Updated: Aug 5, 2022
17 years ago I was in my third year at medical school. I was pregnant with my first son. A friend had told me about her amazing homebirth with her daughters.
This embedded itself in my consciousness and I knew that I wanted a homebirth too.
This was not supported by anyone around me but no one criticized or objected. I was surrounded by doctors and medical students every day and was walked up and down the corridors and stairwells in Groote Schuure Hospital (the teaching hospital in Cape Town.)
I found my homebirth midwife and on a cold winter’s morning, my son was born into my arms via our midwife with my husband supporting me from behind.
I snuggled into bed with the most delicious bowl of oats and breastfed my son. I was deeply moved by my birth and I remember describing it to my friends.
“It was as if I was deeply absolutely connected by a beam of strong green-gold light that was channeling down from the pure essence, the raw divine Mother Earth and I was absolutely being directed, held, and strengthened by Her. It was as if She was guiding my body and my energy to birth my child was coming directly from Her.”
The connection was so tangible to me. There was no doubt that this is the power in birth and I was super excited to share this experience as I entered my clinical obstetric rotations.
I knew within my being that this was the potential available to any mother giving birth.
However, after rotating through maternity wards at the local MOU (midwife-led units) and hospitals I was devastated. After my deeply moving experience of my birth, I was witnessing abuse, shouting, name-calling, pushing, rushing, and rough handling of mothers and babies.
My passion for what I knew was possible and what I was witnessing drove me to become an activist for Human Rights in Maternity. I objected, complained, met with the heads of departments, and had lists of nurses’ names who were cruel and unethical.
In my spare time, I was reading and attended seminars on deepening my understanding of the long-term psychological and neurological effects of how we are born.
Now beyond my own sentiments, I could understand that how we are born has an effect on every baby and mother forever. I learned that there is imprinting that happens around this time that forever forms a part of our nature and experience as a human in this world.
When a Mother and a baby experience distrust, violation, abuse, violence, harsh talking, bullying, unnecessary pain, and threats at the time of birth – these infuse into their psychology and we become victims of these ways of experiencing life.
A woman may distrust her own body, she may distrust her parenting decisions, her intuition, she may continue to externalize any bodily symptom for her or her baby, feeling she cannot know or decide but must turn to external medical authority over her own body.
A baby inherits the imprints of a harsh landing in the world and may continue to feel that the world is a hostile place. That survival is dependent on being rough and rushed. My homebirth experience had become my own template for birth. And I prayed every mother could have that opportunity to experience birth in that way. Empowering, deeply supported, and transformational – as a passageway to Motherhood.
In the last 17 years, I have worked deeply with women during pregnancy and birth. I have come to understand more about the importance of gentle birth.
I have also come to know this is mostly possible at home for a few reasons.
Hospitals have protocols and all staff must adhere – whether it makes sense or not, whether it is valid or beneficial for the individual or not.
These protocols are often based on admin, bed space, politics, or public health and may be irrelevant to the needs of an individual mother or couple. The protocols are seldom based on evidence-based medicine and often even oppose evidence-based outcomes.
A woman’s biology works. However, it also responds to fear and stress. Just as a mammal’s labor in the wild may stop until she feels safe.
Fear and stress can stop, stall or complicate labor. When a woman’s body is supported in a loving, safe environment that understands what the biology of labor needs – fewer complications occur and babies are born with ease and grace.
This takes education and preparation for the mother and those supporting her to know how to support and not interfere with a woman in labor while keeping it safe.
Interventions can disrupt labor and create a flow of further interventions. These interventions can be hurrying up labor by inducing her or breaking her water.
Interventions can include late ultrasounds (or early) where the gynae may make comments that stick in a mother’s head, creating doubt that grows into fear and distrust of her own body’s wisdom and ability. Comments may include – your baby is small, your baby is big, the cord is around the neck, the water is less.
There will likely be a protocol to protect, enforce and maintain these interventions. When you start to question and try to understand the absolute biological reasons behind them you may find very little actual clinical relevance for what we take for granted as needed procedures.
You may question the pelvic examination in late pregnancy or the repeated ultrasounds at every gynae visit, the routine episiotomy, and the separation of baby from mother immediately at birth.
The cascade of interventions leads to more interventions and we become so grateful that the medicine was there to save us and our babies because how could we have ever done this without them?
Should we be questioning the very first need for intervention in the first place and perhaps consider that each intervention created the pathway for the next until only surgery could save us?
Let’s turn to the expert in creation and growth, survival, and blooming.
By observing nature, we witness the behavior of mammals around birth. Research has also confirmed that there are certain things (medications, interventions, separation) that will stop a mother from bonding with her baby.
And we understand from psychology and neurology that bonding and connecting with a newborn is an immensely important part of a person’s life.
When a mother holds her baby in the first hour after birth, skin touching, eyes locking, baby smelling, hearing and feeling mother and mother smelling, holding and taking her baby in – a cascade of hormones flow that regulate the baby’s physiology and stress responses. These hormones also act within the mother to overflow her with maternal feelings, contract the uterus to stabilize bleeding, and initiate milk production and flow. It is a perfect synergy.
However, we witness the compulsory separation of a mother and a baby after birth that interferes with bonding, breastfeeding, and a mother’s innate biological responses and trust in herself. It is actually creating trauma within.
Therefore, I cannot work within the scope of hospital birth and I find supporting women for homebirths is where a woman’s biology can naturally unfold resulting in a safe, gentle, conscious, and very beautiful birth.
A mother and father look into their baby’s eyes as the baby settles and the mother naturally offers her breast to the baby and the baby latches soon after. This is not ideal. It is not irresponsible. It is not brave. It is not different. It is not exclusive.
Birth is not a medical procedure.
Medicine is there when it is needed as there are certainly cases in which we are grateful to collaborate and work with medicine.
However, birth is a deeply natural and divine welcoming of a new member of our family. When we support it without control or doubt, we witness the magic of nature and human biology.
Homebirth has captured my attention and heart in a way that connects birth to the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom of the pure heart of Nature, and brings it back to the wisdom and knowledge of a mother’s heart and soul.
I have learned that how we are born and how we birth stays with us forever. It is my deepest wish and prayer that every Mother experiences the power within her that exists to birth her baby into the world and that each baby can be born into a loving and gentle environment.
Not because I am a romantic or dreamy about it. But because it is what our innate biology and physiology are intended to do and remain in the mother-baby bubble afterward for optimal bonding, physiological parameters, and long-standing effects.
I believe healing birth will heal and bring peace to Mother Earth and each person born.
Physiological Birth – Dr. Sarah Buckley https://sarahbuckley.com/hormonal-physiology-of-childbearing-report/
Birth Without Violence – Frederick LeBoyer
Needs of the Newborn – Michel Odent