In his book The Scientification of Love, Michel Odent speaks passionately of oxytocin, the hormone of love. He explains how a birthing woman must release a cocktail of hormones, including oxytocin, endorphins, prolactin, ACTH, catecholomines, etc. Having witnessed many, many times the miracle of pregnancy unfolding into labor and then the astounding advent of a child into the light of our world, I have developed a profound appreciation for oxytocin. The Primal Health Institute’s compilation of research has given me the insight into how experiences that cause us to release oxytocin permanently enrich our ability to give and receive love.
When people sit down to a meal as a family, hold hands, kiss, go for a walk arm-in-arm, make love, pray and yes, when women give birth, oxytocin is released.
Each opportunity to experience oxytocin creates receptors, molecules of proteins that on a cellular level are binding sites for this hormone of love. In other words love lays the foundation for more love. Practice makes perfect. And the love hormone is monogamous: In our bodies it looks for and binds with only its own receptors. This explains the profound and permanent transformation from expectant woman into motherhood.
While laboring and giving birth, a woman’s body is flooded with oxytocin, making such a wealth of oxytocin receptors that her capacity to love increases exponentially. Women throughout history have been astounded to find that after having a baby they can and do love everyone more profoundly. This is nothing short of a rebirth. Often new mothers tell me how much more they feel appreciation for life itself. For the postpartum woman, colors seem brighter as their eyes feel more open. Food can taste better. Soft music may sound more soothing. The postpartum woman’s heart can be so open that she cries easily. A mere smile can inspire tears of gratitude. She is also so sensitive that we must protect her tender and true emotions.
Midwives, being the guardians of gentle birth, are the protectors of women’s most significant oxytocin experience. Midwives are the champions of love. Let us also remember to protect the beautiful spiritual bubble that surrounds the newly postpartum woman. New mothers need meaningful, caring contact with their birth attendants. They are tender and extremely open to giving and receiving love. I so enjoy postpartum visits. I know in my heart that they benefit the new mother and her family. What is additionally wonderful is how nourished I feel after spending time with my postpartum mothers.
In the long term, midwives must be open to loving the women they have helped. Childbirth being one’s most significant life passage, those close to us when we open to birth a baby will never be forgotten.
I have long said, “A woman is pregnant for nine months, she is postpartum for the rest of her life.” The biochemical truth of this is good news for the healing of our planet. Postpartum women are a gentle and essential force of nature. They are full of love, and there can never be too much love.
— Robin Lim excerpted from “Postpartum: Rebirth of the Woman”