Oxytocin: My Drug of Choice
I was recently called to attend the home birth of a mother having her 2nd baby (1st home birth) to assist my midwife colleague. I’d never met the woman before and respectfully kept my distance in the background until I could introduce myself (she had been informed that I would be attending beforehand)
Her daughter and husband spent the labour in the residence next door where her in-laws lived so for the most part it was just the labouring woman, her midwife & I in her one bedroom apartment.
Her labour ebbed and flowed and she spent most of her time standing in the shower so that the water could cascade off her back. Whenever she became too hot, she’d exit the shower and adopt an all fours position on her bed, where I could massage her lower back with special oils. She started feeling sensations of pressure and we encouraged her to labour sitting on the toilet. (Women are often less inhibited and more able to “bear down” when sitting on the toilet as this is a familiar place to do that)
There were times when her midwife and I would “leave her be” chatting to each other trying to catch up on our respective lives and sipping on coffee to help stay awake.
We’d take turns popping our heads into the en suite to offer encouragement and listen to the foetal heart.
On one of these occasions, she was labouring on the loo and as I entered, her eyes sought mine out and she locked me in her gaze…..
Her body swayed side to side her head lulled left to right but her gaze never left mine.
Her eyes showed a woman surrendering to her surges, facing her fears and coming into her power. Her body laboured hard and strong and I sensed that her soul was searching mine for affirmation….Yes, your surges are strong…as are you. Yes, these sensations are scary, but I am here for you, I believe in you. Yes, you are indeed a powerful woman!
I have experienced this moment in a handful of other births….They are so incredibly powerful that I have known instantly that this woman and I have forever been connected to each other. My sense is that she has given me knowledge about birth I will forever cherish and draw on in future labours and in that same moment I have shared with her the wisdom of all the other women who’ve birthed before her.
The experience of oxytocin exchange is so tangible at that moment that it is soon followed with strong birthing sensations and the imminent arrival of an alert and responsive infant.
I am often surprised by how long the effects of that oxytocin exchange can be felt after the birth. I recall one woman who experienced a her 1st natural birth after having 2 cesarean births – a truly triumphant moment for her – telling me a few hours after the birth “I feel like need to say I love you!” I am humbled and feel the same….
The mere mention of another woman with whom I’ve shared this experience brings back flashbacks of her birth…..
She had told me, before the birth, that she had envisioned my role as being her physical support, holding her, possibly being in the birth pool with her. She also imagined being blindfolded to be fully engaged in the sensations of her birth. Instead what transpired was that her husband lovingly supported her in the pool and being that I was seated across from her, she caught my gaze….In that moment I cannot be anywhere else, I cannot allow my mind to drift, I cannot do anything but be fully present for her until she finds what she needs. Once again the gazing was followed by one of the most exquisite births I have ever been witness to. I have such a deep connection to this mother in a way that cannot be explained…it is a beyond what we can comprehend.
When a woman births her baby without intervention and in the absence of drugs and fear, she will release the largest dose of oxytocin ever!
I experienced it 1st hand after the birth of my 1st child and have been in search of that exact high ever since.
It is so indescribable and powerful, I wish I could bottle it and share it with the world.
How high and loving we’d all be…..