You probably remember that anti-drug commercial from the 90's that showed an egg being cracked into a sizzling-hot frying pan while a narrator soberly reported that “This is your brain… This is your brain on drugs.” It was a startling visual that demonstrated the profound affect drugs can have on our most important and sensitive organ. In the case of synthetic, recreational drugs, the impact is potentially deadly, thus the need for public service announcements that seek to inform people about the risks of chemically tampering with our brains.
I have learned from studying the work of pioneers in the natural birth movement, particularly Dr. Michel Odent of Primal Health Research, that our brains do complex things when we give birth, including secreting natural mind-altering drugs. Birth—the literal act of laboring and bringing a baby from womb to world—is an instinctive, old-brain process, perfected over eons. Women do not need to be taught HOW to give birth because the knowledge is born within every woman as her exquisitely intelligent brain coordinates the release of hormones--natural drugs such as oxytocin and prolactin-- that control the physical process of birth and create a mind-state of pure, intuitive KNOWING. It's quite a trip!
When labor and birth occur in an environment where the mother feels safe and undisturbed, the brain floods the body with hormones and endorphins that frame the involuntary physical process of birthing within feelings of ecstasy, bliss, and a profound sense of connection to the collective ancient wisdom of woman-kind. This is partly what makes instinctive birth such a profoundly spiritual rite of passage. It causes the mother to enter a sacred space of "oceanic oneness" (as Dr. Odent calls it) as her new-brain quiets and she becomes fully present in the moment. She may experience a keen sense of her own unity with God/dess and find herself floating in a blissful state similar to what yogis describe as “enlightenment.” When a woman is in labor, Oxytocin, the hormone of love, floods her entire system so that she is primed to fall deeply, madly, irreversibly in love with her baby. This is nature’s strategy for ensuring the mother’s protection of the helpless neonate into adulthood. Endorphins, the body’s natural pain relieving system of opiates, also flood the mother’s body when she is undisturbed, so that her perception of pain is greatly reduced or even eliminated and she walks away from birth feeling empowered and awed by her own strength.
The problem is that, as a culture, we have learned to fear birth. We have indoctrinated ourselves with the expectation that things WILL go wrong. This has caused our culture to develop strategies for managing and controlling the birth process to make it “safer”. Unfortunately, most modern birth practices stimulate the mother’s neo-cortex (new brain) and thwart the activities of the old brain, which cuts the mother off from her intuition and makes birth more painful and more likely to become pathological. When birth is tampered with and the mother’s instincts about her own baby and body are removed, she becomes dependent on external guidance and, possibly, rescue. We create our own reality.
Our culture mistakenly believes that birth is something a woman does with her reproductive organs only. But birth really happens, first and foremost, in another organ entirely: the brain. If we know how the brain works during birth and if we birth in integrity with the truth of our brains, the reproductive organs will almost always do their work without trauma or fuss. All we need to do is stay out of the way. Imagine a public service announcement that informed people of the need not to tamper with the brain during labor and birth. Instead of a frying egg, it might show a lotus blossom softly opening, and the narrator's voice would whisper: This is your brain… This is your brain on Birth...Let it be.
The Scientification of Love, by Dr. Michel Odent
Birthing In The Spirit, by Cathy Daub
Beautiful, Bountiful, Blissful, By Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa