According to Dr Sarah Buckley birth is meant to be “ECSTATIC” because the hormones that drive labour and birth “take us outside (ec) our usual state (stasis), so that we can be transformed on every level as we enter motherhood.” This is the purpose of labour or as Sociologist Barbara Katz-Rothman says “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”
The hormones of labour and birth are “shy”; that is they need respectful, trusting and receptive conditions around and with-in the mother for them to flow, especially for a first time mother!
The Birth Environment
Here French Obstetrician Michel Odent explains that midwives need to promote, support and protect natural (hormone driven) childbirth because labour, and especially birth is actually meant to be an involuntary process. This means that when labour is driven by our deep primitive brain hormones, a woman does not need another person to tell her what to do, especially how and when to push the baby out (as happens in most delivery rooms around the world). In fact such directions and other common practices can slow or stop the flow of hormones, as they cause the woman to use one or all of her conscious senses (hearing, seeing, touch etc.) which cancel out her instinctual labour and birthing behaviours.
The hormones of childbirth are the same as those in sexual intercourse; which would not go well, be pleasant let alone reach climax in a public place, with strangers watching or checking and telling the lovers what to do! Thus many labours and births in hospitals; which lack privacy and familiarity, have intrusive lights, noises and clinical equipment, are difficult to either get going or maintain, as well as unbearably painful so medical intervention is often needed to ‘save’ the labour, mother, baby or all 3!
Similarly most ‘methods’ of managing or coping with labour and its pain developed before we understood what helps or interferes with the flow of the labour hormones, which includes powerful opiate (strong pain relieving) like substances. Many ‘alternative’ labouring options were part of efforts to make hospital practices more ‘natural’, kind or like home, thus men began to be ‘allowed” to rub their partners backs etc. However Dr Odent says that what a labouring woman really NEEDS is a ‘mother figure’; someone who understands birth; someone to reassure, encourage and protect her privacy; someone she feels at ease with; someone in whose presence she can confidently surrender to the unpredictable efforts of her body and baby to give birth.
Michel Odent also says that we need to rediscover this intimate, physiological way to labour and birth because it evolved as a means to optimise the health of mothers and babies, therefore it is vital to the welfare of future generations!
Books which further explain this and more are;
To be able to birth as nature intends humans like other animals need to ‘nest’, to be in an environment which is not only safe but private and undisturbed, for the labour hormones to flow effectively Until recently everyone accepted that Home is the place where this is most likely! Research and data on birth outcomes are beginning to show that homebirth with a known and experienced midwife is as safe, if not safer than being in hospital for a healthy mother and baby. The next best place to labour and birth as naturally as possible, is in a birth centre or midwife run birthing unit. This Dutch video share the experience of a homebirth as well as explains some of the issues, service approaches and outcomes for women.
Connection with the Baby from Conception Onwards
The mother is not the only one working during labour; the baby is actively striving to be born! The baby’s maturity or readiness for life outside the womb is one of the factors which initiates labour therefore it is important to wait for labour to start spontaneously. Women need to be encouraged and supported to connect with their baby or parent in pregnancy; to recognise and meet the ongoing physical and emotional needs of their young! As women connect with their baby in the womb they learn that their body works, that it can grow a baby and should be able to birth this baby when they nest; work with their baby and body in a receptive place with a few respectful and known supporters.
“What babies want “ is a documentary which explores the vital societal need and means for parents to effectively nurture their babies with love, respect and acceptance from conception onwards, to help maintain and fully develop each individual’s unique abilities! Both scientific and ancient knowledge encourages us to recognise that babies in the womb are aware of their environment and can communicate with their parents, therefore how we carry and birth them has life long implications! The need for communities to comprehensively support positive and connected mothering from conception to the first three years of each child’s life is evident as in not doing so we have unknowingly created many hurt, insensitive and disconnected individuals who often are violent or anti-social as they were not bathed in love hormones during these formative years.