Old vs New by Calize Swanepoel


As a recently graduated midwife, Your Zen Mama spoke to me on such a deep level. Getting to read the experiences of women going through what I believe to be the biggest miracle in the world. The birth giving process is so unbelievable that not even science can explain it. Throughout my journey into becoming a midwife, I had to study the science behind going into labour and giving birth. That’s when I realised that scientists try and try, and yet in the end they have to admit to not knowing how it all starts. Well they know it’s a trigger of hormones, but what is the trigger?

From the many births I have been privileged to see, I have come to the point where I say ‘who knows, who cares’. I have chosen to let it remain a mystery, I guess I like it that way. No two births are the same but they are all equally beautiful. Not having kids of my own yet, I look forward to having my own experiences in this.

I would however like to share with you something I have learned on my journey into midwifery. When you read it, you might say ‘duh’ because, well, honestly, it really makes sense. I will try to keep it as simple as possible. There are two parts of the brain. The first or ‘old’ brain, the hypothalamus, and the second or ‘new’ brain, the neocortex. The old brain brings us a hormone called oxytocin, which is also called the ‘love hormone’. The new brain makes our bodies produce adrenaline, which gives us our fight or flight reflex. Even just with this information, I think it’s pretty clear that women in labour should avoid the whole ‘fight or flight’ thing and go straight to the ‘love hormone’ thing.

Oxytocin has many effects on our bodies. It makes us friendly,open, caring and loving and it’s triggered by cuddles, making love, breastfeeding, etc. which is obviously why it’s called the ‘love hormone’. Not only does oxytocin have an effect on our behaviour, it also affects us physically. During labour and birth, oxytocin is the hormone that creates contractions. While some of you might think, why would I want more contractions, well, every contraction is one closer to your little baby miracle of course. So does that mean you have to cuddle constantly during labour? Like that’s what you want to do, right… No, it’s all about activating that old brain of ours and avoiding the new one.

The neocortex, or new brain, gets activated by bright lights, loud noises, reasoning, clear and obvious talk. The hypothalamus, or old brain, gets activated by the exact opposite. Quiet, dimmed lights and most of all, being left to be. What I mean by that last bit is that you have to be able to do what you feel like doing. If you want your partner to rub your back, he must. If you want everyone to just leave you alone, they must. The pregnancy is something you can share with the people around you and so is the baby (really now, don’t be selfish), but this part, giving birth, is all about what your body tells you to do. Stand if you want to stand, lie down, squat, sit, whatever. Your bod y will guide you through it all if you let it. Don’t try reasoning with it, don’t try and work against those heavy contractions. Move with them and let them carry you instead of the other way around. See it as a bike ride into this brand new part of your life.


Calize was born and raised in South Africa only to move to Belgium at the age of 15. She is 23 years old now and just recently got married to the most amazing man alive (obviously). She just graduated as a midwife and is currently waiting on news to work in a home environment instead of in a hospital, which is the norm in Belgium. She does not have any children yet, but would like to have a big family. Five or six kids should do…

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