The Truth and Beauty of Birth.
Updated: Feb 19
This past weekend I spent 14 hours at a Waterbirth & Gentle Birth Education Workshop.
One of my many varied and somewhat unusual interests is Birth. And whenever I start to talk about this, or folks come to our apartment and see Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth lying on the couch, or I post stuff about Birth on Facebook, I get suspicious looks and awkward questions…
“So, are you like, planning to have a baby?”
“Do you have news!?”
“Is there something you want to tell us?”
The answer is no.
I definitely want to have many babies (although even the thought of more than two causes the husband to start palpitating) and someday live on a farm (organic of course).
Just kidding about the last part. Kind of.
So yes, I’m interested in Birth. Yes, it’s because I want to have babies and I want to educate myself on what pregnancy and giving birth is really like but honestly, my interest in Birth has its roots in a much deeper place in me. A place that thirsts for truth and beauty and from what I have learnt so far (from the non-sensational sources), there’s a lot of truth and beauty to be found in Birth.
The workshop was a Waterbirth Workshop organised by a group of midwives serving in Mumbai (JustLink Health Services) and conducted by these two amazing women:
I was really nervous about the workshop because it’s been a pretty long time since I was in a learning environment and honestly, I wasn’t sure I would make it through two days of well… listening. I would also probably be the most unlikely student at this workshop (not a doctor, not a birth professional, not an expecting parent!) Also, dumb as this may sound, I thought I knew quite a bit about birth already from my reading and how much more stuff can there be to know?
Yeah, that last presumption was pretty dumb because the truth is that Birth is so freaking blow-your-mind beautifully complex and amazing that even after 14 hours of learning, I think we probably only touched the surface of this mystery. As Barbara closed off the workshop on Sunday evening, she asked, “so do you have any questions? Cause I could go on for days”. That coming from a woman with some 30+ years of midwifery experience pretty much says it all.
But I didn’t just take away a whole lot of knowledge that I previously lacked from this workshop. It really impacted me in a profound way which my husband will testify to because of course I came home at the end of both days, almost breathlessly narrating as much of it as I could to him. At the end of day two, I was so overwhelmed that I came home and cried. Not out of tiredness (which I was) or sadness (so many women are denied the experience of this beauty) but out of sheer reverence for the amazing design of birth. Birth is poetry, and dance, and music.
Birth is a reminder that there is purpose in everything and we only have to be still and trust.
I don’t want to go into too many details about the course but if there are five things that I want everyone to think about regarding Birth, they are:
1. Don’t trust media’s representation of birth. Media loves to hype things up and sensationalise everything. As Ina May puts it:
Commercial TV feeds on the sensational and the danger-charged moment. Women who have little real knowledge of what birth can be are especially vulnerable to the negative messages embedded in these dramas. Women and girls raised on this sort of thing without a source of more accurate knowledge learn to equate labour pain with danger. Pain is portrayed as if it could be fatal.
2. Each and every baby only gets ONE entrance into the world. We have to strive to make it a gentle and welcoming one. Childbirth has great significance on all parties but can have a lasting impact on the child’s life, even into adulthood.
3. “Childbirth is not a football match” – Barbara Harper
Women don’t need to be shouted at to PUSH and yelled at as if she is an athlete at the end of a race. Vaginas and the hormones of birth are shy. They need privacy and a calm environment to open up and guide the baby out.
4. Statistics for rising numbers of C-sections around the world are pretty horrific. In some places in India, more than half of all births are delivered by C-section which is shockingly higher than the WHO recommended 10-15%. C-sections are convenient and often more profitable for doctors but it’s major surgery which definitely should not be conducted unless absolutely necessary. Babies learn to express resilience and so many essential reflexes through naturally moving through the birth canal. Doctors are doing a grave injustice by denying them this chance and being dishonest to mothers about their real options.
Look out for ‘cascading interventions’. Induction by synthetic hormonal injections leads to more painful contractions which leads to epidurals, which leads to other interventions, which often end up in the C-section you really didn’t want. Ladies, trust your instincts and seek out care-providers who give you the time and attention you need!
5. Don’t fight gravity. This is probably the simplest fact about birth that started me off on this journey of learning about midwifery care and Birth. Gravity aids your body and the baby to move down the birth canal and yet hospitals usually want you laying in a bed, legs up in the air, pushing with all your force against gravity. Think about it.
BIG Thank You to JustLink Health Services (Lina Duncan, Nhing Castillo and Rekha Gurung) for organising this workshop! And of course the staff and doctors of Surya Childcare.
So looking forward to putting my photography skills to good use to change the negative messages of Birth perpetuated by media.