Mate selection

September 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

“As we act out the complex rituals of courtship, many of them inscribed deep in our brain, scent-based cues help us zero in on optimal partners—the ones most likely to stay faithful to us and to create healthy children with us.” (“Scents and Sensibility,” Psychology Today)

You already know that I love new baby smells and believe that our sense of smell plays an important role in the bonding process.  Since making this discovery a couple of years ago, I have thought off and on about the subject as news stories or ideas have come up on my radar.  Then, a couple of days ago, I had an experience that brought smell and bonding onto my radar again.

DSC_0229

As my husband was saying good-bye to all of us to leave for work, he came over to hug and kiss me like he always does.  It was an ordinary hug, no different from every other hug on every other morning.  But this time I noticed something I had never paid attention to before. When we hugged each other, both of us, simultaneously (instinctively?), drew in a long breath through our noses, smelling each other deeply. As I watched this exchange, almost as an outside observer, I was absolutely fascinated.  When he came home from work, later in the day, it happened again… hug… deep breath in through our noses.  Maybe we’re not so different from our dog-friends after all? I’m becoming more convinced than ever that our sense of smell plays a far more important role in our relationships than we realize.

I was telling my husband about this observation last night.  He had never noticed our smell-hugs before either.  And then I was telling him about the blogpost I was planning to write.  During our conversation, I told him, “I used to think that the most important factors in choosing a mate were spiritual and emotional, but I don’t anymore.”  Yes, they are important, but I would now say that physical chemistry comes first, at least if you’re planning on reproducing (and giving those children stronger/healthier immune systems) and remaining faithful to each other forever.  Here’s why…

Reducing childbirth pain?

June 30, 2011 at 6:08 am

It has never been easier getting from 0 to 9 centimeters as it was for me during my fourth birth. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was at 7, 8, 9 centimeters.  I’ve thought a lot about that fact over the past four months, wondering… what made the difference? I can really only speculate, but these changes might at least partially explain the reduction of labor pain I experienced:

1) Prenatal exercise

I was in much better shape starting out this pregnancy than I have ever been in my previous pregnancies.  I continued running approximately three mornings a week until about halfway through my pregnancy.  Then I walked and hiked to keep myself active, though not as regularly.  As I’ve shared before, prenatal exercise has so many benefits, including: reduced need for pain relief, decrease in maternal exhaustion, and shortened labor.  It may not be safe for all pregnant women, but I was grateful to be able to exercise through my pregnancies and grateful to have midwives who urged me to keep running and walking.

The Science of Parenting

April 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

In February of 2010, I heard about The Science of Parenting by Dr. Margot Sunderland (director of education and training at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London) in a Canadian news article with the headline ‘Crying it out’ may damage baby’s brain. Now that’s a heavy headline, eh? I was definitely intrigued, so I decided to dig further into this.

My initial reaction to the book was: it looks and feels like a text book. Lots of pictures, sidebars, bullet points, etc. The tone of the writing also reminded me of a text book–one that was giving you basic information without personality or fluff. But I was sort of disappointed because the book repeats phrases like, “There is a mass of scientific research showing…” but it only speaks in very general terms about what those studies actually show. I guess I expected a book called “The Science of Parenting” to delve more deeply into the science of parenting.

You are what you think

April 23, 2011 at 5:15 am

Another one from the archive, an August 2009 post:

I was sitting at the table eating dinner the other day, and my baby boy started acting like he was ready to nurse. I started thinking about taking him over to the couch to meet his request, and BOOM my milk let-down. I’d wager most nursing moms have experienced this chain of events hundreds of times.

That experience got me thinking. All I have to do is think about nursing my baby and my body responds within seconds. The salivation reflex is similar. You start thinking about something delicious and BAM… your mouth is ready for it with a gush of saliva.

And that got me thinking about how interconnected our thoughts and our biological processes are. Our thoughts can create almost instantaneous physical reactions! How amazing is that?! And how frightening too. It all depends on what you are thinking about.

Surrender, part 4

March 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness.  As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance.  Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them.  Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed.  Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).

But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4…  and my head was still firmly on this planet?  I’d never experienced anything like this before.

After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming.  In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions.  Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain.  Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts.  Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates.  This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates.  So, nipple stim we did.  That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.

Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs.  Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby.  She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long. 

Building a better bond

February 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

It is now officially my “due date.” I’ve never been pregnant this long before. My other children came 9 days, 5 days, and 10 days early. All of my mother’s six children came either 9 days or 6 days early. I’m not certain, but I think all of my sister’s kids came early as well. I was under the impression that the women in my family “cook ‘em fast.” So my husband and I have been quite surprised to see this pregnancy continuing as long as it has. But I’m totally OK with that. I’ve learned some important things over the past week, and I feel I have God’s and my baby’s wise choice of timing to thank for those valuable blessings. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

You may be aware from prior blogposts (Pitocin on the Brain, On loving baby slime, Mothering my children, healing myself) that bonding with my freshly-born babies has been a struggle for me in the past. With each child, the bond has come more quickly, but it has still never happened as quickly and strongly as I would like it to. My past experiences have led me to believe, at times, that I’m not capable of experiencing that instant “love at first sight” some parents speak of. But it doesn’t keep me from fantasizing about experiencing it. Especially when irrational fears creep up in the recesses of my consciousness filling me with doubts that I’ll even be able to love this new baby at all.

Nesting and Prolactin

January 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

On Monday I started “nesting.”  A sudden urgency to prepare for the arrival of baby #4 hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first project I tackled:  pulling out all the gender-neutral baby clothes and blankets and washing them (even though they were already clean).  I also threw our stash of cheap washcloths for the home birth into the load as well. Later we got the last few supplies we needed from our home birth supply list.  And then I started cleaning my bathroom (the room I anticipate spending most of my labor in).

32 weeks (Christmas Day)

I couldn’t help wondering, as I busied myself, is this “nesting” thing just a logical consequence of my realizing how little time I have left before my baby arrives, could it simply be that I’m motivated by the New Year and its attendant resolutions, or is there really something within my body chemistry triggering my need to ready our nest? There’s no question that the nesting instinct exists within the animal kingdom, but what about within us? Is the human nesting urge for real? Are we, too, being governed by instinct as we prepare for our babies’ births?  Questions like those always get my blogging juices flowing.

I hoped to find some scientific studies of the nesting instinct among humans, but my search brought up mostly studies among animals.  For instance, one of the first things I found was a really old study suggesting that nest-building in rabbits is triggered by a change in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. 

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