Hello Darkness my old friend

Posted by on Nov 8, 2015 in Writings

Hello Darkness my old friend

So the uterus, amongst all the other marvellous things it does (“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we.” – Ina May Gaskin), apparently ALSO has melatonin receptors attached to it.

These receptors work in conjunction with good ol’ oxytocin, aiding the contractions of the uterus, which dilate the cervix and, if undisturbed, will elicit a foetus ejection reflex .

Melatonin is the hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness and cannot be secreted when it is light. Which is why we need to switch off lights and screens, to fall asleep.

Seems we need darkness to go into labour too…which is probably why most labours begin at night and why most call outs for midwives are during the witching hour.

It is important that there are no bright lights around a labouring woman. Drawn curtains, candles and other dim lighting will help aid in the stimulation of oxytocin.

How do other mammals prepare for birth? They will find a quiet, dark place, far away from anyone, somewhere where they will feel safe and secure and know that they will be undisturbed.

We often forget that we humans are mammals too. We are above all of that by now aren’t we? What with all our technology and higher thinking and sophistication? But when a woman goes into labour, her body responds like every other mammal who seeks safety, comfort, protection, warmth and darkness to give birth.

A birth I attended recently, saw me arriving to a woman in labour in her bedroom. Her two year old son slept on her bed while her husband sat and watched television in the next room. The bedroom light was on, a stark, white light from a naked bulb. There was no bedside light or a dimmer light available.

I asked the father if he had any candles in the house and we made some makeshift candle holders using stainless steel cups and sand and set those up in the bedroom.

And then we turned off the lights.

It was as though the room breathed out all its tension as the room warmed with the golden glow of the flickering candle light and the mother was able to go into that mammal state that she needed to be in to birth her baby.

She had a mattress on the floor and now lay down there and began to moan softly.

Labour sped up.Ten minutes later her waters broke and five minutes after that I was handing her her daughter.

So simple…and yet so overlooked.

Isn’t it interesting the way most labour wards are still so brightly lit, and all for the convenience of the caregiver?

For what other purpose does it serve?

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