Birth your baby like an elephant births. Female elephants in the wild encircle a birthing mother and protect her within this ring. As human mammals, historically in the U.S. and as a continuing practice in more traditional cultures, we, too, should surround ourselves with strong, nurturing women to hold our birthing space for us.
Birth doulas can help you birth like an elephant. A doula, a woman trained in labor support, as a part of your birth team helps create this birth circle and protective embrace for Moms and families.
Elephant mamas are pregnant for almost 2 years and they birth to a calf that weighs about 200 – 320 pounds. Hmmm, there are certainly things we don’t want to mimic in an elephant birth, but those calves are close to their mothers and nurse immediately after birth, which is something we are getting back to as a standard of care in many U.S. hospital births.
Skin to skin immediately after birth has shown to have benefits to keeping baby at the optimal temperature, regulate baby’s breathing and heart rate. Mom and baby skin to skin also facilitates and encourage a positive start to breastfeeding and establishing milk supply, helps with attachment and baby is more content and calm.
Elephants in the wild also normally give birth at night, human mamas without interventions, too, will often give birth overnight (as a doula, I can attest to this reality as so many births happen during the calm and privacy of nighttime). We are mammals, too, and can subconsciously halt or prolong labor during the day to give birth when they feel safest and most comfortable. Elephants will interrupt their labor if it occurs during the daytime to deliver their calf under cover of darkness.
Mother elephants will eat their placenta after birth to conceal the birth from predators. In a growing trend in the United States, many mothers are seeking out placental encapsulation specialists to reap the nutrients from their placenta and in hopes of helping balance their hormones during the postpartum period. Traditional cultures have been using the placenta for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and many continue today. Potential benefits of consuming the placenta are improved maternal mood, prevention of baby blues and other postpartum mood disorders, diminished postpartum iron deficiency in Moms and as an aid in lactation.
As Mothers, as mammals, we all have instincts, but as humans, I think we tend to value conscious thought over intuition and we are quick to push our instinctive abilities down and ignore gut feelings.
In birth, tap into your inner wisdom and your savvy. Own your birth, do your work in advance, then in labor, let it go, surrender and fall deep within yourself. Trust yourself, your body and your sixth sense to birth. Note your feelings during pregnancy and labor. Do you feel an inkling about the sex of your baby? Do you recognize a sensation that labor is coming? Can you tune in to anything in your environment or mind that may be hindering your progress in labor?
Elephants are known to experience emotions much like human emotions. They build familial attachments and are joyous at the occasion of birth. Maternal love trumps all, and for the first years of a calf’s life, Mother and baby are inseparable and connected with touch and proximity. Elephant herds unite, trumpet and celebrate around a newborn baby.
Birth like an elephant! Enter your birth full of strength and joy, full of respect for yourself and your woman-power. Surround yourself with loving people who can create a sheltering halo around you. Our local doula group has adopted the elephant as a mascot of sorts and we celebrate our own pregnant doulas with special Blessing Way gatherings. The elephant is our symbol of how we form a circle of love around this Mother and send our shielding, caring energy with her to her birth.