Let’s Not Be So Quick To Cut The Umbilical Cord

A short essay by Corie Adjmi.

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Image: Instagram.com/brigitalea

In Corie Adjmi’s most recent short essay, “Let’s Not Be So Quick To Cut The Umbilical Cord”, she highlights how, from the start of a child’s life to the moment they branch out on their own, we seem to always lean on detaching ourselves from one another to help us “grow” as human beings to become more independent and self-supporting. However, there are mounds of evidence to support that we actually thrive off of close, long-term connections and attachments throughout our lives. She touches on why it’s crucial for parents, grandparents and children alike to understand the monumental benefits of fostering close attachments to help support and build each other up in ways that we never knew we needed.

Corie Adjmi is an award-winning, Jewish, fiction and personal essay author and women’s empowerment advocate. Her work and bylines have appeared in Motherwell, Kveller, SWAAY Magazine, HuffPost, Repeller, Parade, North American Review, Indiana Review, and others. 

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Image: Freestocks via Unsplash

Let’s Not Be So Quick to Cut the Umbilical Cord

At the height of Corona, I became a doula so that I could be with my daughter in the delivery room. Did she need me? No. Did she want me? Yes. Growing up, I was taught to be independent, and to believe I could take care of things on my own. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it took a therapist to point out that I could ask my husband to accompany me to an appointment just because it would make things easier. Did I need him? No. Did I want him? Yes. When my son was five-years-old, my mother asked me when I was going to cut the metaphorical umbilical cord that connected us. This was her way of warning me that I was coddling. The concern was that he wouldn’t grow up to be independent and strong.

Even though the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth regarding Attachment Theory was known in my mother’s time, she was drugged when she gave birth to me and knocked out for days. Hospital practices focused on babies being fed and changed. They were far less concerned with the necessity of a responsive relationship, one that supported and encouraged mother-child emotional bonding. But even on a path to independence, humans need connection. At any age, it is through strong bonds and nourishing relationships that we develop and grow. Science shows people need people to thrive, and that individuals who are connected to family, friends and community are happier and live longer.

This science has paved the way for doulas, encouraging woman-to-woman support during pregnancy, labor, birth and even during the postpartum period. There was a time when those ties were a given, but then women were somehow conditioned to think they didn’t need that kind of support, and that in fact they needed doctors and hospitals instead. Did a birthing person require another woman or a female family member to be present during delivery? No. Did she want one? Maybe.

Doulas play a vital role, attending to the birthing person’s emotional needs, encouraging her to advocate for herself. Doulas educate and, as a result, women feel empowered during their birth experience. This bond is important as women navigate the medical world and its systems, which may not foster skin-to-skin practices, immediate breastfeeding and mother-child bonding. A doula is an activist of sorts, using evidence-based information to support mothers and their babies. 

There are benefits to having a doula present in the delivery room:

  • Cesareans are reduced by 26-50%
  • Length of labor is reduced by 25%
  • Use of oxytocin (Pitocin) reduced by 40%
  • Epidurals reduced by 60%
  • There is improved breastfeeding
  • Increased time spent with baby
  • Decreased postpartum depression

In addition, a doula may teach the birth mother about options she doesn’t even know she has like delayed cord-clamping. It used to be common practice to cut the umbilical cord promptly after delivery. Science is finding that there are reasons to delay. Waiting provides the baby with extra blood and may help the child cope better with transitioning from womb to world. Studies show that how a child attaches, determines the nature of all future relationships. This is critical information so why do we rush to disconnect? What are we afraid of? If attachment is key for healthy development, why are we so keen to separate?

We have procedures in place where we cut the umbilical cord straight away, send our two-year-old children off to school, our 18-year-olds across the country, and grandparents die alone. And we, as a nation, are lonely. Do we value independence more than we do connection? Maybe we should consider keeping our babies, our children, and our loved ones close. At any stage of life, going it with a partner, a spouse, a friend or a doula—does not make us weaker. In fact, it makes us stronger. Let’s not be so quick to cut the literal, or metaphorical, umbilical cord.

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