The other day someone asked me why I do what I do.
I think we don’t ask ourselves that question often enough.
Well I delved into the answer I realised that, at the heart of what I do, is something a lot deeper than just supporting women through birth.
I want to change the world
There, I said it.
I want to be part of a revolutionary movement that help women reclaim their strength and power.
I want my kids to grow up in a world where there is more connection and more kindness.
I believe our culture has got it all terribly wrong.
The western culture is all about possessions and individualism, but this isn’t what makes people feel happy.
Connection is what makes people feel happy.
Connection to others, feeling part of a tribe, part of a village. Connection to spirituality, whatever your conception of it might be. Understanding that we are all part of a whole and that there is something bigger than us.
The Western culture is a fear based culture.
I want our world to have more love.
Yes I know it sounds corny but I use the word in the biggest sense of the term.
To quote Australian poet and writer Michael Leunig
” There are only two feelings.
Love and fear.
There are only two languages.
Love and fear.
There are only two activities.
Love and fear.
There are only two motives,
two procedures, two frameworks,
Love and fear.
Love and fear.”
So what has that got to do with supporting women through birth?
I believe that birth is one, if not the most, significant event of our life. The way we are born constitute the framework for who we are for the rest of our life. Science, both physiological and psychological, shows us that this is the case.
Similarly, the way we give birth is one of the most significant rites of passage, and transition for a woman.
What if I told you that giving birth can be the most life affirming, exhilarating, and empowering of a woman’s life? Hard to believe isn’t it, in a culture that portrays birth as a horrible, painful event, one to be endured?
Giving birth can leave you with a the most amazing sense of your own power, and feeling of being invincible “I’ve done this, I can do anything!”
The amazing cocktail of hormones that courses through your brain during birth is meant to facilitate that. It is meant to bathe you in love and feel good hormones and to rewire your brain in preparation for motherhood. The same cocktail of hormones are also meant to bathe your baby is preparation for adaptation to the world.
After a birth like that, becoming a mother often comes more easily, and more instinctively.
The cocktail of hormones primes you and your baby for love and for kindness. And for tremendous personal growth. Dr Sarah Buckley has written very eloquently about how healing birth can heal the earth here.
Only the fear based way in which modern obstetrics approach birth (which is an entirely fear based model-like something terrible is going to happen) deprives far too many women (and their babies) of this positive, life affirming experience.
In over 5 years of supporting expectant couples, and reading the literature and stats around the topic, I am sad to say that in my local hospital (and this is pretty much reflective of the whole of the UK), first time mothers who give birth without any kind of intervention only represent 30 to 40% of the population. With a 25% induction rate (closer to 35% of all first time mothers are being induced for “being overdue”-read my blog about that here, of which nearly half end up with a caesarean, a 28% caesarean and 12% instrumental birth rate, it perhaps isn’t very surprising.
I see too many mothers who have been traumatised by their birth experiences, because they were steamrolled through interventions they didn’t need or want, by a complex machine/system that they didn’t know how to navigate.
So what can you do about this?
- Educate yourself! Read books, article, join online support groups, go to face to face drop in support groups like those run by the positive birth movement, go to private antenatal classes. Don’t turn up at your birth unprepared, expecting the “experts” to tell you what to do. You are the expert when it comes to birthing your baby. Find out about the options so you can make truly informed decisions, both in advance of the birth and on the day. Don’t take no for an answer! Educate yourself about your rights (a great place to start is the Birthrights website).
- Hire a doula! A doula is your ultimate pregnancy and birth support companion, who will support you unconditionally through the journey. The Cochrane database on continuous non medical support during labour showed that “women who received continuous support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. In addition, their labours were shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth”. Read this great review blog from Evidence Based birth about it here.
If you are a birthworker -please become part of the revolution! (I am hoping that if you are reading this you already are!). Connect and network with others professionals, reclaim knowledge and support, become part of a tribe of passionate, like minded professionals, so you have access to more collective knowledge and confidence to support your clients. Come and experience the power of circles of women, both around yourself and your clients, creating a patchwork quilt of multidisciplinary support.