grandmother
- Paper: Chapel Hill Herald (NC)
- Author: BERNADETTE PELISSIER Columnist
- November 3, 2007
- Section: Editorial Page: 2
I am a new grandmother of twin boys. I find myself unable to think of very many other serious matters other than the health and well-being of my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law. I arrived at the hospital a day after their birth. I had no idea how I would feel when I actually saw them. Throughout that first afternoon visit, I just could not take my eyes off them. I fell in love with them at first sight. My daughter was told by her doctor that she was most likely going to give birth to identical twins. After their birth, neither my daughter nor my son-in-law could initially tell the difference between them. The only way everyone knew for sure which one was Ian and which was Grant was by the caps that were labeled by the nurses.
"A" on one cap was for Ian (firstborn) and "B" on the other for Grant. When I arrived the second day, my son-in-law could tell the difference but I couldn't. Was this incapability of seeing a difference due to the fact that we all expected them to be identical twins? They were both of identical birth weight which is rare, but one had a larger head circumference and one was slightly longer.
I took quite a few pictures that day and in the evening I looked at them on my laptop. I could then tell the difference, or I thought so. The next day when I saw them again, I could still see the difference. They say that you always find something to differentiate between identical twins. None of us knows for sure whether they are identical twins. We may not truly know until later. We shall wait to see. For now, I am in awe of the experience of twins.
I have learned many new things about birth and infancy, despite the fact that I have already given birth to two children. The twins weighed in at 5 pounds 12 ounces at birth, a reasonable weight for twins. As is customary for newborns, they lost weight and dropped to just over 5 pounds.
But of concern to everyone was their lack of interest in feeding the first two days after birth. I now know that babies born through a C-section, as they were, have certain disadvantages, albeit short-term. During a natural birth process, mucus is squeezed out of the stomach and infants are born hungry. Babies delivered through a C-section still have the mucus and therefore are less interested in eating.
Although C-sections are oftentimes important for saving lives and reducing the risk of other serious problems, I am concerned that we are doing too many of them and making birth into a surgical procedure. I looked up data and found one report stating that C-sections accounted for only 5 percent of births in 1970, but now account for 28 percent of total births in this country. Yet I don't want to second guess the need in my daughter's case because one of the twins was breech and was transverse a few weeks before birth. This is considered high risk, especially for twins sharing a placenta.
My daughter is breastfeeding. It was a rocky start because of the C-section. But she knows of its health advantages. A primary benefit of breast milk is nutritional. Human milk contains just the right amount of fatty acids, lactose, water and amino acids for human digestion, brain development and growth.
What else do we know? Breast-fed babies have fewer illnesses because human milk transfers to the infant a mother's antibodies to disease. Breast-fed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza and ear infections. Furthermore, mothers produce antibodies to whatever disease is present in their environment, making their milk custom-designed to fight the diseases their babies are exposed to.
One of my daughter's friends, a nutritionist, told me how many mothers are impatient and resort to formula rather than breastfeeding. An acquaintance of my daughter told her she was only going to try breastfeeding for one week before deciding whether to continue. Such a decision makes it more likely that the mother will not succeed, as was the case. The nutritionist also told me that babies usually do not have the enzymes to properly digest solid food, including cereals, before the age of 4 to 6 months. Yet she has seen many parents insisting that their child is hungry and needs solid food before then.
My grandchildren remind me how nature has all the built-in processes to better ensure the health of babies. I hope we will do more to encourage fewer C-sections but more breastfeeding. Let's remember to take advantage of what nature has to offer.
Bernadette Pelissier is a retired social scientist who lives in Orange County and serves on several community boards. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o The Chapel Hill Herald, 106 Mallette St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
Author: BERNADETTE PELISSIER Columnist
Copyright, 2007, The Durham Herald Company