Mammalising Birth

Allowing ‘our monkey’ to do it

A mammal is a classification of animal in which the female of the species grows her baby within her body, gives birth to it and feeds if from her own milk supply. Typically, a mammal left to give birth instinctively will:

  • Usually give birth in the dark, once she has found somewhere safe to do it.
  • Moan quietly and rhythmically, but appear relaxed and calm at the same time.

We know animals can exhibit signs of pain and fear if they are trapped or injured but they do not appear to show any of those signs whilst giving birth, they simply allow their bodies to get on with it, just as they do with any other physiological function.

The reason? No one has taught them they need to be frightened of birth. Some species are protected by other members of their group (dolphins and elephants), and some prefer to be on their own (cats).

Interestingly, when humans have tried to observe the process (as in research trials on chimpanzees) the animals delay giving birth until the humans have gone away (Newton, 1971.)
This makes total sense when you think about the affect the ‘fight or flight’ response has on birth – it stops the labour so the mother can get to a place of safety. Animals rely on their instincts to know when a place is safe or when there is danger about.

Human females, being mammals, would, ideally give birth in the same way. We share the same physiological processes and functions for breathing, heart pumping, digesting food and expelling waste, reproduction and nurturing of our young. The Limbic and Reptilian parts of our brains are exactly the same as our four-legged counterparts, however as humans have developed a higher level of intelligence and become upright to walk on two legs instead of four, we’ve developed the Neocortex or new brain.

The Neocortex is excellent for analysing, criticizing and decision making but it is no good for giving birth, because it takes us out of the state needed for our bodies to do what is necessary.

Ina May Gaskin, in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (2003) recommends letting your monkey do it when it comes to birth which means do not let the over-busy mind interfere with the ancient wisdom of the body.
She goes on to list things monkeys don’t do in labour, that many women do that interferes with labour:

  • Monkeys don’t think of technology as necessary to birth-giving.
  • Monkeys don’t obsess about their bodies being inadequate.
  • Monkeys don’t blame their condition on anybody else.
  • Monkeys don’t do Math[sic] about their dilation to speculate how long labour will take.
  • Monkeys in labour get into the position that feels best, not the one they’re told to assume.
  • Monkeys aren’t self-conscious about making noise, farting, or pooping during labour. All Queens, duchesses and movie stars poop – every day, if they’re healthy. The problems happen when women feel acting in that way is somehow shameful, disgusting and embarrassing.