The midwife in this chapter is a portrait of Mary Cronk.
(1) I am indebted to the work of Dr Sarah Buckley and her ebook Ecstatic Birth: Nature’s Hormonal Blueprint for Labor for this synopsis of the hormonal interactions of birth. I have simplified things slightly. High levels of beta-endorphin, produced in response to stress or severe pain, also has the ability to quell contractions. I couldn’t fit that bit in.
(2) The word ‘monkey’ has proved contentious with readers. Please see my post ‘The Monkey thing’ for an explanation of where I’m coming from.
(3) Mayes Midwifery, p 351
(4) See the work of Robbie Davis-Floyd who has reclaimed the phrase ‘the oldest profession’ for midwifery. (No, prostitution is not the oldest profession: it’s the oldest capitalist exploitation. Humanity predates capitalism, and will hopefully outlive it too.)
(5) Mayes Midwifery ibid. p 351
(6) ‘Maternal hormone protects baby’s brain during birth’ New Scientist 15 December 2006
(7) ‘Lunar cycles and birth rates: from a full Moon to a first quarter Moon effect’Arthur Charpentier, PhD France, CREM-Université Rennes
(8) “I learned what is simple with my very first experience of childbirth as a medical student in 1953. At that time, a midwife had nothing to do. She was spending her life knitting. So, she was knitting when she was waiting for the baby, knitting when waiting for the placenta, knitting when there was no woman in labor. She had nothing else to do. In that respect, I realized the value of this traditional attitude.
“Some scientists at Cambridge University in the UK explored the philological responses to a repetitive task. As an example of a repetitive task, they studied the task of knitting. When you are doing a repetitive task like knitting, you reduce your level of adrenaline. And that is the key to an easy birth – when the level of adrenaline of the midwife is low, because she is contagious. That helps the woman in labor to also be in a state of relaxation… and finally the birth is easier.” Michel Odent in interview Rediscovering the Best Environment for an Easy Birth
(9) ‘The purple line as a measure of labour progress: a longitudinal study’Ashley Shepherd et al. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Vol 10, p 54, 2010.
(10) The ‘rest and be thankful’ stage is described by Denis Walsh in the chapter ‘Rhythms in the second stage of labour’ in Evidence and Skills for Normal Labour and Birth, Routledge 2007.
(11) This phrase, and the description of the baby’s descent are inspired by Gloria LeMay’s article ‘Pushing for First-Time Moms’. This pattern of pushing could be typical of primagravida mothers – women who haven’t had a baby before. A subsequent birth is likely to be more rapid.
(13) This is a description of the fetus ejection reflex, as identified by Michel Odent. I’ve had two. They exist.
page 238 (14) This baby has a nuchal cord, (the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck). I was struck by the similiarity between the ‘somersault manouvre’ to free a nuchal cord and the movements that a mother would make to grasp her own baby at birth.
(15) ‘Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping of term infants on maternal and neonatal outcomes’ McDonald, S and Middleton, P, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 2, 2008.
(16) Ecstatic Birth: Nature’s Hormonal Blueprint for Labor ibid.
(17) Breast Crawl: a scientific overview, breastcrawl.org, January 2013.