Pregnancy, birth and parenthood are times when it is best to tap into your instincts and inner wisdom, but that can be hard to do in a world full of experts, advice and education about what you “should” be doing. So I sometimes find it insightful to turn to the animal world and discover how their instincts and inner wisdom drive them. In this tutorial, I will teach you how to birth like an elephant.
Step 1: Surround yourself with loving support. Female elephants in the wild huddle around a birthing mother and protect her within this circle. They have their bums pointed toward the birth and their faces looking out on the landscape. Facing outwards protects the mama elephant against predators, and also affords the mama some privacy. Just like elephants, birthing women tend to prefer privacy and don’t like to be watched. That is why it is important that you find a doula, a partner or family that will protect you, but also respect your birthing space.
your birthing space quiet and dark in order to keep your melatonin flowing. It has been shown that melatonin acts synergistically with oxytocin to increase the efficiency of contractions.
Step 3: Don’t disturb the amniotic sac. In most cases, the baby elephant drops to the ground inside the amniotic sac, which breaks when it hits the ground, releasing both the calf and a lot of fluid. I often hear from new moms “...my waters didn’t break on their own so the doctor had to break them”. But artificially rupturing the membranes is unnecessary. Just like in elephants, a baby can be born in it’s sac if it doesn’t break on its own before the moment of birth. And there are plenty of benefits to keeping the sac intact (if possible) during labour.
Step 4: Celebrate and rest.The herd that surrounded the mama elephant during birth proudly trumpets the arrival of its newest baby member, and also creates an impenetrable wall around the newborn until it is able to get to its feet. The herd pauses for a couple of days to give the newborn and new mom a chance to rally their strength. Much like elephants, mom and baby need a chance to pause and bond after birth. So try to take some time to recover and celebrate the birth. And surround yourself with a support network that will protect and take care of you while soak in those precious moments.
Step 5: Eat your placenta? The placenta may not be expelled for a few more hours after birth. But when it is, the elephant mother observes standard procedure for many wild animals -- she eats it in order to conceal the birth from predators. To leave it lying on the ground would be an announcement to all predators within miles that a newborn elephant was now within their territory. Maybe eating their placentas also has the added benefit for elephants of balancing their postpartum hormones, like it does in humans? After 22 months of pregnancy, I am sure that their hormones are going crazy! But for the record, a 22-month pregnancy is not an elephant trait that I suggest you mimic.
We all have instincts, but as humans we tend to value conscious thought over gut feelings and we are quick to ignore our intuition. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, and your instincts are being pushed down by a barrage of information, try to ask yourself what an elephant mama would do! She would surround herself with loving females who create a sheltering circle around her and give her privacy. She would find a safe, comfortable, dark space in order to help keep her melatonin levels high. And above all else, she would enter labour full of strength, joy and respect for the power of birth.
Kiss-ass doula, pretty okay-ish mom, spreadsheet enthusiast, punctuality freak, ice cream addict.