Even as experts in labor and delivery, there’s so much elephants could teach us about childbirth. Today, we’re going to share those lessons elephants might teach humans in the best childbirth class ever.
What Elephants Would Teach Us Humans In The Best Childbirth Class
Elephants ought to know something about pregnancy and birth. There’s so much we can learn about what humans need to birth successfully when we consult the birthing practices of this majestic mammal. After all, they endure a whopping 22 months gestational period and give birth to a three-foot tall, 250 pound baby who will nurse for three years starting with 3-5 gallons of milk per day!
Elephants closely share our human characteristics of being powerful, strong, compassionate, live in complex family social structures, have incredible memories, feel emotions, and express themselves through crying real tears of joy and sorrow.
It’s no wonder they could teach the best childbirth class!
Elephant Birth: A Symphony of Instincts, Physiology, & Wisdom
When it is time to give birth the female elephant does not go off and lie down alone like most mammals. Instead, she remains in her familiar environment, seeks out her fellow female elephants and stands in the middle of them, staying on her feet throughout labor, continuously moving to help rotate her baby down into the birth canal.
The trusted females of her herd create a tight circle around her standing shoulder to shoulder, tusk to tusk, for as long as it takes, protecting her in her vulnerable time.
(Read more about the best birthing positions here)
A formidable show of force, no other animal will dare to threaten her safety while she labors. She is able to relax into her labor knowing she is supported and protected. She is not alone but literally surrounded by her trusted, experienced, familiar herd members. They communicate with her and encourage her.
When her calf is finally born into the herd, her family members joyously trumpet and dance in celebration! The elephants literally cry tears of joy! They take turns breaking the circle formation to admire the baby and help the baby calf up by offering a tusk to hold onto.
They will then stomp and throw the soil to cover up the evidence that a baby has just been born to deter would-be predators.
The Hospital Doulas Circle
Instinct and wisdom on how to birth safely and successfully are passed down through the female herd members. We see our role as a similar one at The Hospital Doulas. That’s even why we chose our beautiful logo of an elephant protecting a baby elephant.
When it comes to human birth, feeling safe and protected is instinctual and absolutely necessary for the physiological process of birth to proceed.
Choosing who you surround yourself with when giving birth truly matters!
This is yet another lesson elephants would teach us in the best childbirth class ever.
The Special Challenges to Physiological Birth in the Hospital
We chose early on in our company to solely offer our online childbirth classes and doula services to those planning a hospital birth by necessity, choice, or compromise.
Let’s face it, most “birthy” childbirth classes are created with the more “crunchy” home or birth centers in mind. Those low risk births can be wonderful as we’ve seen.
But those are usually already surrounded with a holistic model of care. One that completely believes in the woman’s ability to birth. And one that provides her with all she needs to labor and deliver on her own with a transfer to a hospital when necessary.
But hospital, or medicalized birth can be very different calling for more preparation with knowledge, evidence based facts, support, and specialized skills in navigating the routine care provided in the hospital system.
We felt our presence was much more needed in the hospital environment. Not to mention, here in the U.S., 98.5% of births happen in the hospital according to recent studies! Thus, The Hospital Doulas & Associates was born!
Fight or Flight Response in Birth: Failure to Progress
Bright lights, hospital gowns, antiseptic smells, needles, monitors, beeping machines, being watched, medical staff in white coats, and shift changes. These things may cause fear resulting in a surge of adrenaline and the fight or flight mechanism to kick in.
This response interrupts the necessary symphony of hormones and chemical reactions that helps labor unfold, which can easily cause the labor process to stall out.
This stall, or lack of progress in cervical dilation can be interpreted by the hospital as a sign of “failure to progress.”
It can result in a few things, including:
- The addition of powerful medications (including pitocin) to augment labor
- The subsequent need for the pain relief of an epidural
- Even a possible cesarean
That is just the most overt result that can happen. But there’s many more subtle ways a woman’s necessary instincts to birth can be threatened, dampened, subverted, or silenced.
Barriers to Building Instantaneous Trust in Hospital Birth Setting
Many times she hasn’t even met her health care provider who ends up being on-call for her birth. The birthing mother meets virtual strangers for nursing staff and has to adjust to inopportune shift changes while in heavy labor.
She’ll need to immediately trust her birth team and feel they are totally on board with her goals and values when they’ve only just read her one page birth preferences for the first time.
This would be unacceptable to a female elephant who can instinctively settle into labor in her natural environment surrounded by her trusted herd!
At best, the unfamiliar territory and people are unnerving.
And at worst, she may encounter a provider who can inadvertently or quite purposefully pressure her into accepting their own hospital preferred birth plan for her, stating that after all, “A healthy baby is all that matters”.
You Deserve MORE than a Healthy Baby
Of course, a healthy baby is the point and matters! There are many well educated and skilled health care providers in the hospitals that will indeed provide her with a healthy baby. But it needn’t be the ONLY thing that matters.
We should be better than that!
A mother’s whole experience is important and her emotions matter during the birth and long after.
A Listening to Mothers Study showed that feeling they were listened to and treated kindly in labor was the greatest indicator of being satisfied with their birth experience. That’s right—not how painful it was or even whether they had a vaginal birth or cesarean.
To be well educated and play a part in her health care team’s decision making. Having her own experience validated are also extremely important factors.
Overcoming the Hospital Birth Challenges through Childbirth Education
Elephants benefit from the wisdom passed down from their more experienced female herd members.
It’s also wise for humans to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise our doulas have accumulated over the countless hours of providing hospital labor doula support.
Many of our first-time parent clients choose us to tap into our deep body of wisdom, pro-tips, and proven strategies to successfully navigate the hospital system. Others seek out our childbirth classes or doulas services after they have already experienced a traumatic birth and are determined to have a different and more empowered birth the next time around.
We hear heartbreaking birth stories of healthy babies but traumatized mothers and partners. They feel things were done TO them not with them. They feel like THEIR experience didn’t matter.
So this time, some parents just want to become more educated about all their choices. They want to learn to speak the hospital language and effectively communicate with their health care team. They want to know their rights. And they also want to learn more about the hospital culture to better navigate the birth experience on their own.
Birth Doula Support and Childbirth Classes
Other human birthers aren’t just after our expertise. They also want the comfort, protection, and support that the presence of our birth doulas provide them with. This is just like their elephant counterparts surrounding themselves with their compassionate female herd members.
They choose to benefit from the experience, evidence based information and comfort of one of our specially hospital trained and certified birth doulas who literally stay by her and her partner’s side throughout labor and delivery.
They hire our birth doulas to support them, champion them, advocate to help protect their goals and desires, and improve their emotional and physical experience. Our birth doulas hold a safe space for them so they can go instinctively inward in their birthing journey.
Birth partners are supported in every way to ensure their positive experience as well. Because it all MATTERS regardless of the way labor unfolds or through which opening their baby is ultimately able to meet them for the very first time.
We trumpet the success of their birth experience and their growing family as they join our human family!
Who We Are: Online Childbirth Class Instructors and Hospital Doulas
- Lisa Collins, MA., CD(DONA), ProDoula, Evidence Based Birth® Instructor
- Marnie Lea, RDH., CD(ProDoula)
Co-Founders of The Hospital Doulas & Associates LLC
To learn more about registering for the best childbirth class, please visit: https://www.thehospitaldoulascircle.com
*While this article chose to use the words mother, she, and her to represent the pregnant laboring individual for ease of writing, we at The Hospital Doulas are an inclusive, respectful service. We validate and celebrate all birthing people!