Oxytocin and the dark night
I don't really know if this is a blog or a story...but it's my musings post birth on a night bus...
So basically my whole life I’ve been scared of the dark. Not in a dramatic way but in a things go bump in the night kind of way. Darkness means things are quieter, stiller, unseen, mysterious, more lonely and let’s face it the imagination loves the dark just like the movies do.
Then I became a doula and things changed. Birth needs the dark. Birth loves the dark. Oxytocin, the shy hormone of labour, the hormone that needs privacy and a no one is watching feeling, can’t get enough. Why do you think so many labours happen at night?
Oxytocin is like a voyeur. Watching everyone else from a distance, checking who is paying too much attention, who is around, is it safe, are things relaxed, oh wait, maybe I need to back off...
So yes as a doula, I get called out at night. I travel at night and work through the night. And it’s become such a magical time. I always think while everyone is sleeping, I’m tiptoeing off to a birth where something truly amazing is about to happen.
Some labours are through the daytime of course and sometimes contractions just stop in the day. A woman may have laboured well all night and then the oxytocin isn’t up for the daylight so things go quiet again. Sometimes it keeps going if the same feelings of privacy and unobtrusiveness are upheld.
Travelling in cars or Ubers, hiding in the back seat, everyone’s eyes forward, not watching, not waiting.
The contractions suddenly grow and build and deepen, oxytocin is flowing and now nothing will slow it down. Mum has now created her own darkness. Her eyes closed, her focus inward, her mind quiet and her heart is busy. Busy concentrating, busy bringing her baby down.
Then I feel that surge of energy just before a baby is born. I feel the room change and I feel it in my body. Maybe there is just so much oxytocin in the room, it’s changed the air?
And then soon after, baby is here, baby is bringing their very own oxytocin with them. And for sure, love is in the air.
So how do we protect our oxytocin?
This all goes back to the days where babies were delivered in caves, away from predators. Our bodies will protect us if it feels unsafe. Our biology is still the same, but our environment is now completely different. Our minds are busier than ever and can create 'predators'. So what can help our oxytocin feel confident?
- Privacy - why so many women find corners of their homes to labour in, a small bedroom, bathroom, a quiet corner of a room, a dark toilet cubicle in hospital, not having too many people around, having alone time, feeling unobserved, keeping her attendants busy unless they're needed
- Darkness - lights off, lights dim, eye masks, eyes closed...
- Quiet/elevator music - too much talking is distracting in established labour as is music with lyrics, a good instrumental track is best if you want something on in the background and I find music can take attention from the mother and help her relax in a room of people
- Safety - knowing the physiology of birth, knowing it's your healthy pain, it's big but it's you, you're safe in your bodily sensations and trusting your body. Is your environment making you feel safe? Change what you can - the room, the noises, the people, the lighting...
- Calm - breathe work, hypnobirthing, massage, oils, baths, affirmations...