Published on Elephant Journal here.

When a pregnant gorilla goes into labor, her mate paces back and forth nearby. He’s ready to attack and destroy anything that may cause his female or his baby harm. The mama gorilla knows it is safe for her to be as vulnerable as she needs to be. Her protector is there.

We humans aren’t all that different. After all, we share about 98% of the same DNA as apes. As sentient mammals, we are hard-wired to take childbirth quite seriously. As we should: the survival of our species depends on it.

Protection and support become particularly important to us when women enter what is likely the most vulnerable chapter of our lives as we conceive, grow, and deliver a baby.

This is a time when hormones surge, when bodies transform, and when a woman can’t physically kick-ass in quite the same ways as before (let alone tie her own shoes in the third trimester).

Pregnancy, delivery, and child rearing are times when, despite our feminist philosophies, we find ourselves in our most vulnerable state, really wishing for a good “gorilla.”

Now, a “gorilla” doesn’t need to be a husband or a man at all. A gorilla can be a partner, a family, a community of friends, or a village.

Your gorilla is any presence that conveys the message, “Come hell or high water, I’ve got your back.”

Not in the “just call me if you need anything” kind of way. More like, “I am right here, I’m not going anywhere, and I am on it.”

Think about this…

Every time a woman has sex, her biological hard-wiring has her believing that she may become pregnant. It’s true even if she’s using contraception, even if she isn’t fertile, even if her mate is another woman, and even if her partner has had a vasectomy. Modern science and changes in lifestyle practices have circumvented biology, but they haven’t entirely outsmarted it. It’s our biological hard-wiring to feel that we may become pregnant when we engage in sex.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many women – especially those with adrenal stress – don’t want sex.

If sex means another baby might follow, and if a woman is already beyond taxed with work, social obligations, and caring for another child, her libido will ramp down. Our culture puts unrealistic standards on women for many things, including feminine beauty, being a spouse, and parenting. There are so many things that stress our reserves, it’s no wonder the sex drive is affected.

Furthermore, if a woman feels that her partner is a crappy gorilla, then she’ll want sex with them even less.

Taking out the trash, doing the dishes, helping with the kids, picking up the dry cleaning without her having to ask, and letting a woman sleep in on the weekends are all, therefore, acts of foreplay.

Anything that conveys to a woman that she is safe, any act that shows her she doesn’t have to do it all herself, any confirmation that her “gorilla” has her back – these are all, biologically speaking, outrageously sexy and good for the survival of our species.

So, partners…

Take a look at your relationship with your female partner. Do you have her back? Does she know it? Do you make it absolutely clear to her that you will do all you can to protect her? Or does she have to do just about everything herself?

If you help with chores, do you do them on your own or does she have to nag you? When’s the last time you cooked dinner? Is there money in savings, or do you refuse to make a budget? Do you handle any of your baby’s pediatrician appointments? Do you stand up to your mother when she nitpicks your partner’s mothering style? Do you freeze like a deer in headlights when your baby cries, or do you pick him up, look your partner in the eye and say, “Sweetie, you rest now. I got this,” even if you’re terrified? Even if you have no idea what to do with a screaming baby?

Talk to the woman in your life and ask her what she needs. When she tells you, try not to get defensive, but rather tap into a deep, ancestral strength within yourself. This is a kind of biological birthright: your inner gorilla.

Every gorilla’s gotta learn sometime. And just about every mama wants a gorilla.

Author: Dr. Erica Zelfand