Did you know the tip of the shoelace is called an aglet? That shoelaces, while used for thousands and thousands of years, were patented in 1790 by Harvey Kennedy? While we all can appreciate a great shoelace… different colors, styles and lacing techniques… what does this have to do with birth?
We cringe hearing stories about precipitous births outside the hospital, tales of passers-by offering their shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord. Yet, those stories abound.
Judy Tsu Gives Birth on Expressway: Tracy helped Judy give birth in the front seat of the car. He said he remembered a story from ABC7 News This Morning about a woman who gave birth on the side of the road and her husband used his shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord. Tracy did it, too, and he said it worked like a charm.
Orlando Woman Gives Birth in Car: The car door was open at the time and a man nearby heard the commotion and came over to help. He even offered his shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord. Then, Kimberly said, he led them to the hospital a few miles away.
Baby Born in Car Was in Bigger Rush Than Traffic: One passer-by -- "the shoelace guy" -- offered help.
"There was a guy who stopped who wanted to know if he could help," Pat Rullo said. "I was looking for a string or something to tie off the [umbilical] cord. The next thing I knew, there was a shoelace in my lap, and I never saw him again."
Baby Born in Back Seat of Chevy: The 911 operator on the other end of the line coached Jake through the post-labor procedure, instructing him to use a shoe string to tie the baby's umbilical cord.
The Sammers saved the shoelace for the baby's scrapbook, they said.
Dad Delivers Baby in Back Seat of Car: Dad wrapped up the baby in a blanket he had in the car, tied off the umbilical cord with a shoelace and called 911.
Even in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, the “white shoelaces (to tie the umbilical cord)” is recommended.
Where did this strange ritual begin? And didn’t anyone think, “Egads, how gross is that?” From 911 operators (“The dispatcher tells Martinez through the interpreter to find a string or shoelace and tie off the umbilical cord.”) to EMTs (“A shoelace commandeered from a passenger was used to tie off the umbilical cord.”), the shoelace myth comes to life.
But, what lives on those shoelaces –and what if they had been stepped on before?
-E. Coli -“The common occurrence (96%) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors."
-Klebsiella pneumonia – “Klebsiella bacteremia and sepsis produce clinical manifestations similar to those caused by other gram-negative enteric organisms. Morbidity and mortality rates are comparable to those for other gram-negative organisms that cause sepsis and septic shock. In neonatal units, outbreaks caused by ESBL-producing strains present a more serious problem and may be associated with increased mortality.
-Serratia ficaria –which causes infections in wounds
Are we gagging yet?
And people are tying these cesspools of infective agents around the pure and perfect umbilical cord? We have got to find another solution!
Should we sell umbilical clamps at the corner store? Could we teach people how to use sterile rubber bands? Could we make Lotus Birth the new must-have in fashion birthing accessories?
However we do it, I would love to see the demonization of the shoelace.
I’m asking all childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, nurses, doctors and media folks to tell people not to use a shoelace, but to leave the cord attached to the placenta! If the mom and baby are going to the hospital (a tad unnecessary at that point, but that’s my opinion), they can sterile-y cut the cord. If you’re at home, using something sterile is really important. Otherwise, leaving the baby attached to the placenta via the cord is a great way to preserve, not only the sanctity of birth, but also the cleanliness.
And don’t they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness? And who is closer to “God” than a new baby.