A Vision of Birth

extract of an article by Sarah J. Buckley

I can imagine myself in a dialogue with my friend Wintergreen, body worker and developer of The Pink Kit, who has another valuable perspective. Wintergreen would tell me that birth may be an instinct, like sex, but we can learn to give birth, just as we can learn to be good lovers. She would agree that it is important to look at the external circumstances of birth, but she would say that we can influence our internal circumstances by learning to work with our birthing bodies. She might mention the importance of the “internal work” of The Pink Kit, a multimedia kit that takes us into our own body knowledge, mapping and working with our anatomy, learning to massage ourselves internally and to feel inside our vaginas during late pregnancy and labour. These tools are invaluable, helping us to be “in touch” with our own bodies—which, even in birth, are sometimes seen as the province of professionals—and assisting us to birth instinctively, in whatever birth setting we might choose.

For me, there are other levels to clear in order to be able to birth instinctively. This facet of birth—which I could ascribe to my friend, and director of the International College of Spiritual Midwifery, Shivam Rachana, and which has been validated through many women’s experiences—looks at our past experiences and beliefs, all of which are stored in our bodies, and concentrates on “freeing us up” emotionally, physically and spiritually for birth. Here we can use movement (I found the Osho meditation CD, Chakra Breathing to be superb preparation for birth), counseling/psychotherapy (this was my ally in my first birth), rebirthing, body work, yoga and other therapies in order to clear out all the “stuff” that can arise for us in labour and birth. This was a very powerful facet for me with Zoe’s birth and I realized, in retrospect, how much my own childhood experience of being “displaced” by my younger sister had affected my birthing.

Connecting with the Earth

We are also creatures of the Earth, and our bodies need the Earth’s nourishment to work efficiently in any instinctive behaviour. Good nutrition is a very important aspect of instinctive birth, as any animal breeder will affirm. Australian naturopath and author Francesca Naish ascribes much of our modern difficulties in labour and birth to poor nutrition, and it is certainly true that our Western diets are generally not wholesome or replete with everything that our bodies and our babies need. Her books, co-written with Janette Roberts—including The Natural Way to Better Pregnancy and The Natural Way to Better Birth and Bonding—contain valuable information to help us enhance our birth experience, as well as the long-term health of our babies, through optimal nutrition.

There are also deeper levels to our connection with the Earth. For some women, pregnancy brings an urge to garden or to go walking, to hike or just to gaze at the scenery of earth and sky. All of these activities help align us with the Earth, our Great Mother, and teach us respect and love for the natural order. If we want to birth instinctively, we can prepare ourselves by beginning to live more instinctively. We can, for example, make an effort to live less “by the clock,” which UK writer Sheila Kitzinger calls the worst piece of technology in labour and birth. This helps us to tune into our own instinctive—and earth-based—rhythms, which are much gentler on us and on our babies.

Spiritual beliefs and practices are another facet of pregnancy and birth. In a practical sense, having faith helps us to believe in our bodies and in birth, and prayer is a beautiful way to prepare for birth and motherhood. Belief systems that venerate the feminine as well as the masculine principle have a special place in my heart. I see, from this spiritual perspective, that much damage is done to women by religions that fail to honour the female body and feminine authority. Through the ages, we have also had our birthing goddesses and saints, from Artemis to Mary (who gave birth unassisted and surrounded by mammals!), to remind us that birth is a natural and instinctive act for all women.

Sarah J. Buckley

Excerpted from “A Vision of Birth,” Midwifery Today, Issue 68