by Denise Spatafora
I believe that if you have complete knowledge that encompasses the entirety of the process, you will be able to gain both clarity and power during the birth, so that you won't focus on the pain. The rest of this book will teach you how to work with your baby, your mind, and your body, to bring your child into this world, based on your context, in the most loving and comfortable ways possible.
It is important to read this material as early as possible in your pregnancy. This way you can begin to develop a general framework for understanding the birthing process, layered with your new expectations and ideals, while always keeping your context in mind.
If you are completely comfortable with this information from the beginning of your pregnancy, not only will you fully understand your doctor's or midwife's philosophy and protocols, you will be in a better position to shape and influence your own.
Preparing yourself is exactly what it takes to powerfully deal with any new situation. Reading this material and understanding the process your body is meant to go through encompasses most of what you will need to have a satisfying birthing experience. You have done most of the necessary work to have the birth you want. Your knowledge of how the body works will inherently lead you to create the right conversations, align your intentions with your team, continue to live within your context, and, most of all, realize that you can trust yourself.
Understanding your mind-body connection and how you can effect and utilize it during birth is a very important element of embracing trust. You will find trust when you know you have done your best and feel that you are capable and ready. This chapter will explain how your thoughts can direct the release of chemicals within your body that affect you every day, and specifically during childbirth. The more you can understand, visualize, and even feel this amazing connection, the greater your mastery will be, not only for this birth but for the rest of your life.
Before we review the physical stages of labor, let's talk about where birthing really begins. Your internal medicine chest contains the chemicals or the hormones that your body naturally produces, taking its directions from the brain. There are three important hormone groups for birthing: endorphins (the pleasure hormones), oxytocin (the love hormone), and prolactin (the mothering hormone). There are also hormones that can work against you, such as the catecholamines (stress or excitement hormones such as adrenaline, which includes epinephrine and norepinephrine). Each of these hormone groups is always present in the body, not only during labor. The trick to having a more comfortable birth is, first, understanding what triggers their release and, second, being able to control when they are released and in what quantities.
The powerful mind-body connection allows you to be in command of your internal medicine chest and to release more or less of each chemical as you need it. Your mental state can easily affect their availability and effectiveness during labor. By learning how to manage your thoughts, concerns, and fears, you can control these chemicals and use them to your advantage. You can then practice releasing these chemicals by doing the exercises in the toolbox. Doing so will make you familiar with mastering the mind-body state so that you can control what chemicals are released during childbirth. At that time, you will need to reach a point where you are "thinking less" (meaning less worrying or stressing) and "feeling more" (being completely connected with your mind and body).
During the beginning of the birthing process, the most active part of the body is the primitive part of the brain (the limbic area). This area releases the hormones that will allow your uterine muscles to respond: to open and help move the baby down and out. This intuitive part of the brain also controls your emotional responses. For example, the ability to stay calm and relaxed actually slows your brain waves into what is called an alpha state, in which it is virtually impossible to release adrenaline.