It is neither a lofty degree of intelligence, nor imagination, nor both together that go into the making of genius. Love, love, love. That is the soul of genius. ~ Mozart
I recently wrote a post called Trust Love where I made a vow to never judge a woman’s birth, or tell her to Trust Birth, but rather to uncover and know the mysteries of love.
It’s Valentine’s Day and I thought this might be a good time to check in with my heart and ask it, What do I know so far on this journey of knowing and trusting love, of letting the Soft Animal of my body love what it loves, of helping mothers, families and midwives who want access to their instinctual selves despite our culture of birth (and death) fear?
And it hit me
Everything I’ve learned about the power of love in birth, mothering and midwifery applies to every threshold we cross.
If you’re a mother, then you know the visceral craving for love, and its demand on you. It is the thing you need in order to really care for your children and embrace motherhood. And yet, it can be hard to lay one’s finger on it and articulate exactly what it is one needs so desperately, to know what to concretely ask for or offer.
If you’re a midwife you know that natural oxytocin is the hormone responsible for smooth effective and ecstatic labor. It is the hormone that prevents complications. We are told that oxytocin is a very special hormone, the molecule of love.
But what exactly does that mean?
And how can we bring the power of this natural force into all the liminal spaces of our lives, trusting love to carry us through and weaving rituals that strengthen, renew and prepare us for the birth of our life’s next chapters?
If we are to recover our ancestral knowing of birth and motherhood, of natural oxytocin, we as women, mothers, and midwives, need to make the knowing, and understanding of LOVE, the very center of our spiritual and midwifery practice.
Here is my first shot at articulating a concrete list of love in practice. It is not exhaustive, but it is based on my training in traditional midwifery and experience working with undisturbed and unassisted birth, home funerals, baby blessings, resolving trauma, and recovering living mother-centered ceremony in the indegina project. These practices can get us in touch with the power of love as we accompany each other through birth, death, and all of life’s profound transitions in between.
Here is what I have found to increase natural Oxytocin:
- TEA: Time Energy and Attention. This is a key ingredient in Whapio, of The Matrona’s, recipe for a safe and undisturbed birth. Spend time together. It sounds simple, but it is often relegated to an after thought in busy modern life. If you can’t find enough time to really know and bond with the people you’re crossing this threshold with, you might consider reconfiguring your schedule so you can really spend a spacious amount of time with them and take advantage of increased natural oxytocin.
- Breaking Bread Together: Prepare and enjoy food together. Eating together is a social event that initiates the production of, you named it, natural oxytocin. Do not underestimate the power of prenatal yumminess to prevent complications an facilitate more meaningful, connected transitions.
- Play: Laughter and play are powerful healing agents. Watch funny movies. Seek out comedies that make you swoon and keel over in tears. Tickle each other. Normalize silliness.
- The 5 senses: Touch, Smell, Taste, Hearing, Seeing are all related to the social nervous system and the release of oxytocin. A small kiss on the cheek, a wink, a poem, a special scent or nostalgic meal are all examples. Be creative with sensuous pleasure, the special and the mundane.
- Slaughter: This one may seem very strange, but apparently one of the key things that is different between ours and traditional cultures who had access to their instinctual Soft Animal selves is the presence, and witnessing, of animal slaughter. I have noticed that witnessing animal slaughter inspires a reverence and awareness of the sacred cycle of life and death. Pretty sure that is an oxytocin rush similar to prayer.
- Brief Frequent Eye Contact: This one I got from a workshop I did with Ray Castellino. This is neither deep eye gazing nor split second eye contact avoidance. It is a simple and profound remembering to check in visually with your family and community, briefly, but frequently. Try it, it will amaze you!
- Knowing Self: This is something I have recently gotten serious about in my practice. I now spend time with each new client tracing the spirals of their lives in 7 year cycles. In lieu of a medical or birth history intake form, I initiate a pretty long conversation about family biographies and physically trace them out large and in color. I am also always in the process of tracing and integrating my own biography so that I continue the process of self-actualization, a big natural oxytocin booster.
- Truth telling & Tears: This one is important and largely overlooked in favor of the obviously feel good variations of love. I have found in my work with Healing Birth Trauma that the biggest opportunities always lie within the largest obstacles, deepest wounds and truest realities of pain and suffering. The pressure of perfection creates a silence that only serves to divide communities. Speak the truth about the Pain, Intensity, and Struggle of life. Being vulnerable allows others to open up in safety. Only then can we get to the jewels hidden in the depths. Trust me they are there. The connection that follows is a sure way to increase oxytocin.
- Prayer: Connecting to the Divine, or however you describe the Sacred Otherness of Being is also a good way to increase the experience of love and oxytocin.
- EAT FAT: Last but certainly not least, Fat in Sanskrit, Sneha, literally means Lavish Love. Traditional people were very careful about providing enough fat for fertility and healthy reproduction. Not only for healthy bones and sufficient nutrient stores, Fat actually contributes chemically to our sense of happiness and love. In other words eat cream, feed your loved ones butter, and birth will be better.
These are 10 kinds of love I have discovered so far. Or at least these are the ones coming to me here and now on this Valentine’s Eve. Do you know more? Share them in the comments.