I’ve been reading like nobody’s business, but unfortunately I haven’t had much time to update my blog.
One book that I read this month is Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf.Â It was the monthly selection for the Unassisted Childbirth Reading Room. The reading room is one of many sponsored by AAMI, and I really enjoy them.Â I haven’t agreed with every word in every book that I’ve read, but that makes me appreciate the reading rooms even moreÂ
Naomi Wolf writes this book from a very particular viewpoint: a feminist who is experiencing the world of motherhood for the first time.Â As someone who had my first baby pretty early in life, I really enjoyed reading her perspective.Â I find that these kinds of books really help me to understand where women in different circumstances may be coming from, and I love that.Â I’d much rather be initially exposed to these views in the “safety” of a book, where I’m not going to put my foot in my mouth, LOL.
So, although this book focuses on the things that our society tends to hide about motherhood, there is actually a really good amount of science in it as well. One section that I particularly enjoyed talked about some of the things that we don’t understand that babies in the womb feel.Â Here’s one great quote.
Dr. Michael Lieberman’s research possibly showed that a fetus might react in an associative way to mothers who smoke: measured by accelerated heartbeats, the fetus grew agitated when its mother reported she had considered having a cigarette, before the mother had even lit a match.Â The authors hypothesize that the fetus learns to react this way because maternal smoking is so unpleasant to it — causing a drop in the oxygen supply in the blood passing through the placenta — that the fetus learns to associate the mother’s smoking with heightened distress.Â How it registers agitation when the mother merely anticipates lighting a cigarette, even before the inhaled smoke has affected her bloodstream, is anyone’s spooky guess.
Isn’t that crazy?Â I remember reading years ago about a study where breastfed and formula-fed babies and their moms were put in separate buildings.Â The moms were exposed to negative stimuli that would create stress.Â The breastfed babies reacted and cried (from the other building) when the moms were under stress, but the formula-fed babies did not.Â They couldn’t figure out why, but it is fascinating to think that there could be (or is?) a connection on a higher level that we just can’t explain.
A lot of my other reading has been on brain chemistry stuff, especially as it relates to medications in childbirth, but also just the normal brain chemistry changes that happen during pregnancy.Â I was excited to see that this book touched on the same subject.Â I especially liked her lengthy discussion on hormones during pregnancy that make us act decidedly more “feminine”.Â Naomi Wolf talks about how much she took pride in being independent and strong, and how bizarre it was to suddenly feel so emotional, clingy, and even fearful of being unprotected. I can relate to that, because I think that my personality has really changed since having my kids.Â In one section, she says.
At the end of my pregnancy, I was aware that I was nesting, cuddly, and more traditionally “feminine” in my responses.Â I felt more maternal toward helpless dependent beings, but especially toward babies and children.Â This could be seen as part of “women’s eternal nature,” the excuse given for various antiwoman decisions.Â Or it could be the result of this temporary chemical brainbath.Â From thirty-four weeks on, hormonal changes take place to prepare the uterus for labor.Â Estrogen stimulates the rise of oxytocin, the “love hormone” that promotes labor contractions and stimulates the let-down reflex in breast-feeding mothers….
…”From rodents to primates,” writes anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, “oxytocin promotes affiliative feelings.Â A monkey mother whose brain receptors to these natural opiates are blocked makes fewer overtures toward her infants, is less likely to put her face near the baby’s and reassuringly smack her lips.”Â Hrdy calls oxytocin a “natural opiate” that guarantees mothers greet their new offspring in a “broody, mellow mood.”
I just love to think about how miraculous the whole thing is.Â The fact that there are so many interconnected things going on in our body, and yet science thinks that we can just pump some artificial hormones into our bodies and make it all happen on our own time.Â It is such a delicate dance, and each part is so important.Â In another article I read this week (which I fully intend to make a separate blog entry on), Sarah Buckley discusses how
Second, oxytocin, synthetic or not, cannot cross from the body to the brain through the blood-brain barrier. This means that Pitocin, introduced into the body by injection or drip, does not act as the hormone of love.
These hormones are so amazing, and they change us in so many ways… But artificially pumping it into our blood does NOT do the same thing as when our body and our baby create these hormones.Â We cannot alter one part of the system and think that we can make nature follow our command.Â It is so humbling, and yet so scary to think of what is being done on a mass scale in our country, and around the world, to the delicate balance of new families.
OK, I’m going to stop here for now, because it is bedtime for my babiesÂ Â Hopefully I’ll get to come back and write more about Sarah Buckley’s amazing article, because I could just gobble it up, LOL.