Okay, that's one side of it.
But how about the fact that after we have the experience of birth and relinquishment so many of us--some surveys put the number at around 40 percent--do not have other babies? It is such a widespread phenomenon that it is called secondary infertility. And how about the fact that a great many of us don't want to hear about babies that other women are having, even our friends and sisters? Turns out that same hormone can cause emotional pain as well as that loving feeling. New research finds that oxytocin may be the reason that certain stressful situations can reverberate long past the event, and can trigger fear and anxiety in the future when markers of a past bad experience are present.
A LIST OF WHAT TRIGGERS ANXIETY
The research on oxytocin has been done only on mice but what I read made so much sense to me as I read it I immediately made a mental list of all the things related to birth and babies that make me anxious: women giving birth in film; baby pictures; baby showers; anything baby-related, small children, especially blonde little girls. During movies with birth scenes, I shut my eyes or walk out. When someone shows me pictures of their young children or grandchildren; I look at one and hope more are not proffered, for I really do not want to see them. I have avoided as many as possible baby showers since my pregnancy and birth--only two was I not able to avoid in 47 years, and they were difficult to get through. There are probably more things that trigger bad feelings in me but that's just from the top of my head.
|With the only baby I ever felt comfortable around, my granddaughter|
The scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine discovered that oxytocin strengthens negative social memory and future anxiety by triggering an important signaling molecule (ERK--extracellular signal regulated kinases) that becomes activated after a negative social experience. ERK causes enhanced fear, the researchers believe, by stimulating the brain's fear pathways, many of which pass through the region of the brain that deal with emotional and stress responses. The research was published in the July 21 issue of Nature Neuroscience.
CHANGES IN THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
"Oxytocin is usually considered a stress-reducing agent based on decades of research," said Yomayra Guzman, a doctoral student at Northwestern and the study's lead author. "With this novel animal model, we showed how it enhances fear rather than reducing it and where the molecular changes are occurring in our central nervous system."
Enhances fear? I know this was done with mice, but I have been dealing with such stress related symptoms since my daughter Jane was born. Other than with my granddaughter, I did not want to be around other babies, didn't want to pick one up and coo with her or him, didn't want to see a load of pictures of friend's grandchildren. Still don't. I noticed this the other day at the beach when someone was proudly showing off pictures of their new grandchild. I looked at one and was done; the (childless by chance and choice) woman sitting next to me gushed over a dozen more. But this kind of sharing of baby pictures is triggering, reminding me of what I lost when I relinquished my daughter--our entire life together. When I entered her life again 15 years later, everything was different and emotionally fraught and we never could totally break down the barriers that had been erected.
Other recent research follows three human studies on oxytocin, all of which are beginning to offer a more complicated view of the hormone's role in emotions.
In two different experiments with mice, one group was missing its oxytocin receptors, another had an increased number, and the third group had the normal amount. The mice were put through two stressful situations, and then had a quiet period of several hours. When they were put back in the same stressful situation, the mice who were missing the oxytocin receptors didn't appear to remember what had happened before and showed no fear; the mice with the enhanced receptors exhibited intense fear, the group with the normal amount of receptors showed normal fear. They remembered, in other words, but didn't freak out.
COULD EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT REACTIONS TO REUNION
The difference in reaction to a stressful situation could partly explain the great difference in how some first/birth mothers react when their lost children contact them. Some are overwhelmed with joy, others are fearful and may reject reunion, others are wary at first but are able to get over their fears. Understandably, the nature of the family situation of the birth mother--including whether or not she has told her husband and any other children--also plays a crucial part in not only her immediate reaction but also the final decision whether to meet, or reject, her lost child.
Okay, mice. It's a start. Though I can't conceive how an experiment on oxytocin could be designed for human subjects, I'd be glad to participate if any are. Jelena Radulovic, the professor in charge of the lab where the study was done, said: "This experiment shows that after a negative social experience the oxytocin triggers anxiety and fear in a new stressful situation." Amen to that.--lorraine
The Case for More Time Before Signing Surrender Papers
Should women considering adoption be warned about secondary infertility?
How the daughter I gave up forever changed my life
The saddest story of all: Opting for adoption today
The saddest story of all: Opting for adoption today
A First/Birth Mother remembers the first Easter after surrender, only days earlier
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade
"Fessler has no agenda other than educating the reader about the hidden histories of these shamed, embarrassed unwed mothers. She uses personal narratives to flesh out her history book, but Fessler does not edit the histories to make any specific political point. Her subjects had widely varying experiences and reactions, all of which are captured herein."--from a review at Amazon. Order by clicking on the title or icon of the book jacket.