The Emperor Moth’s Secret: What It Can Teach Us about Childbirth and Breastfeeding


I want to share with you a fascinating and empowering story of nature. You are about to discover the emperor moth’s secret…

One day a biologist found the cocoon of an emperor moth and took it into his lab for study. It sat on his lab table for quite a while. Finally the cocoon began to tremble as the moth made its efforts to get out into the world.

The scientist noticed that the cocoon was shaped like a bottle, wide at the bottom but very narrow at the top. The top was made of a concrete-like substance. The scientist thought, ‘There’s no way the moth will make it through that hard material’. He watched anxiously as the tiny head chewed its way into the light of the laboratory. The moth struggled and struggled, seemingly getting nowhere. Its body was simply too large to fit through the tiny hole in the cocoon. The moth looked tired and laid its head to rest on the shell of the cocoon. The scientist decided to help the moth out. So he took a tiny pair of scissors and carefully cut through the hard concrete-like material, opening the cocoon at the top.

Soon, the moth popped out effortlessly. The scientist waited for the moth to spread its beautiful wings and show its charming colors. But nothing happened. The moth fell from the cocoon badly deformed, with a huge body and very tiny wings. It soon died, unable to lift itself off the ground.

The scientist began to read about the emperor moth, trying to figure out what had happened. And then he discovered the answer. It seems there is a purpose for the moth’s cocoon being shaped the way it is. In order for the moth to fit itself through the narrow neck of the cocoon, it must streamline its body. The fluids in its body are squeezed into the wings, which make them large and the body small. When it finally emerges into the world, the emperor moth is a creature unsurpassed in beauty.

The scientist realized that by trying to spare the moth what he considered unnecessary hardship, he had actually done it a disservice.

There are a couple of lessons to be learnt here. Sometimes what seems like a struggle is indeed creating improvement, and sometimes what might appear as a helpful intervention is only making matters worse. These lessons can be applied to maternity. A mother’s contact with a physician often causes more harm than good, which in turn means, paradoxically, that the mother needs the physician more.

In a medical system that claims authority over women’s bodies, the fact that a woman has the capacity to grow and birth and nourish a child without intervention is the preverbal elephant in the (delivery) room. The profession of obstetrics and gynecology, particularly in fully developed countries, is based on the notion that reproductive health is very fragile, with the need to intervene frequently. The fact that pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are normal, healthy processes is rarely acknowledged.

Inductions, assisted deliveries, elective c-sections, test weighing, growth charts  – all of these feed the interventionist paradigm. They work against the concept that women’s bodies generally work very well, and instead feed into the notion that we must develop interventions to prevent disasters.

The moral of the story? Have confidence and faith in your amazing body, follow your instincts in pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. Allow your body and your baby to do exactly what they know to do.

Let Go and Let Nature!