SEEKING PREGNANT U.S. COUPLES THAT WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN A DOCU-SERIES ABOUT UNASSISTED OR MIDWIFE-ASSISTED, OUTDOOR BIRTH. Late last year I was contacted by a company that was making a docu-series about outdoor birth for a major cable network. At first I was reluctant to get involved, but after watching clips from the first episode (which will air sometime next year) and speaking extensively with the producer – whose two children were born at home - I have decided to participate. I believe the producer has a genuine passion for homebirth and will present it in a positive light. His wife is currently studying to become a post-partum doula. In the episode I viewed, a couple in Alaska gave birth in a dwelling built by the father on the couple’s land. The birth was attended by the father, the mother’s sister and an unintrusive and unseen film crew. The family was very happy with the way they were portrayed and the birth brought tears to my eyes! I think this is a wonderful opportunity to help spread the word about the joys of homebirth! No first-time moms or California residents, and couples must be due between Sept. 1st and Nov. 30th. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and feel free to share this message!
I’m excited to announce my new online class: Expecting Success! A Positive Approach to Pregnancy and Birth. The 4 week (1 hour a week) class begins Sept. 4th at 1pm Pacific (4pm Eastern). For more information or to register for the class click here - http://www.entheos.com/academy/courses/Expecting-Success. This will be a fun and interesting class. Anyone with an interest in birth is encouraged to attend. Please spread the word!
I'm so excited to be speaking once again at the Trust Birth Conference! The conference is in Nashville, TN this year from April 13th through the 15th (there is also a pre-conference starting on April 11th; see website for details). My talk is entitled "Unassisted Childbirth Stories and Vignettes." I'll be sharing some of my favorite (and in some cases, unusual) birth stories along with a slideshow and a DVD of some amazing unassisted births. I'll also be part of two panels - one on push-less birth (no, you don't have to PUSH your babies out!), and the other on why some women choose to stay home alone to give birth. As usual, there will be numerous talks given by the best and brightest teachers, writers, childbirth professionals and mothers in the "business." There's still time to register. I hope you'll join me there!
Tune in tonight (March 19th) at 9pm Central as I’m interviewed by Gena Kirby on the Progressive Parenting show. We’ll be talking about unassisted childbirth, orgasmic birth, and the upcoming Trust Birth Conference. After the show (at 10pm Central) I will be doing a half hour TV show on Vokle. One lucky TV viewer will win a copy of the second edition of my book, Unassisted Childbirth!
I’ve often heard midwives say that midwives were the original birth attendants or that midwifery is the world’s oldest profession (or second oldest profession, as the case may be). Some also claim that we know midwifery is “natural” because even animals have “midwives.” And while I certainly give midwives credit for helping women give birth - both now and in the past - none of the above statements are true. The original birth attendants were friends or family members of the woman giving birth. Judith Goldsmith writes in her book Childbirth Wisdom from the World’s Oldest Societies that, “Many students of childbirth, however, speak of the midwife as woman's first helper. In reality, though, even the midwife is a relative newcomer on the scene. In those tribal communities where birth is aided, the assistant is most commonly the woman's own mother.....A casual reading of anthropology does not always make these close family ties apparent, because often the European writer, seeing things in the light of his own background, referred to the person assisting the mother as the ‘midwife’ whether or not she was called this or considered as such by her own society. Further examination, however, reveals that the so-called midwife was very often a close relative of the mother, with no more special knowledge of birth than any other mother in the tribe. This underlines an important point: in a large part of the world, except in difficult cases, a birth required no more specialized help than the members of a woman’s own family could provide."
Michel Odent, M.D. echoes these sentiments in his recently released book The Functions of the Orgasms: “The concept of a birth attendant is more recent than is commonly believed, although a mother or mother figure was probably around when a woman was giving birth in primitive societies. This was mostly to protect the privacy of the birth woman against the presence of wandering men or animals. No doubt this is how midwifery began.”
Odent also claims that “Everywhere in the world there has been a tendency to dramatically alter the original role of the birth attendant, to deny the birthing woman’s need for privacy and to socialize childbirth. More often than not, the midwife has become an agent of the cultural milieu, transmitting its specific beliefs and rituals.”
Veronika Sophia Robinson, publisher of the UK magazine The Mother, expresses similar views in her book The Birthkeepers: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition: “We’ve been led to believe that midwifery is the oldest profession, but this is a romanticized notion, and not a fact. It is perpetuated by practitioners of midwifery and childbirth. When assisted and observed birth did start becoming common place in our history, the attendant was not a specialist in birth, but most usually the mother of the woman in labour.”
As far as animals, some do give birth in the presence of other animals (although most seek seclusion). But these animals cannot be considered “midwives” in any sense of the word. As with tribal cultures, the animals “attending” are simply other members of the pack or herd. You can be sure that none of these “attendants” are sticking their paws inside the mother animal’s vagina, or telling her when and when not to push.
So why does this matter? It matters because as unassisted childbirth grows in popularity, I and other unassisted birth advocates are hearing from more and more midwives and midwife supporters who claim that we’re infringing on their territory or that unassisted birth isn’t “natural.” Some even write that (in the case of an unassisted birth gone wrong) we’re “giving homebirth a bad name.” But the truth is, not only is unassisted childbirth natural, it’s also safe, provided a woman doesn’t live in poverty, and the birth isn’t interfered with either physically or psychologically. Throughout history, healthy tribal women have successfully given birth without medical assistance.
I recognize that many women find the presence of a midwife helpful in birth, and I hope that midwives will continue to be available - to those who want them. But birth doesn’t “belong” to midwives. Nor does it belong to doctors, the AMA or the state. Birth belongs to mothers and babies – and ideally to fathers should they choose to be involved, and it’s time this truth was recognized.