An increasing number of moms-to-be are opting for traditional birthing practices. An article by Poona Jain.
We are not incharge of our existence. Who knows this better than a woman in labour? Perhaps, that’s why an increasing number of women are choosing to give birth naturally, a departure from the earlier trend prevalent among upwardly-mobile urbanites, to go for a Ceasarian-section.
When, on the march, a Guyanese woman in South America goes into labour, she just steps aside, delivers, wraps up the baby with the afterbirth and runs to catch up with the others. At the first stream that presents itself, she washes herself and the infant, reveals Judith Goldsmith, in her book Childbirth Wisdom From The World’s Oldest Societies.
A similar expression of nature’s creativity is shared by Livingston Jones in his A Study of the Thlingets of Alaska. The vast majority of Thlingit women suffer very little and some, not at all, during childbirth. They have been known to give birth while sleeping, he remarks. This was clearly during a time when there was full and easy harmony with the nature of the cosmos.
Traditional cultures were evolved in the way ‘primal’ woman behaved during labour. She was governed by her instincts; fear was absent and children were born effortlessly. In traditional societies, a baby was seen as a link with ancestors, says 84-year-old UK-based Sheila Kitzinger, natural birth activist and social anthropologist. “In our wealthy modern society, giving birth to a baby is treated as a personal accessory to the romance between couples who, once they have established a home together and acquired a car and stereo, proceed to ‘acquire’ a baby, or even, when that romance is fading, look to a baby as a means of reviving and enhancing it,” she says.
Mothers are increasingly choosing waterbirths. Providers, doctors, midwives, spiritual teachers and birth assistants have the responsibility to assist women in finding their centre, connecting to the source and letting the baby emerge into wholeness, shares Barbara Harper, founder of Waterbirth International. She says, “The use of water assists in the process in ways that are amazing and extremely beneficial.”
During waterbirth, a baby flows through the mother, into warm watery fluid that is similar in temperature to the womb. Everything stops as we witness and hold the space for this new being to enter into a life of intention as it makes the effort to survive, to connect at every level, cell, neuron, and to his spiritual being. The newborn baby that is treated in a kind, respectful, conscious, gentle manner grows to be a connected, trusting adult who celebrates his very being. “Would you like to be welcomed into the world in rush, pain and fear, or with love, joy and connection,” asks Harper, who was recently in Bangalore where she delivered a talk on the impact birthing practices have on foetal brain development.
Most births today are hurried, especially so in metros. “The US seems to have influenced much of the world with the rather brutal form that obstetrical care took during the early 20th century,” says the US-based Ina Gaskin May, described as ‘the mother of authentic midwifery’. She continues: “Midwifery was eliminated, and birth moved into hospitals that employed no midwives who could have taught doctors less, drastic ways to get babies out of women.”
Awakening To Life
C-sections and episiotomy — a surgical procedure to enlarge the birth passage — mutilate the female body, according to Janet Chawla, a Delhi-based birth activist and scholar. That part of the female body, the yoni — through which all human life is born — is accorded dignity in Sanskrit and subsequent languages as being the source, both metaphysically and as a physical part of the body.
Birth can hold many aspects and feelings: blissful, challenging, ecstatic, difficult, sacred and transformative. It is important we develop an understanding and a vocabulary of pleasure if we are to overcome our fear of birth and share what is possible — allowing women a full range of options. Women must embrace the power and the pleasure in welcoming babies with consciousness. For birthing spiritually-aware babies means bringing forth souls connected to a love-filled universe. With so much love, only one thing is possible — and that is, an illumined world.