The Beginning

Birth for ancient cultures was an important and sacred part of life. While dangerous because of the unsanitary conditions of day to day life it was safer to give birth with a midwife and surrounded by other women than to consult a surgeon. Births were a closed affair. Sacred spaces were erected for the birth. Women after birth, got time to rest and were served in bed in this sacred space for several days. In some cultures was because they were considered unclean after birth, but it also gave them the important time needed to heal.

 

The Turn to Painless Birth

Ironically the loss of a woman's right to birth without intervention is partially to blame by the women's rights movement. As we women began to take charge of their own fertility the medical world was coming up with new pain medications. Doctors began offering a painless birth, and women took it with gusto! In order to have these kinds of births though, women had to be at the hospital. This is where home births began to lose ground. This new "painless" birth was the dawn of birthing called twilight sleep. It was anything but painless. Women were simply medicated so they had no memory of the birth. They had to be bound and tied down. The pain was so immense to a conscious sedated body that it would fight back. Women would hurt themselves and hospital staff during birth. The other issues with this kind of birth are that the baby is getting the drugs as well causing a drowsy baby that did not nurse well, and that the mother is lacking the bonding step of being present for the birth of the baby.

With the shift to medical birth women began to believe it was unsafe to have a baby at home. At hospitals babies went from the womb directly to the nursery where they were given bottles. More and more mothers felt detached from their babies. Midwives were pushed out of the picture.

While we have made some progress in reclaiming birth in hospitals in some ways, in others we have gotten farther away. Our infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than almost any other country. Many, me included, feel it is because the hands-on approach modern medicine takes with birth is the cause of our birth complications. There is a downward spiral with interventions. A clock that begins ticking for many doctors the second you begin labor that generally leads to an OR for a C-section.

 

Reclaiming Birth

Pain management is possible without the use of drugs!

Recognize that birth is a life ritual. We need raise our inner goddess energy for the birth just as we would to celebrate a solstice or equinox. Knowing and understanding what your body is going through beforehand goes a long way in releasing the fear of the pain. The ability to feel a contraction of certain pain and know what it is, and not just label it as pain is very helpful. (Also, something a doula can help you to do). Remember that our ancestors did this without so many interventions and perhaps those generations are healthier than ours.  Consider where you feel you can make a space sacred for this life ritual, and hire your birth support accordingly. Doulas are excellent help with this!  Practice meditation and visualization of birth while talking to the baby. You will need the little ones help. They have their own part to play in birth.  Recognize and understand what each procedure your care giver wishes to do, and understand what may be asked of you at the hospital. Know what you are comfortable with ahead of time helps you to not lose your concentration.  

Statistically mothers who build a strong support group that has an understanding of what the parents want from the birth are less likely feel a let down from the birth. This leads to a higher rate of success in breastfeeding. This is huge! It also lowers the risk of postpartum depression, and strengths the bond between mother and child.

 

The Role of a Doula in a Ritual Birth

She is a calm voice over the rush of hurried ones.

She is there to focus on the emotional health of the mother and father. The midwife or doctor is there to focus on the medical health of mother and baby.

She is there constantly throughout labor.

She can help to keep things calm and respectful.

She is there with trained, experienced knowledge of what is happening to help you decide how to go forward.

 

 

-- Ashley Baney