“How can I speak for birth?”
That was my question, back when I first felt called to do birth work. To advocate for birth. Natural birth. Birth as she has always been for millions of years. Generation after generation. Nothing weird or hippy. Nothing worthy. Just the miracle of biology which is birth. Donkeys, goats, dolphins and cats do it: nothing weird there. That’s all I wish for women, is to experience the magic of life, the wonder of birth. But we have been told that birth is dangerous, uncertain, not to be trusted. And that birthing like animals is beneath us. We need to be saved from that.
But the opposite is true. Natural birth gave me back to myself. It was a revelation to me. And it has become a large part of my life’s work. I truly want to help more women share this most fundamental and natural of experiences, because in our medicalised birthing world this is not an inevitability, but a rarity.
I started to mentor childbirth classes but came up against a sticking point: for me, natural birth is the greatest gift, but I’m not allowed to say that. I’m not allowed to say that because people do not want to hear it. I have to pretend that it’s all OK. That one thing is much the same as another, so that mothers do not feel judged if they “try” and “fail”. And the chances of this are high in most hospital births, especially with epidurals and inductions and the cascade of interventions which follow. C-sections are running at 20 -30%. C-section is NOT a failure. But it spells the end of a natural birth, and a challenge to fight for subsequent ones. And that makes me feel very, very sad for the mother. You see, we’re there… I want to speak for birth, but I do not want to upset those who cannot, did not, have her. My heart weeps for all those who wanted her but could not. For the second time mum who feels that her previous dreams of a natural birth were just naivety. That is what inspires me to write and talk about it more. But it also makes me bite my tongue. I must not be seen to be foisting my strange natural birthing beliefs on others, to be judging them when they choose differently.
It is a great challenge. Because most women don’t want to hear. Or they don’t believe you. Or they think you were just lucky. Or mad to even try. Or they think to birth outside of a hospital setting is nice in theory, but not in practice. And whilst my soul calls out to them clear and loud, my voice stutters and stumbles.
Mother, mother, I want to say. I know you are scared. I know you cannot begin to believe how birth might be and if you can birth your baby. I know the gnawing, overhanging sense of the unknown and the uncontrollable which keeps you awake at night and haunts your days. I know that death and danger camp close to your door. But I know that life is there too. With birth as her herald. She is majestic. She is the crashing waves, the tiger’s roar, the monkey who clings to her baby. She is in your every cell. She is you. You are her. There is nothing that you need to know: simply surrender yourself to her dance as she shakes your baby free.
You can do it… but you do not know this. And neither do most of the staff in any hospital. And this is the problem. They go by clock time, by the beep beep of the monitor, the change of shift, the spectre of insurance payouts, by what they see not what you feel. They do not understand labour time, they do not trust their hands and heart, your body and your strength. In the fear of death, of the uncontrollable, they extinguish the possibility of the miracle of birth.
You, dear one, must go within, deep within, to find your core, your tiger roar, your power, your steel. You must hold tight to this as the waves of birth wash through your body. In the light, the noise, the fear of an unsafe public birthplace you might be washed away. You need the freedom to keen and groan and sway with the winds of birth. To hear your birth song, the song in your heart that you never knew was there, which you begin to sing aloud as your baby descends.
Through these Gates of Fear and Doubt, Surrender and Exultation, you, dear mother, walk to meet your baby. This is the testing ground of your courage. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with others who believe in you. Believe in birth too. You can do it. And when you do it, then you will truly know your own power.
This was first published on my personal blog, Dreaming Aloud as part of the Carnival of Natural Parenting. It has also appeared in JUNO magazine.
Buy my Moon Time e book from now until 18th June and 50% of the money will be donated to a groundbreaking new birth film in its final stages of production. (For a short clip from it see Jane Hardwicke Colling’s guest post last week).
Freedom for Birth, features 100s of experts including Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent ( whom I have previously interviewed) Sheila Kitzinger, Sarah Buckley and so many more.
It is a call to arms for the way birth is done in our culture. I will be giving 50% of all e book sales for the next week to this film to ensure its release this summer. This will in turn empower our community, as I will receive a DVD of the movie to share with our community.