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All We Need Is...Oxytocin

The impending birth experience is on the horizon for me and true to my nature, I dove right in to learn as much as possible. I have read through a plethora of books, listened to a few podcasts, sat through guided meditations, and completed a series of birth classes in hopes of grasping the faintest idea of what is going to happen. One thought that I have had is, we should all be preparing for birth! There are some juicy life lessons here! Hear me out.

In birth prep material, there is a common lesson that oxytocin, "the love hormone", allows labor to unfold and progress. Cortisol and adrenaline slows labor down. In the wild, animals that do not feel safe in their environment will stop their labor altogether until they are in better place. I remember our family cat birthing her kittens under my brother's bed where it was dark, cozy, and protected. With birthing people, if the surroundings and everyone in it are not ideal for them, labor will be a struggle. In hopes for the best birth experience possible, it is advised to get your head out of the way in order to let your body do what it knows to do. It reminded me of this cascade...

A thought or feeling is created--> Specific hormones are released, depending on the kind of thought or feeling --> Neurological, vascular, visceral, and muscular reactions ensue

Let's say the thought or feeling is something that is perceived as threatening. In this case, cortisol and adrenaline are some of the many hormones that are released. Some of us are "flight or fight" reactors and others are "freezers". According to the Polyvagal Theory, we don't get to choose which one we happen to be. In summary, depending on the type of hormones that are released, our body will make changes such as altering what parts of our body get blood flow and which parts get less. Certain neural pathways will fire like crazy and others will slow down. Some muscles get tense (have high tone) and other muscles become floppy (low tone). Tissue repair is put on the back burner. Sphincters (think reproductive organs and the G.I. tract) may close.

I get it. Many of you are not actually preparing for child birth. But what if instead of child birth, we think of it as the unfolding of our highest, most thriving self? The preparation tips for child birth are not so distant for what is helpful for life. Think about your environment. Does it feel safe and comfortable? What about the people you interact with most? What about the narratives you tell yourself; are they compassionate? Dr. Rick Hanson beautifully said on his Being Well podcast that self compassion means advocating for our own needs. Are you your best advocate? When the going gets tough, what resources can you use to see you through? Do you allow your body to move? Do you fuel yourself with nutritious food? Do you allow yourself to rest when you're tried? Do you realize that everything is temporary?

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