Ask a Birth Worker

Labor Of Love

In life, we are often convinced to doubt ourselves. So, it is no wonder that we find it hard to believe that we have everything we need to bring our babies Earthside. Babies have been entering into this world, through the gates of their mother’s souls, since the beginning of time. Regardless of how births unfold, they do. Babies arrive in their mother’s arms; their father’s arms; into the arms of those that love and care for them deeply.

The truth is, we are innately born with the ability to start labor, move through labor, and give birth. As humans, we are built to become deeply connected to one another. Though much of what we witness in our world today doesn’t always prove this to be true, love is at the heart of our existence. The science of it all boils down to one simple fact: the flow of hormones in our bodies drives these finely-tuned, innate processes.

As a DONA-trained birth and postpartum doula, a LAMAZE-certified childbirth educator, and a prenatal/postpartum yoga instructor, I often get asked:

“How can I best encourage, enhance and support the natural, pulsating rhythms of labor?”

I hear this question from the doting father-to-be who arrives at the Couple’s Birthing Intensive with a desire to learn how to be the best he can be in supporting his wife as they welcome their child into the world.

I hear this question from the loving partner, in awe of her wife's changing body. A partner who wants to give support while showing acknowledgement and love for this commitment to their growing family.

I hear this question from the “new doula” who just finished her formal training and is dripping with excitement to support her first family in their sacred birth experience.

I hear this question from the woman who will be by her sister’s side while she molds and grows     and forms into the new role of “mother”.

I hear this question from expecting mothers who carve out time to show up on their yoga mat for prenatal yoga. Connect with her baby, but most importantly, connecting to her hopes and desires for her impending birth.

All of these questions stem from a place of acknowledgment and recognition that the anticipation of birth can be overwhelmingly significant. It can stop us dead in our tracks. It can bring up fears and hesitations that were once long buried. It can evoke unwelcome vulnerability and uncertainties. It can open up our self-doubt unlike any other. Expectant woman or not, these sentiments are often felt in varying degrees from everyone involved in the witnessing of such a significant life transition.

Regardless of who is asking the question “how can I best encourage, enhance and support the natural, pulsating rhythms of labor” my answer is always this:

whenever possible, create an environment conducive to building oxytocin”.

Ah yes…Oxytocin.

You may have heard of it. And chances are, whether you know it or not, you’re strongly familiar with it.

Oxytocin is the hormone of love. It is the hormone of a comforting embrace; of a shared kiss; of a deep belly laugh; of a late night cuddle; of intimate sex; of the welcomed touch from a loving hand; of a gifted smile. Simply put, it is the hormone that sky-rockets when we make a connection with another human being. This super-star hormone is also the one in the driver’s seat during labor and birth.

Lamaze International states that “one of the most powerful ways we can support the normal physiology of labor and birth is to let labor begin on its own…the most compelling reason {for this} may be to allow the birth hormones to regulate labor and birth as nature intends.” By doing this, we are allowing the woman’s body to respond, hormonally, in a way that signals to her body and baby that “it’s time.” From this moment on, environmental factors have an impact on the laboring mother.

Women’s bodies are magnificent works of art and function. When trusted and given the opportunity, our bodies - capable & powerful - can do much more than expected. The rush of hormones - of oxytocin - can contract the uterus, can bond two humans together, and can even block the rest of the world out, if even for a moment.

While the body is capable of blocking out it’s surroundings, external and environmental factors can still play a role in the ability of women’s bodies to do their biggest life’s work. Much like the laboring animal retreats into its den for safety; laboring women also need a safe birthing space that enables the sacredness of the journey to unfold.

This may sound like an overwhelming task — creating an environment conducive to the manifestation of oxytocin — but it’s simple really. Laboring women need an environment where they feel love.

When an expectant woman’s partner looks me in the eyes with anxious nervousness and asks me, with quiet hesitation, “how can I possibly be what she needs in birth?”, I look at them confidently and tell them, “You already are.”

*All Photos by Danica Donnelly

Written By Sarah Bach-Bergs-Blooma Yoga Instructor, LAMAZE-Certified Childbirth Educator, DONA-Trained Birth and Postpartum Doula, Mama of two crazy boys, wife, friend, and wilderness lover.

You can learn more from Sarah at Blooma's Couples Birthing Intensive on October 29th, November 19th & December 10th