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…