It is an amazing transformation that can take place in people when they find out the strength of birth and what an amazing source of information and inspiration it can be. It affects your life forevermore.
Can I get an AMEN?
That quote was taken from an interview I read with midwife Ina May Gaskin, the godmother of modern midwifery. She was able to put language to a number of thoughts I’ve had swirling in my head since Courtland’s birth.
A week ago today, my first close friend gave birth to a sweet baby girl. As we lay in bed texting about the experience – she in the hospital while her new baby and husband slumbered and I in my home nursing Courtland in the early hours of the morning – I was filled with such happiness and overwhelming joy. For the first time, I had someone dear to me with which to talk about and truly understand, truly know, the power and joy that comes from bringing life into this world.
This all sounds so over-dramatic. But it’s true. I felt like shouting, “Welcome to the club!” Birth is one of those things that until you experience it, is difficult to fully discuss. To find proper language to convey the magnitude of that experience is a challenge I’ve struggled with for two years. Now I have someone close to me who’s “in on it.” I couldn’t help but be filled with excitement.
This friend conveyed awe and amazement over the birth of her daughter. She shared a profound contentment and satisfaction with the birthing experience she’d had. She wrote about these feelings and I could sense the transformation that had taken place just hours before. That deep, inner knowing that can come from birth. That strength. That awe. That power.
That she was able to have those things is what I want for every woman that gives birth. It’s what every woman deserves.
Earlier this month we had dinner with some new friends in town who have a 3 year old son that plays with Sunny. They had welcomed their second child into the world in May. The wife and I talked about the differences of our two children’s births, and discussed some of our frustrations with the medicalization and lack of information that women receive during their maternity. We were both fortunate to deliver our second child with the same midwifery group, at a hospital that allowed for intervention-free, natural deliveries without having to advocate for such care.
What I found most powerful and heartbreaking about this conversation is that this woman, someone who is typically very private and reserved in what she shares about herself, said that with her first child’s birth – one that wound up having unnecessary intervention lead to more unnecessary interventions in the classic tale of how medicalized labors can go – she felt that she was robbed of something. That something had been taken from her. That through that experience she’d lost a piece of herself. She said that she had been carrying around a trauma for three years. Until her second baby was born. When her second child arrived and she was able to have the birth experience she wanted. She said that that birth gave her back what was taken from her three years prior. It had healed that trauma, that loss, and was incredibly important in reestablishing her sense of self.
Yep. Whoa. Birth Power, y’all.
I write this because sadly I think that many women, particularly in America, don’t even realize what is possible from labor and delivery. That there is the possibility of empowerment and transformation and inspiration that comes from the birthing process, and yet they never know it, never even know it exists, because they passively engage with the process. And there are many ways to have an empowering experience. It most certainly does not only come from a natural birth, but I think rather from an educated one. A birth where the mother is an active participant in the process and in her care. A birth where the mother has a voice. A birth where the mother is empowered to trust her body. To trust instinct. And to know that she has the support of the medical industry should she need it or want it. THAT is the kind of maternal care I wish all women had.
I’ll end with more words from Ina May Gaskin’s recent book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, because she says it better than I can.
Giving birth can be the most empowering experience of a lifetime – an initiation into a new dimension of mind-body awareness – or it can be disempowering by removing from new mothers any sense of inner strength or capacity… Birth may be followed by an empowering joy, a euphoria that they will never forget or by a depression that can make the mother a stranger to herself...