Birthing with the wisdom of the ages. It is sometimes called our “inner knowing,” a “gut feeling,” or “the wisdom within.”
Whatever its name, the experience is universal. It is a feeling, a word, or an image that stands out bolder than the regular stream of conscious thought and makes a deeper impression on our minds. It will continue to guide us, to the degree we direct our receptive attention to it.
Natural processes like pregnancy and birth are dependent upon a woman’s ability to trust in her inner knowing. This wisdom leads women to support and trust the process, rather than work against it. In this way, nature is allowed to take its course.
For centuries, this very intuition led women in decisions regarding their health and the well-being of their families. Relying on its ageless wisdom, women listened to its promptings and trusted its guidance.
During birth, women were free to move about during labor and delivery to manage the pain. Somehow, they knew that the squat position allowed the pelvis to open up more freely—one-third more than lying on their back, in fact! If other people were present at the birth, they were there to support the mother, not direct the process. Timing was not an issue; the baby was born at just the right moment. Once born, the mother immediately held, caressed and nursed the baby. Separation was unheard of. Mother and child recovered quickly and grew strong together. There was confidence in this process, as in any other body process: with respect and a sense of fulfillment.
Times Have Changed
Today, however, the birth process has turned into a technological procedure. The medical system in the United States is considered to be the most highly advanced in the world. We spend more on birth than any other country. Clearly, we expect this technology to improve our lives and solve our problems. And, we are led to believe this technology alone leads to improved outcomes. Why, then, is the United States ranked 41 out of 45 in newborn deaths among industrialized countries—on par with Qatar and Croatia?
Doris Haire, former president of the International Childbirth Education Association and the American Foundation of Maternal and Child Health, investigated birthing procedures throughout the world. Her comments on births in America were not so favorable: “Of all the 36 countries I have visited to observe maternity facilities, I am absolutely convinced that the United States has to be the most bizarre on earth in its management of obstetrics.”
“The knowledge about how to give birth is born within every woman: Women do not need to be taught how to give birth, but rather to have more trust and faith in their own body knowledge.” –BIRTHWORKS
This increase in technology leads to restrictions that apparently cause more harm than good. Women are strapped down, with monitors being used despite there being no evidence that they make births safer. They’re given drugs that numb their connectivity with the process, and then forced into submissive positions which are counter to gravity and normal physiology. They are herded into the hospital’s schedule, without consideration of their normal birthing rhythms. This greatly slows down the natural momentum.
These restrictions in birth make women feel afraid and powerless. Fear shuts down the process, not just psychologically, but physically as well. Fear constricts blood vessels and impedes muscle activity. This leads to greater pain and dysfunction. Drugs are given to artificially stimulate function and ease the pain, further compromising the woman’s physical strength and ability to birth. She becomes cut off from her ability to stay connected with her body. She is not informed about adverse reactions to her baby caused by this routine cascade of interventions.
Mystique of Technology
Because of these interventions, women have to strain and push excessively to get the baby out. This results in the birth provider applying undue force to the infant’s delicate head and spine. Even in what is called “natural birth,” standard birthing procedures often pull on the baby’s head and neck. Research shows that the routine force used in birth may injure a baby’s spinal cord and nerves. One medical study, published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, addresses this issue even further. The study’s author, Dr. Abraham Towbin, writes, “The birth process even under optimal controlled conditions is potentially a traumatic, crippling event for the fetus…. Moreover during the last part of delivery, during the final extraction of the fetus, mechanical stress imposed by obstetrical manipulation—even the application of standard orthodox procedures—may prove intolerable to the fetus.”
Birth in our country is one of the most profound examples of how we have allowed the mystique of technology to overcome practical intuition. Before our high-tech involvement, women gave birth without outside interference. They trusted their intuition and their body’s inherent ability to function as it was created to. Birthing was a precious rite of passage for the mother and baby.
Like most western women of my age group, I do not recall having thought much about birth as I was growing up. Maybe it was because no one really talked about it. It was a given that you went to the hospital, and a given that you would be knocked out. It wasn’t until my husband, Tom, and I became involved in chiropractic that we even began to look at birthing options and what would be our choice.
Coming from the chiropractic, vitalistic perspective gave us a unique advantage to our birthing choices. The major premise of chiropractic states that there is universal intelligence in all matter. In living matter, this intelligence is called innate intelligence. We took this premise seriously, as it resonated with our own personal beliefs. When the choices for birthing came up, we deduced from this major premise that birthing, being a normal, age-old process, could be a natural one with no interventions. Through chiropractic we were learning to trust the inherent wisdom of the body in all body processes, birth included. We adhered to the words of B.J. Palmer, the developer of chiropractic—”Nature needs no help, just no interference”—trusting the intelligence of the life force in body function.
While we were still in chiropractic college, Tom and I conceived and planned our home birth. We had taken a brief birth education course with midwives prior to our pregnancy, which outlined the basics of labor. We were introduced to Ina May Gaskin’s book, Spiritual Midwifery, which I read from cover to cover. And, we had implicit trust in the process and decided to have an “unattended” home birth, a term not to be coined until many years later.
Not a Disease
We were not being reckless (as some tried to label us), or rebellious (as others accused)—we were simply deducing that if there was a universal intelligence in all matter and an innate intelligence in all living matter, the wisdom of the ages would direct birth through me, as it had for all women prior, for thousands of years. We did not view birth as a disease. Rather, from the chiropractic perspective (and very contrary to the allopathic model), we did not consider any body function abnormal—even those labeled as conditions and diseases.
From our perspective a fever was a normal body function, not a pathology to be treated. So was an ear infection, a cold, the flu, etc. While most people in our culture were being indoctrinated by commercials from drug companies frightening them about various conditions, we were learning that these “conditions” were normal body adaptations whose symptoms were not sickness, but rather part of the healing process. From this perspective, we faced these adaptive body functions with confidence, not fear.
Our first birth was neither hard nor easy. It was, well…labor. Not to say there wasn’t a point that I lost it—some call this resistance—and had I known a tad more about letting go, it would have been easier. But we managed transition, with me following a primal guidance from within and Tom, in his matter-of-fact way, assuring me all was just fine. We birthed the rest of our five children at home, as well. With the last two, we enjoyed the wonderful experience of having midwives present.
This article was written by Jeanne Ohm, DC and re-printed with the permission of Pathways to Family Wellness.