Monday, February 16, 2009

Still high

What could be better than gathering with 50 fellow "birth junkies" in a 3-day birth-binge? Oh my. The doula training was awesome.

I tell you what... the oxytocin in that room was palpable. In part because of 5 or 6 breastfeeding mommas with their babes. Compound that with the massages and comfort-measures we were practicing. (Massage and loving touch promote the release of oxytocin.) And then the 6 or 7 birth and breastfeeding movies we watched. I think, in fact, that watching a birth (particularly when physically present) can promote the release of oxytocin. But that's just my theory based on some interesting tidbits from this weekend...

1) The Zone
Our doula trainer, Mary, talked about the way a pregnant woman's hormones can affect those around her. For instance, Mary told us about a study showing that men sharing a home with a woman in late pregnancy will experience a reduction in their testosterone levels. I suppose it's nature's way of preparing the male for fatherhood--promoting less aggression and more sensitivity and decreasing his libido in preparation for his wife's postpartum recovery period. Then Mary discussed how there can be a chemical chain reaction at birth. The people surrounding the laboring woman can enter into a kind of "zone" in which their bodies start producing hormones in response to the laboring woman's hormones. A woman in labor is radiating oxytocin like nothing else. And I think the people around her--if in-tune with her through their consistent presence--will also experience a surge in their own oxytocin levels. It makes complete sense. Of course God would prepare such a chain reaction... He knows the laboring woman needs the people around her to be supportive and nurturing--exactly what their elevated oxytocin levels will promote.

2) The Tears
If you know me well, you know that I'm not a crier. I once told my husband there are really only two things that will get me to cry. The first is emotional agony, the second is God. And I think God touches us quite often through our own body's chemical impulses. God is LOVE. Oxytocin is the hormone of love. I was brought to tears with just about every birth we watched this past weekend. Here are people I've never met giving birth to children I've never met, and I can't help myself... I cry every time I see those babies birthed and brought into their mothers' and fathers' arms. During one video, the combination of the music and the images of women being supported in labor had me wiping away fat tears streaming down my face. I'm convinced that you don't even have to be physically present with the laboring woman to experience an oxytocin rush in reaction to her labor/birth.

I think my oxytocin levels may have even gone a little too high, actually. It didn't even occur to me until after I got home last night that oxytocin may have been responsible for the excessive number of braxton-hicks contractions I experienced during the training. I know, from past experience, that I often have more frequent and intense braxton-hicks contractions following oxytocin-producing activities (use your imagination). Those contractions came over and over and over all weekend. Some of them were quite intense... almost painful. And I thought more than once that if I was going to go into pre-term labor, there couldn't have been a better time/place--at a hospital with doulas and a midwife present in the room! Thank goodness my baby is still safe inside though.

With the bonding hormone so plentiful, it's no surprise I formed friendships over the weekend. I sat next to these lovely ladies on Saturday and Sunday...That's Jessica and Cassie. It was so fun spending the weekend with them and holding Cassie's cute baby boy. And I'm thrilled that they have both offered to be my doulas. Plus Cassie's a photographer and said she'd take photos at the birth for us too! :-) I look forward to laboring and birthing my baby surrounded by loving, supportive women as well as my fabulous husband too.

Here I am with our doula trainer, Mary, after I got my certificate for completing the training workshop...Yay! Now on to fulfill the other certification requirements...

But, in the meantime, I'm doing some serious nesting. All of a sudden I've got the urge to clean and organize the entire house and purchase everything we will need for the birth and have it all gathered and ready. In fact, I spent several hours this morning cleaning my bedroom (one of the rooms I plan to labor and possibly deliver in), putting away baby clothes, vacuuming, and starting a birthing playlist in iTunes. I've never nested so literally before... I'm actually preparing the place where my child will be born. Cool!

Stay tuned for posts with tips and tidbits from the doula training workshop!


Cassie said...

I couldn't help but cry at a few of those birth videos and I'm not even pregnant.

I think the "zone" is... so true. When I attend a birth, I feel so high and elevated and happy. I almost feel as if I have given birth myself. It's amazing.

Liz Johnson said...

I AM SO EXCITED for my doula workshop!!!! Mine's in August (a little ways away, but still!) and I can't wait. I'm so glad you got to do this!

Fig said...


I am currently on the oxytocin section in "Pushed" and have been totally amazed by what I've learned. Oxytocin is present in women AND men, and released during orgasm, ejaculation, breastfeeding, and labor (obviously), but also during moments of emotional connection and pleasure. Also, it's a "smart" hormone - released in waves during pregnancy to give mom and baby time to breathe and regroup between contractions, building in intensity until the final pushing ... You already know all that, but I love reading about it and talking about it.


Buscando la Luz said...

You signed up for a doula training, Liz?! Awesome!!

Fig- I'm in love with oxytocin!! Isn't it the COOLEST ever? You should check out the Hug the Monkey blog. It's written by a woman who's writing a book about oxytocin, so she shares cool research in her posts. Her book is already on actually. Click here:

And here's Hug the Monkey:

Fig said...

I'm loving Hug the Monkey!

The Winn's said...

The next time I have a baby, I may ask for some help!

Buscando la Luz said...

Awesome, Katie! You won't regret it! :-)

Sarah H said...

Oh I cried so much during my doula workshop too! THe birth videos were so beautiful, and I went through a lot of emotions and I think I did some emotional healing from my c-sections.