Labor, Sweet Labor by Dale Bernucca
I am in the presence of a laboring
woman. She has labored at home
until she experienced signs that told her personally that she was ready to go to
her birthplace, our local birth center. When
we arrived she immediately asked to have the birth tub filled.
She paced, eyes closed, hands under her belly.
The tub was readied and she sank in
gloriously and unabashedly cooing at the joy of feeling weightless and warm and
safe. Her partner and the midwives
stepped in and out. I had no need
to step out yet and had not asked her if I could do so.
I sat with her and laid my forehead on the side of the tub watching her
face for signs of needing more from me.
Eventually I did need to step out for
a stretching of my legs. After four
days of insistent prodromal labor her partner had finally fallen asleep in the
bedroom next door…hoping to catch a little rest and be able to fully enjoy his
child’s entrance into the world. Confident
that his wife was in very good hands – and we happy to be so charged –
assured him that sleep was a good idea for him.
He had been his wife’s sole support until she had asked for me early
When I stepped back into the enclosed
bathroom in which the birth tub was located my senses were overwhelmed by the
smell of birth. Only on very few
occasions in my life could I say that a feeling, a sense, was truly palpable. Perhaps it was the warmth and humidity of that bathroom that
enhanced the smell.
Laboring and lactating women release
different hormones throughout birth. One
particular hormone is oxytocin. It
is a powerful hormone that released without interference and working in
conjunction with other hormones is literally responsible for that good, awaited
active labor. The dynamic of all
these hormones is the ‘synergistic blend’ of labor!
Scientists have long examined this
particular hormone, oxytocin and how it affects women and babies.
What they had not stated yet is something we who are exposed to laboring
and new mothers have noted for a very long time: everyone in a naturally
laboring mother’s environment is affected by this hormone.
It can be detected by our olfactory system even in the minutest amount.
You may have heard of how babies are blissful and happy as a drunken
sailor when they are nursing at mother’s breast.
That’s oxytocin, the “love hormone” as it was called by the late
Dr. Niles Newton, professor of behavioral sciences at Northwestern University
(The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Sixth Edition).