My daughter, Ellie, seventeen at the time, came home from school one day telling me about a conversation that had happened in her art class. One of her friends asked the teacher about childbirth, “does it really hurt?”. She replied “I don’t know, epidural all the way for me.” Ellie, herself homeborn, asked me “Mum, what’s the point of natural childbirth?”
The Point of Natural Childbirth
It is a commentary on the mindset and beliefs of our culture that I need to precede Childbirth with the word natural to be specific about what I mean, to clearly describe a simple physical process that has been high-jacked by medical technology.
Many women today, when making their choices around childbirth may well ask the question – “what is the point of natural childbirth?”
Today in our modern high tech’ world, women don’t need to wait until their babies let them know, by the initiation of labour, that they are ready to be born. Rather than be inconvenienced by this unable to be planned for birth-date, a mother can book in to the hospital for a procedure to induce the labour or surgically remove the baby from her on a chosen, convenient day.
Rather than endure the expected pain of labour and birth the mother can be numbed and feel nothing or choose a caesarean section and bypass the birth process entirely.
For many women who lead the fast paced, ‘in control’ lifestyle there needs to be a very good reason to seek an alternative to what sounds easier, faster and much more convenient. Besides, the doctor actually says its quite safe to have analgesia or anaesthesia or a caesarean section.
So, it’s the right question – “what IS the point of natural childbirth?” And the answers implicate the proponents of other than natural childbirth and asks the question “what really is the point of unnatural childbirth?”.
To start with, when we move further and further away from our natural human state, that is the inborn, genetically programmed way, we encounter problems. Evolution is slow.
Natural childbirth can be grouped with the rest of our natural bodily functions.
The signs and symptoms of what happens when such functions are compromised or tampered with are all there.
We are realising (too late for many) that the over consumption of unnatural ie a long way from source, high carbohydrate processed foods and sugar has led to physical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and allergies1 . These diseases plague a generation or two and their misinformed descendents.
We are realising that television and video games vs outside play and made up games for children, gives rise to physical, emotional and psychological problems that range from obesity to ADDH and depression.2 Children are genetically programmed to run, jump and play, to be creative and inventive so that they grow and develop to their human potential, that is what comes naturally, is of their nature.
When we don’t feed and care for our children and ourselves according to our cellular needs, our natural, health-full way is replaced by lack of health and sickness (dis-ease) on many levels.
And so it is with natural childbirth. If women are robbed of the chance to give birth in their own time, in their own way, then how can they develop naturally as mothers? If they have to do it the way they are told to – by a certain date, within a particular timeframe, they will not know their own way, time and rhythm. With the stop clock on her labour a woman may not be able to notice the natural ebbs and flows that come and go in labour. She then may not be able to notice in any ebb (a slowing down or deviation) she experiences, an obstacle in the form of a fear, created in her mind. Through the process of natural labour and birth a woman accesses her inner programming for review. Her fear related obstacles are part and parcel of natural childbirth and are the creative opportunities to hone ourselves to be the best possible mother for our children. These are how we know ourselves more fully and can then be ourselves more (w)hol(e)-y.
If Mother’s are told to be in certain positions rather than hearing from within themselves how to be to best facilitate the natural birth process and if the process is disturbed and the Mother cannot do what is inbuilt to come naturally, then she is denied the opportunity that Nature provides to turn on all the instinctual and intuitive mothering behaviour, the primal system of mammalian mothering3 .
Without her intuitive mothering behaviour switched on, she will be looking outside herself for the answers to the questions that will come incessantly as a mother, looking in the wrong place for the answers that are really only found inside herself.
The instinctual mothering behaviour that happens when a birth is undisturbed has huge implications for the newborn. Each action the mother intuitively does, like lift the baby into her arms with his or her head in the crook of her left elbow, which approximates the baby’s heart to hers and best facilitates eye contact, has a significant and nature programmed purpose. On ‘hearing’ the mother’s heart beat, and this happens on more than the auditory level, the baby ceases to produce the stress hormones he or she did to help it through the birth and starts the physical adjustments to life outside the womb. The mother’s touch and eye contact as well as a myriad of other things she will do if undisturbed, switch on the baby’s five senses. If the baby misses out on this process, his or her senses will be switched on, but later than when nature intended4 .
When they find out all this, how will the Mothers feel, who chose, by suggestion and with support of their doctors, to bypass the birth process entirely?
If Women are tempted by drugs to numb them of the pain of childbirth how will they ever know how strong they are? And that they can endure the challenges of Mothering, that they have an inner strength to draw on in the middle of the night, again and again. If they don’t feel the depth and breadth and height of natural birth what will they draw on to understand their teenager?
Animals that are numbed at birth reject their babies.
Animal mothers of babies taken from them at birth, fail to recognise them when they are reintroduced and reject them.
How will the Mothers feel when the truth is revealed that not only did the drugs rob them of the necessary experience to know their inner strength and power that would prepare them for Motherhood, the land of the strong and the brave, but that the drugs also taught their babies that when the going gets tough, get numb.
How will the Mothers feel when they see the scientific studies that link drugs used in labour with drug abuse in young adults5, that invasive instrumental procedures used at birth (most often done because of the inhibitory effects of the drugs used, on the natural process) link to suicide in young adults6 ?
No one has ever died of the pain of childbirth.
Pain is a gateway, and the part of the natural process that leads us to the altered states of consciousness where there is no pain, just birth and ecstacy.
Successful breastfeeding is more commonly associated with natural birth. How will the Mothers feel when they learn that breastfeeding turns on an internal mechanism inside the baby that for life enables them to produce serotonin, the hormone responsible for happiness7 ?
This is not an attempt to create feelings of guilt for what has happened, it’s a call for informed choice and informed decision making for what is to happen.
What has happened has happened and needed to for whatever purpose. Mothers have their ‘potential’ birth experience, and the lessons from the experience, there to be learned or not, are the gifts.
Childbirth is a rite of passage into motherhood, and what happens
1) informs the mother of her culture’s values and expectations of her as a mother
2) creates the lesson and therefore the theme for her mothering, distilling the essence of her relationship as mother with that child and
3) creates her inner beliefs about herself as mother.
That all happens regardless of whether you bring consciousness to it or not. And one of the reasons why the system, as unjust and absurd as it is, keeps going on is because of this rite of passage effect. The modern birth informs the mother that she couldn’t have done it without the doctor/hospital/drugs etc and what she subconsciously deduces from that is, it is because she doesn’t have in her whatever she may need to do it without them. This perpetuates the system by creating a dependent out of the mother and she passes this on to her children. She doesn’t trust her inner knowing or inner strength, she hasn’t even met it. ‘Natural’ birth is Nature’s opportunity and invitation for the mother to do just that. When a mother gives birth naturally, she starts her mothering with all the switches on, knowing she is the best carer for her baby, that she as Mother – knows best.
Childbirth is also the rite of passage for men to fatherhood. I wonder how many men who experience a typical hospital birth feel displaced and how this effects their relationships with both the child and the mother. I wonder what the relationship is between the father’s experience of childbirth and longevity of relationship with the mother? I wonder how the hi-tech birth experience has effected man’s relationship with the feminine. No need to wonder too hard, just look at the way the Earth (the feminine, our Mother) has and is being treated. And imagine for those men, who were, the effects of being circumcised on their relationship with their mothers who they ‘thought’ would protect them.
Birth is also a rite of passage for the baby, setting a theme for it’s life, creating their life “work”. We know that babies imprint – learn responses to stimuli from their mothers – on everything that happens during their time in the womb, the birth and up to seven years old.
What does a controlled birth experience teach this new (to this lifetime) person? How will the mothers feel when they come to know that they have unwittingly sealed an aspect of their baby’s fate.
But then, we know that souls make deals in ‘heaven’, to be part of life lessons for each other. Birth is one of those opportunities and the souls involved, the mother and the baby, have conspired together to create the perfect experience. Perfect doesn’t mean ‘really good’, it just means perfect, right, appropriate to the given circumstances. So perhaps it’s all ‘sealed in heaven’ and there’s no real point in trying to change the direction. What a dilemma…..
However, many women ‘wake up’ to their divine nature during their pregnancy as it pulls their focus to their centre, and as they do, their ears will open and they will hear what they need to hear at the time they need to hear it and so it is therefore that these words need to be spoken.
The multitude of unnatural birth experiences that are so much more the norm than natural ones, are nobody’s in particular fault, but are rather the manifestation of the ‘wounded feminine’ that we see in our patriarchal culture. Each birth that is allowed to be natural heals this wounded feminine, reminds us of the power inherent in the feminine and shifts the dominant model of suppression of that power.
This and much much more is the point of natural childbirth.
Natural birth is to be trusted, it is an ancient mammalian process that works. Natural birth is not dangerous or more dangerous than a monitored, controlled, high-tech medical experience, it is actually safer. When analysed, the mothers and babies of homebirths in the care of Midwives, the closest thing to an undisturbed natural birth (that has been analysed), fare better than the high-tech majority in the western world. The fact is 80% of the world’s births occur “at home” with women as the primary carer, and the world is certainly not suffering a population problem.
I’d like to dedicate this to my daughter Ellie and to my mentor and friend the late Jeannine Parvati Baker, also a friend of Ellie’s.
1 Carbohydrates Can Cause Disease By Kent Rieske
2 “The Good, The Bad and The Educational – Television and our Children’s Brains” by
Heather Ostman, Big Apple Parent April 2005 (ParentsKnow.com)
“Your Child’s Growing Mind” by Jane Healy 3rd Edition, Broadway Books, 2004
3 Evolution’s End, chapter 12, p115 by Joseph Chilton Pearce
4 Evolution’s End, chapter 12, by Joseph Chilton Pearce
7 “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross Chapter 3 p 28 Viking Publishers