“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world. “Charles Malik
If I had one wish for humanity, I would want our generation of women to leave a new legacy in childbirth.
And I would want all of us; mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, cousins and neighbors to be part of the conversation -because the way that women give birth today affects the future for all of us.
What I mean by that is -the way that we give birth to our children sets the tone for how they will relate to life -fostering a blueprint for the kind of world they will go on to create- not only for the coming generations, but in terms of how they will go on to care for our own generation as we embark upon our elder years.
Are we becoming hardwired for pain?
We are literally being wired at birth for pain and it’s making life harder than it need to be, for all of us.
According to research coming out of the field of pre and perinatal psychology, as adults we continue to relive many of the same patterns of pain, suffering and abandonment that we experienced at birth and during childhood (later projecting these hardships into each and every new life experience until the unconscious beliefs patterns are finally resolved or healed).
Have you ever wondered what impact it has on the soul’s essence, when our very first experience of what it means to be human – our first impression of what life on earth holds for us- is met with pain and suffering?
Today many if not most of our children are born in some type of fear, pain or trauma (think drugs, forceps, c-section, hands pulling on their neck and head, vacuum extractor, fetal scalp electrode, resuscitation, being handled poorly, being taken away from mother, weighing on cold scale, loud jarring noises, circumcision etc.).
According to Bruce Lipton, cellular biologist and author of the Biology of Belief, this unresolved pain and trauma closes down our babies ability to live fully open and in growth mode. Instead we become wired for constriction and living in protection mode- a state that keeps us from being able to fully grow into our brilliance and from expressing our gifts in the world without the difficulty of unconscious negative and self limiting childhood patterning getting in the way.
How we are born is shaping the way that we live and die: institutionalized…
Today most of us were born in institutions (hospitals), raised in them (think schools), live in them (old age) and die in them (full circle), but what about taking our lives and communities back into our own hands, starting with birth?
What if instead we embraced birth as a community and supported women to rise up and reclaim their immense feminine power to vision, nurture and to protect the coming generations, so that they could feel empowered to explore pregnancy, birth and motherhood without feeling fearful, alienated and self-consciousness about their capability to birth naturally, breastfeed and nurture their babies?
As a community we need to come together to take a stand for gentle birth practices so that our babies do not suffer- because if we don’t, who will? Mothers can’t do this alone. They need the support of their families and communities if they are to take a different path.
But, can we really trust and reclaim birth at this point- or is it just a pipe dream that birth even has the potential to be so much more than just something we ‘have to do’ to have a baby?
If we want to find out, we are going to have to not only rediscover birth, but also reclaim responsibility and our trust in life as a community of people.
Reclaiming birth from the ‘experts’
It’s time to take birth back from the territory of experts and back into the heart and hands of our families and communities.
But are we qualified? Isn’t birth dangerous without medical intervention?
The truth is, I believe that we can trust birth if we don’t interfere with it.
According to some leading thinkers in birth physiology, most of the pain and suffering in modern childbirth is created by fear, irreverent use of technology and it’s accompanying cascade of interventions -but trauma is not itself intrinsic to childbirth.
The more I witnessed the difference between unattended births, homebirths with Midwives and hospital births (as a Doula) and continued to study birth physiology – the interplay of hormones, body structures (tissues, ligaments and bones), instincts, consciousness (internal environment) and the birth space (external environment) for their effect on labour and birth- the more I have come to understand that to be true.
While exploring childbirth history I also came to discover that the beliefs we carry about birth are based on misunderstandings with many crucial pieces of the puzzle missing.
Sure it is true that many women died in childbirth due to infection before the advent of antibiotics, but what you might not know is that doctors used to place their fingers into the birthing woman’s vagina after coming directly from the morgue where they had been performing autopsies on victims of puerperal fever (without washing their hands in between).
Clearly, birth isn’t uniquely prone to infection, but it is what we do to birth (and where we give birth) that makes us susceptible to certain scenarios and health concerns.
When we look at birth from a systems perspective it becomes apparent that it is the structures of the system itself that perpetuates the need for surgery and technology. As just one example, doctors who attend most of the births that take place in North America are obstetricians- doctors who specialize in surgery – and so it is natural that they should have a conscious or unconscious drive to use their skills in surgical birth -it is what they went to school to learn and were trained for.
Increasing Cesarean rates reflect just how distant we have become from trusting the inherent wisdom of our own bodies. In 1965 the cesarean rate was 4.5 % and now it ranges up to 60% (and beyond) in some hospitals.
With 60% c-section rates becoming ‘normal’ we have to wonder- have women become incapable of giving birth?
Research from the physiological birth sciences, much of which is outlined beautifully in Dr. Sarah Buckley’s article ‘the hormonal blueprint of labour‘, shows that we women are in fact very well equipped to give birth.
So what on earth is going on then?
According to obstetrician Michel Odent who coined the words ‘undisturbed birth’- interference in childbirth with unnecessary protocol and inhibitory birth environments keeps the consciousness of the labouring woman from being able to descend into an instinctive and primal awareness of how to open to the birth experience.
He insists that safe birth practices must be centered around facilitating birth physiology (not the other way around with labour boxed into birth practices and parameters that are convenient or comfortable for the care provider).
From the physiological birth paradigm, what we don’t do and how we approach and prepare the birthing environment is what prevents birth complications- not one simplified squeaky clean hospital or home birth protocol applied to all labours.
Thanks to the research of Dr. Sarah Buckley and Dr. Michel Odent we now have a new lens with which to view childbirth- the physiological paradigm where labours and birth are not interfered with as a matter of course.
Unfortunately women seeking care under the physiological paradigm are often hard-pressed to get it where even midwifery care is regulated and medicalized.
Birth freedom: How to make the shift
It seems that we are losing our basic womanly right to birth where we want, with whom we want and without intervention- but are we taking notice and who is responsible?
What we need now is to create a whole new paradigm of childbirth if we want to preserve our daughter’s birth freedom.
The more we make a study of birth physiology, the more apparent it will become that undisturbed birth is safe when women are healthy.
As pregnant and experienced birthing mothers and grandmothers we need to become responsible for reclaiming birth wisdom for our daughters and grand daughters– so that they are not misled by the paradigm of fear in birth.
How are they to know any different if we don’t show them? How will they remember birth wisdom if we don’t reclaim it for ourselves?
What kind of future will we create for our grandchildren if we continue to allow mother’s and babies to be drugged up, under nurtured and harmed by dangerous birth practices?
If our daughters and grand babies have to face the same conditions or worse in 20 years, then not only did we their mother’s and grandmothers suffer in vain -but the truth is we are the ones responsible.
In the words of wise women, Jeannine Parvati Baker, “When we take our journey in life, inevitability we’re gonna trip on a rock, here or there. We must as a people, stop, pick up that rock, and remove it from the path, so that those who come behind us won’t trip also. If we neglect to stop and pick up that rock in the road, anyone who follows after us and hurts themselves…. it becomes our responsibility to care for them…..by picking the road clean of obstacles, our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters who come behind us will have a clear road to birth”.
Today we have made birth the territory of ‘experts’ and ‘authority’. The information that is being passed down to us from the experts, namely that birth is dangerous and that it requires medical intervention is actually the truth -when we interfere with it.
We need to start asking: How much safer could birth be, if we simply created the right conditions for birth and then left it alone?
We need to return to a study of the basic needs of the labouring woman if we want childbirth practices to be centered on the well being of mother’s and babies- that is self evident.
We must also think critically about modern birthing practices. Who or what are they intended to serve (hospital systems and structures, big pharma, big egos, the clocks, convenience etc.)? Do modern birthing practices create the very conditions they profess to solve?
Mother as expert…
So who can we turn to when we want to know the truth about unhindered childbirth, and about how to create the kind of conditions that are needed in the birth environment to prevent interference with the natural and normal physiology of a healthy labouring woman?
If we want to know how to create an undisturbed birth, the only logical way to do that is to learn from the people who have done it themselves and who are still doing it – not from ‘experts’ who have never themselves experienced or facilitated an undisturbed birth.
A quick google search of the words ‘undisturbed birth‘, ‘waterbirth‘, ‘lotus birth’, ‘unassisted birth‘, ‘ecstatic birth‘, ‘Sacred Birthing’ or ‘orgasmic birth‘ will surely lead you toward the wisdom of the kind of people who really trust birth.
In contrast, there is a huge volume of fear based information about birth coming at us from every angle (caregivers, TV shows, media, internet).
If we want to create a different kind of birth experience than what is commonly experienced today, we have to switch stations altogether (away from experts) and turn up the volume on the real experts -the experienced mothers who are sharing with us how they actually have facilitated safe, gentle, ecstatic and even orgasmic births!
It will only be possible for each one of us, if we turn our awareness toward voices that speak trust and then open our mind and hearts to that potential.
The truth is that nothing that we do from a place of resistance, fear or dread turns out well, so why would birth be any different? We have to start giving birth from a place of inspiration if we want to create a new birth ‘herstory’ for our daughters.
It is equally important to surround ourselves locally with people who live and breathe trust in birth- having access to a community of people who really walk their talk- women friends, Doulas and Midwives who believe in your inherent capacity as a woman to give birth and trust you to know what kind of care will best serve you.
When we make different choices in this world -ones that are apart from the mainstream, it is so essential to spend time in the presence of people who support us so that we are not swayed by the fear-based consciousness that permeates childbirth.
Personally, I want a world where my daughter is considered capable and intelligent enough to make her own decisions about her body and her baby – a world where she is free to choose who she wants council and birth support from– if she wants it at all.
Given the fact that less than 1% of women in the US give birth at home and that it still remains next to impossible to get a Midwife here in Manitoba (never mind one who is free to practice without vaginal exams and a doppler in labour), I for one refuse to stand idly and watch the last of my daughter’s birth freedoms slip away.
What about you? Are you ready to start picking up ‘the rocks in the road’ for our daughters and grandbabies?
If you want to be part of continuing the conversation about expanding birth choices for our daughters and creating solutions where challenges stand in the way, join me at the Trust Birth Conference so that we can all reclaim birthing wisdom together!
This conversation isn’t just for mothers to be, Midwives and Doulas, it is a conversation for all women. Losing our birth freedom is just one of the many freedoms that we stand to lose if we don’t take a stand for it now.
Join me at the Birth Freedom Seminar at the Trust Birth Conference. Check out this description from the website on the Birth Freedom Seminar by Carla Hartley founder of the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute!
“The Birth Freedom Seminar is about restoring Constitutional Liberty. It’s not just about birth. If they can strip away this most basic of freedoms, what else is next? If you are ready to stand up against the ever increasing theft of Constitutional Liberty, then join us for an exciting and empowering day of motivational and informative speakers. Our speakers for the day include ….long-time midwives who have served mothers even when it wasn’t politically correct, an attorney who fights on the front lines for women to have VBACS, a midwife educator who refuses to sacrifice parental freedom for expediency, and me (Carla Hartley), someone who is just bold enough to think that it is not too late to fight for freedom.” Click here to learn more.