A Startling of Home Waterbirth
For a long time, I have been fascinated with the processes of conception, pregnancy and birth. This interest was sparked when I saw the "Business of Being Born." This documentary’s overview of the modern history of birthing practices is fascinating, disturbing and most of all controversial.
Rich with everything good about humanity, the trend towards reviving a woman's natural, instinctive power, combined with use of breath and mindfulness is an astonishing development,
The painless, even orgasmic, possibility of home waterbirth is clearly evident in this viral video, which found immense reception. This experience becoming known to the wider public is fantastic.
An evolution in the passage to motherhood, has stirred controversy and the curiosity of many. A tendency, dominant in the New Age community, romanticizes the seriousness of this physical act. But, we must keep in mind that giving birth has potential medical risks.
One of the strangest, most intriguing videos I came across was of a mother giving birth with a dolphin as a witness, or you might say assistant-doula (dolphins sometimes have an exalted status in the alternative healing community).
Maybe I digress with the dolphin stuff: the internet’s constant proliferation of novelty.
Breaking the Predominant View: Ecstatic Birth
Satire in television and film, as in Lena Dunam's "Girls" Season Four finale, reveals the skepticism and cynicism, paired up with faith and over-trust, blind-optimism and complete even naiveté, when it comes to these new trends in birthing practices.
In this episode, Adam's spaced-out, New-Agey sister, haphazardly decides to give birth in the bathtub of her Brooklyn apartment. Adam is furious when his sister is in need of serious medical attention, but is upset about her sacred birth-plan having gone seriously array.
As entertaining as these fictional episodes are, what’s being pioneered in the alternative community should be examined soberly and with informed intelligence. I once saw a critique of the variety of doula and midwife certifications and lack thereof, depending what state in which they are working. The lack of consistent regulation is startling. It leads to a, in some cases, warranted stigma of unsafe conditions.
Throughout areas like New York City, birthing centers are popping up. These are places that offer the feel of a home setting, including the benefits of waterbirth, while being connected to a hospital for easy transfer, if necessary. Hopefully, this synthesis, with a “best of both worlds” solution will become more of the norm.
With this change, mainstream stigma surrounding doulas, midwives and waterbirth will disappear. Future generations see the terrifying ambiance and stereotype of pain surrounding the common medical approaches and media representations of birth as archaic and silly.
The tropes all too accepted now will seem foreign and laughable: a screaming woman in the back of a taxi; a grimacing woman demanding "the damn epidural. Now!"
Future comparisons to contemporary techniques will seem as ridiculous as looking back to Colonial-era views. At that time labor pain seen as punishment for the sins of Eve. And the invention of the forceps, in the 17th century, lasted long enough for my own Grandpa's skull to be indented by such measures (or, so he claimed!).
Let's Get Sciencey About It
Most disturbing is the widespread use of the C-section at the convenience of both doctor and patient. The New York Times reported, “In the last 15 years, the rate of C-section has gone up by 50 percent in the United States.” And the CDC data says that nationally, one-third of women are now getting C-sections, which has gone up 60% overall, with 21% getting C-sections in 1990, to 33%, in 2013.
Innovative research into the medical science of the microbiome show the importance of our gut bacteria as central to our immune systems and organ function. This wide-open field may help treat everything from depression to cancer.
Vice News reports that “Humans are sterile in the womb. They are first colonized by bacteria and other microbes when they exit their mother's birth canal.” This initial dose of probiotics, along with breastfeeding, is nature's jump-start to a healthy immune system.
The importance of a natural birth biologically, as designed by millions of years of evolution, may not be fully understood today. Psychologically, I believe that avoiding the challenging passages of life -- for the baby or for the mother -- have strong affects on the personality.
Dr. Rick Strassman, author of “DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” hypothesizes that at moments of extreme stress, such as birth and death, the neurohormone DMT, responsible for natural mystical and psychedelic experiences, is released in large doses. C-sections may bypass this natural, formative experience.
According to the findings of psychologist Stanislav Grof, birth leaves an impression on the deepest parts of our psyche. In his work, Grof has documented the repeated phenomena of birthing images while people are in altered states of consciousness. The far-out findings indicate that “the birth experience could represent a multifaceted universal matrix present in all human beings who experience biological birth,” which those with C-sections do not experience.
The Primordial Power of Motherly Instincts
A year ago, I went to Kripalu, a retreat center in Massachusetts, to experience Grof’s natural technique in achieving psychedelic experience. While attending that workshop, I had a conversation, over lunch, with a Yoga studio owner and teacher named Corrine Andrews.
We talked about a mutual interest in natural, home birth. She had given birth to her sons at home. In her Birthing Mama classes, she offers prenatal Yoga and holistic-orientated labor preparation, including birth support and doulas.
I remember how she was awed, yet pleased to meet a young man who was so keenly interested and educated on the topic; I remember thinking how beautiful it was to meet a mother who had connected with the powerful primordial power of her own motherly instincts.