Birth, Intimacy and Connection
I believe that the industrialised world we inhabit carries with it a strong taste of disassociation which we have become numb to. Our food is grown, packed and prepared by people we will never meet, our clothes are made by people we will never see, our children are educated by people we don’t really know, and over several generations we have been conditioned into accepting this as our way of life. The reality is that, as modern people, we actually need to work at creating community and ‘intimacy’ amongst ourselves, through family relationships, partnerships, friendships, and beyond.
It is this quality of ‘intimacy’ that takes on greater meaning during pregnancy and later in motherhood. We participate in creating a new life and with this comes emotionality through our hormonal changes. And at some level we become more open to life, while at another level we might feel more vulnerable to any lack of warmth or humanity around us.
The process of pregnancy, birth and particularly early motherhood requires extraordinary levels of selflessness and surrender at certain times. This is why women can benefit so much from connecting with other mothers and expressing the truth of our hearts, or exploring the deeper nature of our personal experience. Without this sense of community and loving support it can be an arduous journey.
But ‘intimacy’ goes even further into our maternal chemistry in birth. It is an essential factor in supporting a woman’s secretion of oxytocin during labour. Oxytocin is called the ‘love hormone’ as it is produced through love-making, relaxation and joyful experiences as well as birthing. As Sarah Buckley so succinctly puts it “if you need to speed up labour, orgasms can be very helpful!” But if a woman is stressed by environmental or other factors, this hormone – that actually makes the womb contract in labour – is reduced, thus slowing everything down.
Along with prolactin, oxytocin also plays an important part in production of breast-milk and breastfeeding. As I see it there is an obvious link here between breastfeeding and post-natal well-being for both mother and child. The very intimacy that can bring us such deep happiness in life with its love-hormone, is found in the act of feeding our babies in this way, in being skin to skin and in relaxing. Not only do we take time to sit or lie down, to bond with our little ones, but we also experience waves of oxytocin flowing through us and bringing us a feeling of absolute wellness. And so do they.
The other challenge for modern women that I feel can contribute to complications with the menses, with fertility, pregnancy, birth and motherhood; and that is the holding of inner stress. In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, we can and do experience stress in many different ways. It is partly the impact of environmental stress on women that can affect our physiology and disturb our inner rhythms. But there are also other forms of stress involved: those of the inner heart-mind relationship that governs our perception of ourselves in the world, of our past and our future potential.
Inner psycho-emotional stress can take many forms and can originate from traumatic events that happened in our distant past. If a woman outwardly seems fairly happy and sociable but inwardly she is coping with dynamics that keep her in a place of emotional tension or suppression, then no matter how ‘well’ she may appear, she is at some level experiencing inner-stress.
Sometimes we may not be consciously aware of the extent to which we are immersed in our inner- dynamics, these ‘stories’ or shadows that play out within us, preventing us from feeling deeply positive about ourselves or about life. But I sense, with heartfelt compassion, that this paragraph describes a lot of women at some phase of life or another, including myself.
Thanks to Michel Odent’s Primal Health Institute, and also the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, UK there has now been extensive research made into the emotional well-being of the mother in pregnancy and the far-reaching, impact this can have on our children. I believe that the healing work we are able to do in pregnancy, will not only ease our experience of labour and birth, but will also support us greatly on the rugged and breath-taking ascent of motherhood ahead.
This work of personal transformation during pregnancy is potent, and there are many tools available to help us cultivate inner awareness and self-love on our way. Creating a new and positive shift of consciousness around pregnancy, birth and parenthood is essential to our well-being, to the well-being of our children and to the Earth itself, but I believe it requires that we look into ourselves, and go deeper.