A Woman MD/OB Who Believes in Odent, Oxytocin, & Physiology?

25 10 2011

My previous post drew controversy that I would dare contradict Dr. Amy in insisting that Dr. Odent was right about birth physiology, namely that mammalian birth involved the BONDING hormone Oxytocin, which is in fact different from the synthetic variety, best known as Pitocin.  The issue was basically that Odent was supposedly an out-of-touch misogynist for tricking women into believing they were birthing goddesses when they really aren’t, guilting women into undergoing the pain of childbirth. And oh, btw, Oxytocin doesn’t actually bond people and Pitocin does exactly the same things for the body. Right.

Enter “troll” (not my label) Marlo. She is vocal in the anti-NCB community and feels that pain-free childbirth is a lie, Michel Odent is an unapologetic sexist and not a man of science nor a respected doctor. We did a back and forth in comments in my previous post, and she had this to say:

“Find me some women OBGYNs who are down with it & have them guest post.”

Ask and ye shall receive… I may not have a guest post from Dr. Buckley (yet?!), but I do have her response to the topic, as it is easily available. Enjoy!

Sarah J Buckley is a trained GP/family physician with qualifications in GP-obstetrics and family planning. Dr Buckley has presented at numerous conferences in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, lecturing to midwives, nurses, physicians, obstetricians, doulas, and childbirth educators…

And of course, our man Odent has a fabulous endorsement of the respected Doctor:

“Sarah Buckley is precious, because she is bilingual. She can speak the language of a mother who gave birth to her four children at home. She can also speak like a medical doctor. By intermingling the language of the heart and the scientific language she is driving the history of childbirth towards a radical and inspiring new direction.”

Michel Odent MD, author and natural birth pioneer

Already we have TWO respected doctors who believe natural birth, oxytocin, and mammalian physiology are not just myths. Odent was discredited for his age, for his beliefs, and even for having a penis (“men will never understand“, Marlo holds). He was accused of being a general surgeon, and not an OB, even though Odent did his initial training in general surgery and was in charge of the surgical unit and the maternity unit at the Pithiviers state hospital (1962–1985). Now, Dr. Buckley is a woman, has had home births, and is qualified in the field of obstetrics. Let’s hear more of what Dr. Buckley has to say:

Perhaps the best-known birth hormone is oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is secreted during sexual activity, male and female orgasm, birth, and breastfeeding. Oxytocin engenders feelings of love and altruism; as Michel Odent says, “Whatever the facet of Love we consider, oxytocin is involved.”(1)For the baby also, birth is an exciting and stressful event, reflected in high CA levels (27). These assist the baby during birth by protecting against the effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and subsequent acidosis.

Undisturbed birth is exceedingly rare in our culture, even in birth centers and home births.

Two factors that disturb birth in all mammals are firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy thus seem to be fundamental. Yet the entire system of Western obstetrics is devoted to observing pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines, and when birth isn’t going smoothly, obstetricians respond with yet more intense observation. It is indeed amazing that any woman can give birth under such conditions.

Synthetic oxytocin [AKA PITOCIN] administered in labor does not act like the body’s own oxytocin. First, syntocinon-induced contractions are different from natural contractions, and these differences can cause a reduced blood flow to the baby. For example, waves can occur almost on top of each other when too high a dose of synthetic oxytocin is given, and it also causes the resting tone of the uterus to increase (33).

Second, oxytocin, synthetic or not, cannot cross from the body to the brain through the blood-brain barrier. This means that syntocinon, introduced into the body by injection or drip, does not act as the hormone of love. However, it does provide the hormonal system with negative feedback—that is, oxytocin receptors in the laboring woman’s body detect high levels of oxytocin and signal the brain to reduce production. We know that women with syntocinon infusions are at higher risk of bleeding after the birth, because their own oxytocin production has been shut down. But we do not know the psychological effects of giving birth without the peak levels of oxytocin that nature prescribes for all mammalian species.

For more from the very esteemed Dr. Buckley, read her article on Ecstatic Birth. Or is she just a misogynist idiot, too?

Misconstruing a Genius

20 10 2011

I was alerted that one of THE best minds in childbirth, Dr. Michel Odent, was being challenged by a certain infamous anti-homebirth doctor. Self-assured was I that she could not possibly intelligently refute Odent, I was shocked to see how right I was. When one cannot debunk someone properly, one must resort to smear! Also, use the word “smear”, because if you say it first, it cannot be used on you. Here’s a sampling of what was said:

Dr. Michel Odent’s claim that childbirth pain is necessary for mother-infant bonding.

Only Odent never says that. What he says is this:

The French expert said: “Oxytocin is the hormone of love, and to give birth without releasing this complex cocktail of love chemicals disturbs the first contact between the mother and the baby…

“It is this hormone flood that enables a woman to fall in love with her newborn and forget the pain of birth.”

And, nowhere does he say pain is necessary for bonding. In fact, he says with the help of Oxytocin, pain is greatly diminished for the mother. Not only does his work and literature include info on Birth and Breastfeeding in relation to Oxytocin, but he also speaks very much on the topic of orgasms. No, indeed, Odent is an Oxytocin champion– he believes in all it does for us. He warns us not to give it up so lightly when biologically, it is there to help us. He is a protector of the process, a facilitator of our easy and best births, and now he is being ridiculed by the type of people who drone on about the nastiness of birthing pools. Yes, Odent is credited with introducing these to the modern laboring woman.

Naturally, tons of idiotic commentators arrived to call him everything from a sexist to a liar. Honey, you don’t know Odent! I think he is far less sexist than the medical professionals telling empowered women they are nothing special for having a natural birth. Michel is not a misogynist– he is a feminist!  So anyway, I had to give my two cents:

You are completely misconstruing what DR. Odent is saying.  

First of all, nothing you have quoted in your attempt to paint him as this lying misogynist states that he feels that PAIN is necessary for bonding. In fact, Odent believes that the “pain” will be eased by the natural release of the Oxytocin, which is part of the function of the hormone.  

Can Pitocin do that? No. Pitocin attempts to mimic Oxytocin, but those with experience can tell you that Pit makes contractions worse, harder, less bearable. Being under the influence of Oxytocin, however, leaves many women feeling almost pain-free, some orgasmic. It IS the love hormone, the relaxation and orgasm hormone. Pitocin and Oxytocin are NOT the same thing, anymore than powdered milk or formula is the same thing as breastmilk.  

Furthermore, as someone who has experienced labor THREE different ways, I can tell you from experience that Odent DID do his wife a favor. I love and trust my husband immensely but felt the need to ask him to leave the room during my last labor. It’s not because he has a penis, but because I desired solitude. AND, I had to wake him, because the poor man was asleep. The woman needs what she needs. The intellect doesn’t have to agree with it, the body DOES. It doesn’t mean anything bad about the husband, or the marital relationship, just as you giving birth via C-section does not mean you don’t love your baby.  

That’s right– neither Odent nor I are saying that artificially-had births equate to parents NOT loving their children. There are many factors to bonding. Oxytocin is ONE, and it’s a very primal and primary one. If you think we are saying adoptive parents do not love or bond, or C section moms do not love or bond, you are hearing what you want to hear.  

What we ARE saying is that Oxytocin has an amazing, multi-purpose effect– on labor, the birth, mother, baby, and breastfeeding– and women who choose not to reap its benefits are missing out on something special. Those who have experienced it have described it as THE greatest natural high a woman will experience in her lifetime.  

You can call Dr. Odent’s theories ridiculous and false, if you feel so defensive about them in your personal lives. Maybe his “theories” (based on mammalian science, accepted and understood as TRUE) offend you because they didn’t play a part in your stories and this threatens you somehow as a woman. But, for me? I didn’t understand what had happened to me and my other labors until I started reading geniuses like Odent.Then it all made sense to me. I finally “got it”. Before, maybe I would have blown it off like you and said it was not true. But yeah, he’s just totally in a fantasy world?  

Whatever. He’s one of the only true scientists in the world of childbirth. So many others, indoctrinated by their education, worship at the altar of technology and drugs as though they can do no wrong. At least Odent honors the woman and her needs above any touting of “advancement” our backwards society makes. He truly wants what is best for us, and he doesn’t have an agenda. There are no lobbyists, no drug companies, no ego-driven wars he is in bed with. It is just a man and the science he has observed. He is a great mind… so naturally, he is met with aggressive opposition.  

The only smearing I see is people here of Odent. I can’t figure out if you simply do not understand him, or if you are intentionally trying to miscategorize him to the masses.

… which, of course, immediately fell on deaf ears, as he was called not only totally wrong but a “classy” guy for leaving his wife alone during her labor. Before you judge this guy, random RNs, birthy mom types, and other MDs, please read more about this man and his career, works, and genius. He IS a classy guy. For starters, he doesn’t own any hate sites to tell non-Oxytocin-enjoying moms where to go and attack those who have experienced this amazing part of the circle of life. He isn’t part of the REAL smear campaign, to undermine the real wants and real experiences of real women, and reduce common sense, observations, and real life events to mere mythology.

Nope. He’s one of the good guys.

PS– By popular demand, here are some links worth checking out on the idiosyncrasies and differences between Oxytocin and Pitocin (besides just “brand name”).

Pit of Despair — The difference has to do with the blood-brain barrier. Oxytocin is produced by the brain and has a direct effect on brain function. But when Pitocin is introduced into the bloodstream, it does not affect the brain.

Oxytocin: The Great Facilitator of Life — In light of the prominent role in parturition and essential role in lactation, we are drawn to the view that Oxt serves the continued propagation of a species.

Thanks, Mom!— Time Magazine article:  It also helps facilitate bonding between mothers and newborns.

A relationship between oxytocin and anxiety of romatic attachment –That oxytocin and anxiety may be linked in some way in the modulation of social bonding is supported also by scattered data showing that a moderate level of stress seems to promote pair bonding in different species, including human beings [40].

“Love Hormone” Promotes Bonding — Obviously we think we know a lot about it, but should hesitate to flat out reject what little we already know (that oxytocin correlates with bonding). We are only just starting to learn how it affects us, and to blanketed deny a connection seems arrogant.

“The hormone, also known by its trade name, Pitocin, has been used for years to induce labor and promote lactation in women.  But its effects on the brain are just beginning to be understood.”

Oxytocin is a brain chemical associated with pair bonding, including mother-infant and male-female bonds, increased paternal involvement with children, and monogamy in certain rodents, according to Kai MacDonald, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSD.”

Guilt is a Destroyer, Part 2

12 10 2011

I see the problem here as guilt and denial. One feels guilt in incredible ways, and then lives in a state of denial about how all these other things are at fault. The denial is also, therefore, a denial that they had the primary role in their own life events. Rather than accepting that something just occurred and everyone was there and had a choice, there is a need to blame. Rather than blame oneself and admit the guilt that is plaguing oneself, one then opts to direct all or primary responsibility onto somebody else. It’s a coping mechanism. It goes a little something like…

Natural birth is at fault– it’s not that great, medical advancements are far better, what’s so great about vaginal drug free birth anyway, you aren’t winning a medal for it, it’s killing women and babies and is archaic and stupid.

Midwives are at fault— they aren’t educated, aren’t properly licensed, mine should have known I was in trouble.

The NCB community is at faultthey indoctrinate people, it’s like a cult, they all believe in BS and not in science, they guilt mothers into making wrong choices.  ETC.

It’s never up to the woman. Do you see? You can never “blame the mother”, or use “blame the mother mentality”… which is cried if anyone tries to further examine the mother’s choices in the event in light of tragedy. If blame is going to be placed at all, these are the questions that we need to be asking. Sorry.  It’s never her choice, her responsibility, her consequences. It’s always somebody else.  She is automatically innocent (and how dare you, btw), and somebody else is most definitely guilty. You see, I’m not just saying question the “guilt” of everyone… I’m saying consider that everyone is innocent.  Blame usually doesn’t have to take place at all, but if you are pointing the finger at me or damaging other people, someone has to step in and point out the accountability here. It’s gone too far, too long. There are worse things than blaming the mother. You could be blaming people who are just as accountable, less accountable, or not accountable at all.

For example, when a practitioner does their best to provide the service you have hired them for, that’s all you can ask of them. The rest is up to you.

IF you are present at a birth and you feel something is not right, it is your duty to yourself and child and all involved to act accordingly. IF something goes wrong, and you always had the final say, you must own up to your part in things. It is an admission of the truth and the first step to moving forward in a healthy way. As I see it, all normal-intelligence adults available are responsible in a time of need. This does not all rest on the shoulders of one. When you hire a midwife as your naturally-minded caregiver, it is not so she can take the fall in the event of misfortune. If one feels that way, one should not hire a midwife. If they have committed an indisputable count of negligence or abuse, obviously I think they deserve blame. However, if you still had a choice and didn’t make it or take it, you shoulder some of that responsibility. You have a voice.

[Recently I heard a troll say that the reason midwives should be properly licensed and insured is so that if a tragedy occurs, a lawyer would be willing to take the case because there would actually be money worthwhile to come of it. Ah, I see… So, everyone, get an OB so that if your child dies, you can properly get a lawyer and sue and at least get some $$$ from it. ] Good reason to change your birth plan, natural childbirthers.

So no, I am NOT advocating blame, but when I see projections and misdirections of anger, rage, hate, and guilt, I think we need a reality check. Midwives are trained professionals, but they DON’T know everything. Neither do OBs for that matter. The most important piece they are missing is YOU and your intuition. People, no matter how educated, make mistakes. It’s not all homicide, bloodshed, and manslaughter. Sometimes no matter how much it is KILLING you inside, these mistakes are completely innocent. You are ALL accountable for your choices. No ONE single person takes the fall, and no one always has to take the blame, automatically. A death should not automatically be assumed as the fault of anyone. Investigate, ask questions, but accept reality and live in it rather than create a false one where you are less accountable. Sooner or later, no matter how skilled a person is, they are going to witness a tragedy. Sometimes, these things just happen. You hate to hear it? Yeah, it sucks, but it’s true.

No, don’t blame yourself, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t do those things to ME either. Be brave, face your problems head on. It’s cowardly to direct the hurt you feel you deserve to instead hurt others.  I would never tell a mother how accountable she was in her child’s own death… until she starts pointing the finger at others. Those who believe it’s always the other guy’s fault, those who believe that with their pain comes a sense of entitlement, those are the only folks who need a reminder that they were also an adult in that room and also capable of making a choice. It’s something that could and should go without saying most of the time, unless you keep shoving it in the world’s face in order to create suffering and remove your own accountability in the process. My theory: you don’t hate me, you hate yourself for not making the choice you knew was right. I wish I could magically take away your pain, but I can’t. You need to get serious professional help if you are trolling the internet and calling it “helping others”.

Guilt, you see… it’s a destroyer. It will change your whole world. Friends become enemies, demons become friends. Things you used to believe in become false. You lose faith in whatever God you may have previously claimed. Activities that harm others become the norm. They do things which cause more pain for themselves and those who come into contact with them.  Others who love you feel put out or neglected by you. You are withdrawn, putting on a fake face to be acceptable in society while inside you feel you are someone else. You don’t have to suffer alone, and you don’t have to live with this intense pain your whole life. Your children, living and deceased, would not want that for you. You all deserve better in life.


People reject healing when they think the hurt seems insurmountable, or they are undeserving. This comes from self-loathing. A partly aware admission of accountability which translates as guilt says, “how could I let this have happened to my baby?”, and hate and beating yourself up follows. Guilt is a real bitch, but you had it coming, or so the logic goes. So, one resigns to a life of pain and guilt and blame, because they don’t see any other path clearly. They even think it would be disrespectful to the memory of their baby to NOT feel this way. I suggest that the worse disrespect is the mistreatment of other women, mothers, and babies in the process of your rage and guilt. Even the very midwife deemed the culprit is probably not so worthy of hate. Granted, it would take a lot of forgiveness to ever feel that way. Baby steps.

I’m telling you, people, there’s an imbalance here, and it’s not healthy and it’s not right. It’s toxic– to your mind, probably your body, and your soul, and it’s affecting others. You want consideration for your feelings and it’s been given to a fault, but even through the pain, you need to offer your consideration to your fellow (wo)man, because we all have pain, and you aren’t the only one (and this includes infant loss). It does NOT have to be this way, so ugly and nasty and cruel.

In any case, hate (which guilt has produced) is not productive or conducive to goodness or healing for you, or anyone. Some think healing from baby loss is impossible– so why bother, right?  If healing is impossible, why try to “help” anyone who has lost? I hear that a lot, about reaching out to others who have lost, as if that means anything. “I’m here for you.” What comfort is that with a dead baby? If nothing can fix it, why the community? Because you are looking for understanding and looking for something to feel even a tiny ounce better than the loneliness of your grief. You are living with the unreasonable burden of guilt. And let’s be real, here– it’d needn’t be. Other women have gone through losses and not reached the same conclusions. It is possible, but you have to want it. Your pain is not reality, it’s just your reality. There are other truths out there to explore if you would only let yourself. If you can accept this as true, you can also begin to see how other realities of other people– loss moms and other moms– are their truths. The healing stories, the stories of love and overcoming pain, are the ones that are going to be of service to people. We need to spread those, promote those, give hope, and help people get better. Instead of resisting those, maybe you could listen to those and when you are ready, believe in yourself once again and your ability to let go of guilt and have peace.

Quit letting your guilt destroy you, who you were, what you want to be for your family, and who you have become. Break the chains and ties that keep you part of a destructive lifestyle. Live and let live. Find the path to end bitterness and guilt now so that when you are an old lady and preparing to leave this life, you can look back with fondness and gratitude rather than wrath, and you will be surrounded by children and grandchildren and more, who lovingly embrace who you are and their time with you. You cannot get a dead baby back, but you cannot get back lost time, either. Every hour you’ve spent persecuting strangers on the internet is lost time. Pain is an addiction, an obsession. Find the road to recovery. I may never know your pain and I hope to never have to, but I do care about your well being and want you to find peace and joy. If I were in your shoes, I’d want someone to do the same thing for me.

Guilt is a Destroyer

12 10 2011

Guilt— could anything be more damaging to the human psyche? Wise men and philosophers believe it is a useless emotion. Most of us claim to choose lives free from regret and fear. But, what do you do when the most precious thing in the world is gone, and you blame yourself?

Most of us will never know unless it happens to us.

As many of my readers are all too well-aware, there is a group of women out there who have many names who are at odds with natural birth in a serious and malicious way. I tend to call people by the names they first introduce themselves to me, so I call them Trolls. The trolls are made up of many, many women and their common bond is a hate and ridicule for women in the natural childbirth community. This comes in varying degrees as many of the women have had natural births themselves. However, the activities they partake in are the same. They are host and member to at least dozens of angry and mock sites on Facebook, blogs, and forums. This is all in the name of birth safety if you ask them, but when I watch them make fun of other people, their births, and their babies, it becomes clear that this is not all about keeping people safe… it’s about feeling okay with themselves.

Why does anyone ever make fun of anyone else? To feel better about themselves.

Why does anyone ever lash out at another for their opinions?  To feel more right about their own.

Why does anyone ever gang up on someone, bully, or threaten them?  To feel stronger about themselves.

And just like in school, you can guarantee that whenever a group of people get together to talk shit about somebody else, it’s to say to each other, “We’re okay for not being like that. In fact, we are better.” The word they use often, sanctimommy, is ridiculous to me… and no where is it more fitting than on those whose mouths and fingers it comes from.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Why are they so angry, and why do they need so desperately to feel better about themselves? Like most serious bullies, the lashing out comes from another pain they are dealing with (or running from).

Some of the so-called trolls are suffering from the loss of a child. This seems to give weight to their voice, and they are instantly influential and respected amongst those who listen. I listen to loss stories and I see their pictures and yes, I’ve cried. Who hasn’t? The worst part, for me, are the parts where they admit that they knew something wasn’t right but they did nothing. You know all that intuition you’re always telling people not to use? This was the time to use it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would not be so heartless as to point this out if it weren’t for the fact that the trolls go after every single NCBer they come across like they are the enemy, but if you ask too many questions or give a differing view, you are automatically chastised and demeaned to be some horrible person. “You have no clue what you are talking about. She lost her baby.” “How dare you argue with her! She’s lost a baby, didn’t you know!” As if that explains anyone’s rightness in a discussion? Women who we already sympathize with, we are now expected to never contradict ever, even when they may be wrong or hurtful towards others, because to do so would be the height of insensitivity and equal to “spitting on her dead baby”. Today, one of the trolls in a Facebook discussion even said that life wasn’t fair, because if it were, one person who had shared a different opinion would be the one with a dead baby.

Most of us agreed this is not something we would wish even on our worst enemy, nevermind someone with a different view.

This is what I mean about guilt, and blame. If you don’t get the healing you need to keep living healthily, if you surround yourself with people who are also in pain and lashing out for whatever reason, you become destructive. Guilt is a destroyer. It’s a vicious cycle, with the same people feeding each other the emotions it takes to keep mocking, keep attacking, keep blaming. One of the loss moms keeps blaming me for a baby death that occurred back in Spring. The mother she had referenced, by the way, had never even spoken to me for advice. Every time I bring this up after being accused, it goes uncorrected, unchecked, and people go on as if I had never said it. For me, this casts doubt on every other label they are more than likely wrongly placing on others, just for the sake of being sensational. How can that be credible, or taken seriously? Like the boy who cried wolf,  “Baby Killer” seems to be the favorite cry of those suffering intense rage/guilt, and although I feel for them in their time of pain, I and others attacked are not deserving of such negative attention.

I’m trying to save babies, I promise. If more people would listen to their instincts, more babies would survive. I don’t know about you, but if I suspect that something is wrong with my labor or my baby, I’m in the hospital or getting a second opinion, regardless of what my medical professional is telling me. That’s what autonomy is about, that’s what free will and choice is about, that’s what self-education is about, and that’s what instinct is about. No one is perfect, and even someone like me who feels confident about natural birth could one day meet with wrong choices, or tragedy. I’m aware of that. This is why I am not critical of people who make mistakes or experience tragedy.  It’s also not my place to tell people where I think they erred. However, the time has come to shed light on this sensitive topic, because it’s getting out of hand. It’s people who only seek to shift blame in dramatic and hurtful ways that need to be spoken to about accountability.

Everyone keeps dodging that bullet, though, because it makes them feel bad and they get called out for it. Well, the time has come to be a little more open and honest about what guilt has wrought, because it ain’t pretty. I am not the bad guy, the evil midwife, and I’m not even sure the midwives are the evil midwives, to be honest. Mommy bloggers are not your midwives, and water birthers, homebirthers, and UCers are not crazy, dangerous people just killing babies left and right. It just isn’t true. This comes from deep places of insecurity and self-hate.

So, prepare yourselves, because I’m “going there”, but only because it needs to be said finally.

I’ve heard time and time again how not only the mother, but other witnesses present in loss stories knew something was wrong, and did nothing. I have asked some people point blank why they didn’t enter the hospital when they and others felt very deeply that there was a problem, and I receive no responses. Still, the common trait of these loss stories seems to be that “my midwife KILLED my baby”. Or, it might just be that your midwife, despite all her training, had an error in human judgment, as did all other adults involved.  Sometimes this includes husbands, friends, doulas, paramedics… all participants, all with a voice, but none held accountable for their own choices and actions when the tragedy strikes. Only one fall guy, one scapegoat… that seems to be the midwife.  I suspect that people know their role in this, and it eats them up inside, and that in order to simply get out of bed in the morning, they need a new target for their rage and their grief. This becomes the midwife, and natural birth, and anything or anyone else that seems somehow opposed to them. The alternative would be acceptance and healing, or one’s own demise. So, enter Bully & Mob mentality, and harassing absolute strangers on the internet as if it were a full time job.

I’d say “whatever helps you sleep at night…”, but a) I still don’t think such people are very happy with this way of existing. It is not healing them, it is not making them better, it is not taking the pain away, saving anybody, and it is NOT bringing their baby back, and b) you cannot get your rocks off at the expense of hurting other innocent people. Your pain is not a free pass to be cruel and tormenting to other people, especially just on the basis of not seeing eye to eye.

Now before you say, “Damn, Elizabeth! Are you really blaming loss mothers for their loss?” No, that’s not it, and that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m not advocating blame. I’m advocating right accountability and responsibility. Human beings are human beings. Forgive each other, and forgive yourselves.


To be continued…