Unassisted vs Undisturbed Birth, and Ancient Shamanic Midwifery

Last night, I was contemplating the birth of my third child, born almost 5 years ago now.  I birthed her unassisted and unattended however, I am not sure if I could say that it was undisturbed?  I remember the first time I heard about freebirth, sitting with a group of women on Bowen Island, BC, as we listened to Jeannine Parvati and Gloria Lemay passionately share their stories.  I was deeply moved and I new that if I were to birth another child that I wanted to birth in Freedom – which I attributed to unassisted birth.

A few years later, I conceived my third child and there was no question about it, I was going to birth unassisted and this is the story about the birth of Amara…

I noticed that during my pregnancy, I carried a guard a wall of protection you might say.  I was protecting myself from the constant force of questions and concerns.  I choose to not have prenatal care, primarily because I did not trust the local registered care givers.  I was however, open to receiving care from a traditional midwife – one who had lots of experience ‘doing nothing’ at a birth.  However, there were only 2 with whom I felt most comfortable with – one lived in the united states and the other, was no longer practicing midwifery.  So although, I knew in my head that I wanted an unassisted childbirth, my heart longed for the nurturing care and attention that a traditional hands off midwife often gives.  My pregnancy progressed naturally and normally without anyone doing any diagnostics.  However, I felt like I was missing something special, something that is ingrained in this rite of passage – the loving care of another woman who understands the Mystery.

I noticed that I could not freely speak of my pregnancy or birth plans, because I would then be bombarded with questions and concerns.  This made me recoil even more and live in a very contemplative and seclusive inner state during this time.   Of course, I had my dear close woman friends who supported me and I had my incredibly understanding and trusting husband by my side, however, I did not like this tension that I was carrying.

What was I protecting myself from? Why did I feel the need to be so rigid about my decisions? Why could I not let anyone into my inner world? What was I protecting myself from? and why did it matter so much to have people accept this choice? According to Dr. Michel Odent, the worst thing a care giver can do is stress the pregnant mother out.  And yet, here I was, stressing myself out.  Oh, I came across as proud, confident, sure of my choice and ready to defend my position.  However, internally, I felt alone, frightened, and sad.

Now we all go through a form of transformation and metamorphosis during our pregnancies and births and therefore, part of this was what I needed in order to be transformed.  I don’t want to write about all of the deep internal struggles that I went through because, that is a normal part of pregnancy and birth.  But what I do want to share is the part about why I felt alone and sad – sad that this vision quest was not going to be witnessed by a ‘holder’ of births.  I don’t feel like all current midwives are ‘keepers of birth’, because there is an energy that one carries when they are truly tapped into the Shamanic nature of the Midwife.  It was this force that I longed for and would have dropped my attachment to my ideology (unassisted childbirth) to have had ‘Her’ present.

So nearing the end of my pregnancy, I was large and I new I was going to have a large baby, and I noticed that I carried a fear.  This fear never went away, it didn’t matter how much meditation I did, how much positive self talk, how much reassurance I received, or how much trust I had in my body’s ability to give birth… This fear haunted me.  Although my partner was amazing, truly amazing and trusting, it was not enough for me to voice my fear to him.  I journaled daily about it, and still, it would present itself.  I befriended it, and still it was there!  I wonder if all women have this experiencing, and notice that there is a fear that just lingers around and never really leaves until your birth is over?

I remember going into labor and I was excited.  My partner had to fly home from Toronto, so I just got things ready in the home and took a long needed nap.  There was something that felt so liberating and free to know that there was no one to call, no one invite in, no one showing up to take over – it was just going to be me, my partner, and my baby!

I recall listening to my body and my baby, and as the force of labor pulled stronger all my fear dissolved and I drifted off into the Abyss of labor-land.  I loved this time and savored every moment of it.  I played with the sensations in my body – expanding and dissolving.  It was glorious and I felt in my power and so connected.  There was no one to impress, no one watching, no one expecting NO ONE and that felt beautiful.  My partner witnessed, meditated with his eyes closed and grounded to space in the most innocent and non intrusive way! So much gratitude.

For those of you who know the power of the birthing tides as the baby starts coming down the birth canal, well, it was a tidal wave.  I felt split in half and unsure what I should do… so I followed my body and labor.  She was coming down fast and hard (as all my babies do) and a fear crept in.  I feared her coming out too fast, splitting me open, so in water, I sat up in semi squat and put my hand on her head to feel her emerge! I wanted to catch her so badly, I wanted to be so present with her during this time … and feeling this force emerge and embracing her head between my legs was total bliss and excitement “almost done” i thought to myself.  And another wave of contraction came through me and her body was not yet born… I started to fear my greatest fear – she is stuck I thought to myself.  I noticed all my cells in my body shrink and tighten (of course my yoni would tighten as well).

Another contraction, on all fours, and still she was not yet born.  One more contraction in squat and still not born.  And then, I stood up on all, leaned over the pool and was told (by my partner) to push and don’t stop until she is born! So I called upon all of the power of the universe, I saw the ancient ones, I saw all the birthing women and felt a power flow through me so strong that I literally popped my daughter out of me! She flew into the water head first and I spun around and picked her up.

We just sat there for a few minutes, grounding and coming in.  There she was born, laying limp in my arms awaiting her first breath.  We called her in and blew air on her face, and when she was ready she became present and took her first breath.  I knew in that moment, that when there is love present and patience, all is perfect.  And all was perfect and so was she…

And now, 5 years later, I still think of this birth with visceral vivid memories.  I wonder would that fear have been so prominent had I been witnessed?  Could one word such as “all is perfect, with the next push open up and bring forth your baby”   been enough to create a calm trusting environment so that I could have birthed her in two contractions?  Why am I even still considering this when all went well?  And what is the difference between unassisted and undisturbed?

I believe that I experienced an unassisted childbirth and unattended, however, I was disturbed by my inner world.  So although I believed that I was protecting myself from outside disturbances and outside forces that could have taken over my birth, in the end, I disturbed my pregnancy & birth with my mind and fear.  I felt afterwards, that I could not claim that unassisted was the best way, or a choice that all women should choose – of course it needs to be an available choice.

I did not want a midwife present so that they could be responsible for my birth, or pull my baby out, or take her away from me immediately after she was born because she was not breathing right away – NO I did not want this kind of care… I just wanted to be able to have had the choice to choose a ‘Birth Keeper’-a keeper of the stories and a witness to your powers.  Why I feel so strongly about this I am not sure?

Looking at Shamanic journeying, you are guided and your space is held sacred and you are left to go on your journey knowing that all is safe and all is well.  And you go, deep into your journey world and when you come back, the Shaman is there awaiting your new arrival and awaiting to hold your story.  I feel the same way about birth.  I feel that if we don’t honor the fact that there is something deeply powerful about being witnessed by someone who knows the altered state and terrain of birth that some fabric of this Mysterious web will be lost.

It is for this reason that I believe that Free Birth is about choice – the freedom to choose along the way what you are intuitively guided to choose.  And I also believe that we need to keep the ancient sacred spiritual Birth Keeper – The Midwife, alive and accessible.  With today’s modern mainstreaming of midwifery we are definitely offering the public access to more choice, however, we are also diluting the old ways and making them non accessible.  If you were apprenticed trained in the past, you may still be able to hang on to that ancient knowledge and trust in birth, however, for those that are being University trained, it is hard to believe that they can be taught the Shamanic ways.  There is something missing in this new era of midwifery, Soul perhaps and a deep knowing and trust in birth.

It is for this reason that I write about my journey with unassisted birth.  I want to share that there is another route as well, a route that offers you the freedom to choose and just be.  A care giver or rather, Woman who can guard your space so to speak, who can be the witness, who does ‘nothing’ and who deeply trusts and anchors the birthing energies.  This is not something to be discarded.  I ask that you seek out these ancient ones, or those who hold this knowledge and lineage and carry them in your back pocket.  Don’t let them be thrown out because they don’t meet ‘qualification’ standards but rather, create a relationship with them, learn from them and if you are inspired invite them into your birth space…

And so it is…

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19 thoughts on “Unassisted vs Undisturbed Birth, and Ancient Shamanic Midwifery

  1. beautiful beautiful…
    i am on the other side of the conundrum… sought out the teacher and have moved to America for the wise woman teachings, and now am wondering what this thread will look like when i follow it north back across the border to the land of medwifery and persecution….
    we should connect these pieces and begin to weave the tapestry of empowered womyn that is the future.

  2. thank you jennifer for sharing your story
    i loved reading it and am so touched by your seeing, sensitivity and questioning.
    thank you for letting me into your world – mine is already richer for it.
    love
    isabelle

  3. Thanks for this wonderful musing. It is wonderful to find such a resonance: my first pregnancy was a constant process of trying to override my gut-level discomfort with my midwife, and my birth experience showed up our essential philosophical differences perfectly, despite my gentle homebirth. With my next child, I knew I wanted my wise-woman mentor midwife to be present for me, despite that we agreed she would only be physically present or do anything (monitoring baby etc) if specifically requested. I rested safe, knowing I could go on my birthing journey on my own power, without the either/or of the lonely journey of unassisted birth, or battling (or even engaging at all) with the ‘medwifery’ that marred my first experience. Now as I resume my midwifery career I am blessed to be serving couples that know they can birth alone, but want to include me in their birthing circle! What an amazing blessing, and thanks for bringing this idea into the open. Love cecil

  4. Thanks for this soulful and inspiring post – you touched me deeply by giving voice to your experience so close to the core of the happening. I’ve had two homebirths with midwives and having recently been exposed to undisturbed birth practices, I long for the same. I don’t know I can birth without my own mind disturbing me, if maybe that’s part of the birthing journey for us all? But I am overjoyed and blessed to hear your voice from laborland as it gives me courage to be open to what’s possible.

    1. I love that you can find encouragement through my story and that I can share that with you… together weaving our stories. I do hope you found the courage you were seeking for i trust deeply and know we all find our way… blessings to you ❤

  5. Thank you for articulating so well what women are seeking when they choose unassisted. I appreciate the depth of insight – and will carry that with me to each birth I attend.
    with much gratitude.
    Kiersten

    1. I am so pleased to hear this Kiersten! I just revisited this written piece, and I too, am moved by this story told almost 3 years ago. I love how sharing what is so dear to the inner most, takes on a life of its own and never truly belongs to you… many blessings along your journey. ❤

  6. Thank you. This has helped guide me very much on my path of midwifery and has confirmed many things that I have considered regarding how I will help women.

    1. thank you for your comments.. so wonderful to hear that you can grab a nugget of gold that you can carry with you and add to your medicine bundle as you learn the art of guarding the birth space. blessings to you ❤

  7. Superb post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Thank you!

  8. I am touched by the bravery of this story, and the courage to follow your heart even though others might not quite understand. Trusting your intuitive wisdom requires you to go those unheard places, daring to stand in the dark for those moments, often unaccompanied. I support this movement to inform ladies there are alternatives to hospital births and the painful ideology that accompanies most.

    I woke up the other morning with the feeling I was pregnant. It was such a strong impression that I was receiving. I felt surges of maternal energy telling me my body is a sacred temple of life, that pulled me through an emotional experience that I can already feel has deeply altered my life perspective. Due to the sudden and intensive coming on of symptoms (I was able to identify with the help of web searches, woo!) I became concerned I was maybe many weeks along and found an amazing free testing and ultra sound organization with a mobile facility nearby my house! I felt so certain of my intuitive knowledge and via communication with my body I had little doubts. But sure enough I got a negative result, which sent me under a wave of confusion and self-doubt.
    Collecting myself and facing the possibility that I could be misinterpreting what I was feeling, I quickly realized it was more likely I would have become pregnant only 4 or 5 days ago.

    I’m young, this is unexpected, still uncertain but I just wanted to share my inspiration and appreciation for your story. I second the “more content!” notion and suggest perhaps a segment about becoming pregnant. Did you plan all your pregnancies? What were the first couple days and weeks like for you? How did you learn you were pregnant? And also did you have any early signs or intuitions from your body and the universe before doctors could detect anything?

    What expectations did you have for your first pregnancy, being a new mom? What were your first two births like and what led to the choices you made for your third?

    Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing.

    1. Hi Ellie,

      Thank you for your compliments and comments. You ask deep questions about intuition. I know I struggled with these questions for many years (including now). Intuition is not something unique, we all have it. We are often just very distant from hearing the information and understanding how it communicates with us. I know for myself, I started to quiet my mind and heart so I could hear my intuitive voice. It speaks to me through body sensations. When I am out of balance or in chaos, my intuitive voice is far away. I did not plan my pregnancies. Within a short period of time my body felt weird, I was turned off of food and drink, and I was very tired. I took a pregnancy test to confirm my pregnancy and I also noticed implantation bleeding. When I was first pregnant, during those early years, I was not tapped into my intuition in the ways I am now. At least I didn’t think I was. Later to find out that actually, I was very tapped in just afraid to hear the information. My first pregnancy opened the doorway to a world I knew nothing about but inspired me and in the process, I gave birth to my life’s work. I hope this helps you some. Please feel free to view my website http://www.edmontonbirthcoach.com or http://www.midwiferyforthesoul.ca Blessings to you on this journey.

  9. Yes, yes, yes!!! Someone who gets it! I could write a book about my current crisis and experience of preparing myself for birth. I too long for a Shamanic woman, a priestess who is there to hold the sacred space of the Goddess and witness my initiation into a deeper layer of my femininity. Someone who gives me a birthing ceremony a few days before, who holds my hand if I need it, but steps back and allows me to be in charge of my own process of life creation. It seems an impossibility now because (as is the case in my home state of Texas and many others as well) lay midwifery is illegal, and licensed/registered midwifes have to follow too many laws, procedures and regulations that make the whole birth feel clinical, even after I’ve worked so hard at creating the perfect sacred space for my home water birth. Not something I want, especially for the $2,000+ that I’ll have to make over the next few months to pay for such interference and “disturbance”. Still, the fear of failure and the doubt I have of my bodies ability is so strongly ingrained in me, that I feel an obligation to pay the money and make the compromise, even if only for the sake of keeping my family from disapproving of my choice to freebirth. So much worry and anxiety is consuming me in my twenty first week of pregnancy and I’m currently in the process of soul searching and prayer. I really needed to read this right now, thank you for bravely sharing your story, it is an inspiration to countless women like us.

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