Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Instinctive birthing

My neighbours new kitten is about 8/9 months old and a very cute boy, so friendly and often trying to get into my house.

On Sat morning (5th June) I was talking over the fence with my neighbour's daughter, she had come to feed the cat as her mum was away till Sunday evening. As we were talking I noticed how big his tummy appeared to be, and we discussed the possibility of pregnancy.

Later the cat was visiting my garden, as he does and I notice a string of mucus from his back end. My mind goes into overdrive as I've never had a cat have kittens before.

We go out to the park for my daughter's birthday (it was her birthday midweek but we are meeting some of friends at the weekend) and when I get back the cat comes charging over, mieowing his head of and shoots in my house. I decide not to shoo him out, bearing in mind our fears that he is actually a she.

She makes for under the sofa and is purring away like a tractor, and checking her rear end, then I'm aware of the rasping of cat tongue on my carpet and I decide to call my Cats Protection League contact for guidance. She doesn't answer so I leave a message during which an almighty yelp came from mum. First kitten is born at 5.40pm! I keep peeking at her to make sure she is ok, and baby is ok. I speak to CPL contact who heard that yelp on the message! Then I see her eating the placenta. I try to move them to a box taking instructions from CPL, but she is having none of it and goes back under sofa, so I take the hint. Then there is nothing for a while, apart from occasional kitten mewing and purring from mum, Then I am aware of a second baby. Next time I check her she is curled up looking proud as punch with two kittens tucked up.

Much later there's a third kitten, again I saw mum eating the placenta... this is AMAZING!!!!! And then I realise from noises coming from under my sofa that there is now a fourth kitten. And now she's finished.

She seemed so happy, the purring is intense!!! She had a looooooooooooooong pee at 4am on Sunday, and ate little portions of food I stick under her nose. I placed water beside her too.

During Sunday I ensure she always had food, which she ate ravenously. I periodically check that all the little bodies are moving and vibrant. At 7am on Monday 7th June she finally has a poo, and it's a BIG one!!!! Now I can relax that all her bodily functions seem normal. Peeing and pooing is important in childbirth so I know it's important in having kittens too :) She has been seeing to their needs beautifully in that respect, stimulating them and clearing up after them. And she's barely out of kittenhoold herself. She gave me such a beautiful leasson in instinctive birthing and parenthood, whilst the kittens show just how well they are designed to find the breast. Cats are mammals. Human Beings are mammals and we definitely need the same kind of birthing space.

On Monday night she comes out from the sofa looking for food so I take the opportunity to give her it away from the sofa. While she is eating I take each kitten, quickly inspect it and put it into a carrier, finally she is shut into it as she follows her kittens. Her owner and I take her back over to her own house and quietly settle her into the room she had previously been nesting in. She does another ENORMOUS poo,  while we quickly look at the kittens and weigh them. Three are just over 100grams and the fourth is just under and feels much slighter than it's siblings. I keep my fingers crossed it continues to thrive. We arrange for me to take a spare key so that I can go over and check she has enough food etc during the longest part of the day when the owner is out. She is so grateful I took in and looked after her cat while she was away, as although she had come to realise her cat was pregnant, despite being told it was a boy when she got her, she hadn't realised she was going to birth so soon!!

This has been the most amazing experience! I am so happy to have been able to see first hand how instinctive birthing can be if left undisturbed. I often refer to Dr Sarah Buckley's articles and now I can relate even more to what she writes: 
"All mammals seek a safe place to give birth. This “nesting” instinct may be due to an increase in levels of prolactin, which is sometimes referred to as the nesting hormone. At this stage, as you may have observed with your cat, interference which the nest -- or more importantly with the feeling of safety -- will stall the beginning of labour." 

So now I am so proud of myself for fiercely guarding her birthing space, and of that young mama cat as she listened to her instincts.

This morning I read a blog by Dr Poppy Daniels.  
"As I type, I look over at my one-week old baby zonked out in his cradle swing and am in awe at how awesome his arrival was.  Instead of having my third c-section as scheduled, I went into labor on my own (first time in 5 tries) and delivered him (precipitously in fact), one hour before I was to arrive at the hospital for my surgery......   .....Reflecting back over my journey, I see how much the field of obstetrics has managed to contribute and sometimes outright cause complications, all the while assuming they are just keeping everyone safer.  And I see how much fear has overtaken the natural birthing process."

I feel so sad as I know what she has gone through is happening all the time. It's what led me to become a Doula. However, we now have at least one more mama who knows the truth, and who hopefully will join the increasing number of birth activists who are making a difference, one birth at a time.

Update: Having guarded her space so fiercely by instructing my kids to be quiet, not allowing my daughter to play on the family Wii in the living room, not allowing our cat Humphrey to have access to the living room, and having ensured she was quietly observed periodically around the clock with her space kept darkened and enclosed, I have been apprehensive about the transition from my house back to her own house. Today I went back over to check and she is absolutely fine!!! And the kittens are still good. So far, job's a good 'un :)


  1. awwww Karen, i so love this story, very inspirational, glad all went well. Clare xx

  2. Wow what a lovely story!

  3. I am so proud of you! You are so caring.

  4. Thank you Clare, Kim and Jani xx


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