Ask a family to tell you about the day they had their baby. Sit with them and have a cup of tea and listen to their story unfold. Their story is unique, universal, and their story is encoded in memory in such fine detail, that you will marvel at how they can remember so much of those hours of their lives. Why do families remember their birthing days so exactly? What impact do these stories have on people’s lives? Does it matter? Should we care? Can we do something to create the story so that when we re-tell it a thousand times, it will always make us feel like it was a good story?
Your body was created biologically to do things that help us move through this life. We are a combination of physical characteristics, emotional layers, cultural and spiritual practices and environmental factors. We have control of some of these but not all. Most of our bodies are hard wired to find food, seek shelter and warmth and eliminate waste. We learn to enjoy love, and kindness, and feel good when we are cared about and when we are able to sacrifice a little for others. We have a a sense of taste, smell, touch, sound, pain, pressure. We feel sadness and joy and ambivalence and boredom. We work hard and love rewards. We are a chemical cocktail that is mostly good, and sometimes frustrating. We are the moon, full and bright sometimes, and almost dark sometimes. We wax and wane until our closets are full.
Our brains are so complex, ideas and thoughts sparking pathways, the ability to think, organize, and ponder ourselves and our environment happening simultaneously while directing our bodies systems to do some functions automatically. All of this going on with little chemical bursts that trigger physical symptoms and emotional responses.
Two of these triggers are chemicals called adrenalin and oxytocin. These chemicals work to ‘turn us on’. They tell our senses to be on high alert because something is happening that we need to remember. Adrenaline is used for fight or flight, sometimes excitement and always fear. It helps our brains to remember a scary situation, as a way of warning us of danger or trouble. It is the skin crawling, spine tingling chemical. Adrenaline helps us remember the bad/scary/fearful experiences.
Oxytocin has been called the love hormone. It is present when we fall in love, share intimacy, experience labor, deliver our babies, hold them and breastfeed them. It is the chemical that gives us goose bumps, and butterflies and warm and fuzzy feelings and counterbalances all those other hormones. It makes us feel happy and loved, but most importantly, it inspires us to love. Oxytocin is responsible for creating memories. Such strong memories that most of us can still remember our first kiss, right down to the little details of what we were wearing, how he/she smelled, what we ate that night, the season of the year. Those details are etched into our brains by oxytocin.
That is why oxytocin is so important in childbirth. Not only does it stimulate labor contractions, it prepares our brains to fall in love with our babies, our partners, and sometimes our care givers, midwives, nurses/doctors. I have heard many a woman exclaim “I love my midwife/nurse/doctor”. Why do they feel that way about someone they know extremely little about? It’s because of yup… oxytocin. Present in huge amounts during that moment when baby’s are born. It is there to assist you to fall in love with that wiggling pink, wet pooping, crying creature that just exited your body and now is completely dependent on you for its life. Coincidentally, your body’s oxytocin passes through to your baby during labor to help your baby fall in love with you.
This little bit of information may help give you an understanding of why home birth midwives do what we do. We believe that the best way to create the best environment to encourage the love hormones to flow is in the privacy of your own home, surrounded by your own people. We believe that if you choose to have a trained attendant standing by, (sitting, or knitting is okay too!), that maybe, when your birth becomes a story, it will be one that you love to tell. A story of growth, strength, power, but most of all, it will be your love story for you and your baby and family.
We understand that there are limitations, we know that it’s not right for every woman or baby, but we believe that it could be right for most. We believe that all women deserve midwifery care, can benefit greatly from the education, compassion, one to one time, and skills that a midwife brings. Your story is so important to us because your story becomes part of our story and as we weave our stories together, we develop the strength that is necessary to raise families and communities. Go find your midwife. Every woman should have one. Get started on your story. Make a little herstory.
Marlene Smith LM, CPM
One Heart Midwifery Care