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Natural Birth: What of It?

by Aleksandra Evanguelidi, LM, CPM

This past weekend, my staff and I worked one of the those baby expos, the high end kind where interior decorators solicited customers for the coolest baby nurseries and the next new baby drink cup was brought to market.  We were there to educate parents about their options for natural birth and to share with them some of the classes and services The Sanctuary offers.  I was fascinated at how much attention was given to the fabrics and color palates for the baby’s room, but when it came to the actual prenatal care and delivery of these new beings, most women were disinterested, uneducated, or completely disempowered by their birth experience. I was deeply saddened to hear story after story from women whom either felt that they were robbed of something so profound in their childbirth experience or to hear other women talk about just wanting it to be over, take it out of me, or how they just wanted to schedule their cesarean birth so that they didn’t have to experience the pain of labor. As a birth activist I feel compelled to speak -- give me a soapbox and I will roar!

My dear sisters,  I understand your fear.  I can empathize with you so deeply.  The idea of going through hours and hours (possibly days) of rhythmic pain, being all hooked up to monitors and an IV, made to dress up in those horrible gowns, not being able to eat or drink, all while there is a spotlight on your nether region while you poop as you push your baby out as a man/woman in scrubs you have spent a total of an hour with your whole pregnancy yells at you to push harder and that you’re not doing it right-really, I wouldn’t want to do that either.  In fact, being knocked out seems like a far better option to me.

But what if all the images plastered in movies and television shows about birth were a lie?  What if we have been bamboozled to think that birth is dangerous and that we need drugs to get through it?  What I can tell you now is that drama sells.  You never hear in the news, “all planes landed safely today.”  However, it seems in episode after episode, there is a great sigh of relief as in the climax moment, the baby/mother’s life is spared and thank god for technology and cesarean births! Phew!  And, truly, thank god for that option.  As a licensed midwife and primary care provider, I am utterly grateful for the use of the medical technology when it is needed.  But for the other 95% of births, it isn’t. And for a country that is spending twice per capita on every pregnant woman as compared to any other industrialized nation, with statistics as poor as ours for maternal and infant mortality, we are doing something terribly wrong here.

So, here I am on my soapbox and I feel desperate to share something with you because I am not sure where else you are going to get this information.  I hope to speak to that part of you that seeks to know and understand the deeper meanings in life.

Being pregnant is both extraordinary and exhausting. Your body may feel invaded and disfigured, your hormones take a ride on a seesaw of colossal proportion, and you feel so utterly unlike who you knew yourself to be that you feel like a stranger to even yourself.  Simultaneously, you are embarking on a journey of female evolution-you are here, expressing what it is to be fully a woman, like a caterpillar reaching its liquefaction stage in the chrysalis before becoming a butterfly.  And although I haven’t had the fortune to discuss this with any butterflies, I bet it hurts like hell to bust through the cocoon and spread those wings for the first time.  Women -- this experience of birth is not so unlike the butterfly's’ journey.  It is the quintessential experience into womanhood.  To conceive, to grow another human being inside your body, is nothing short of miraculous.  And the birth, the birth is the piece de resistance.  It is the hour (or hours) of your life in which you have the greatest opportunity to experience what it is to be alive.  It is for you, the marathon for which all of life has prepared you for and for which will prepare you for the job of being a mother.  The hormones that flood over you, your baby, and anyone in the room awake enough to experience the majesty of those moments are precious beyond words.  They are designed to bond you to each other for life, and have the capacity to heal us on profound levels.  Certainly, this “love cocktail” as Michel O’dent likes to say, is far more accessible inside an environment that supports your birth plan and that allows you the freedom to birth your baby as you choose with little or no intervention, such as a birth center or in a home birth with midwives.  This is not the time to disconnect yourself from the privilege of your full expression into womanhood.  Indulge yourself in the opportunity to experience all that you can from your perinatal journey.  You will be left with such an extraordinary sense of yourself, no other life experience can even compare.

 photo: alexandra defurio


Reader Comments (11)

love this. thank you!

Jun 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Thank you for giving me my encouragement for today - 29 weeks and counting.

Jun 8, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

Yes yes yes! I have four children. My first born at a birth center, and the rest at home with a midwife, two of them in water, and those two as lotus births. Pregnancy and birth is such a beautiful experience. I always try to tell people who feel a lot of fear, that I couldn't have a natural hospital birth either. And that when you get the pitocin, it completely changes your bodies sensations into pain, that you would feel differently au natural, because it nulls out the bodys hormones that help you process the birth exerience. That seems to shift some peoples perspectives. I am so compassionate about women deserving what their bodies are intended to do. It is powerfully empowering stuff for sure!


Jun 9, 2011 at 6:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterEarth Mama

I truly agree and it's those pesky doctors that us to believe that birth should be scary. When I was about to give birth for each of my children I felt so excited. I was about to run the marathon of my life. But, I was living in San Francisco at the time. I was surrounded by amazing role models. Thanks for writing about this very important subject. My births were so amazing because I had the right attitude towards them.

Jun 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterkyndale


Thank you for writing this. What you say here is very, very true and so important. I would love for you to be a contributor in my book Spontaneous Joyful Natural Birth, which will be published by Hale in winter 2011. The point of my book is to spread the message that you so beautifully have captured here in your article. It will mostly be a collection of positive natural birth stories and essays by midwives, like yourself, to help moms-to-be understand that natural birthing is benefitial, beautiful and worthwhile. I hope you will consider being a contributor to this project...it will give you another place to roar your words of wisdom.
Love and Peace,
Natasha Panzer
please contact me at natashapanzer@gmail.com to learn more about the project!

Jun 9, 2011 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatasha Panzer

So true. Love it. Love you. Glad people like you are helping us reclaim our bodies and learn how to empower ourselves....

Jun 9, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMcLean

Thanks! You just inspired my mantra for bringing this baby into the world in a couple of weeks:
This is what it feels like to be alive.
Great article.

Jun 9, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv

The start of 2010 my husband & I found out that we were pregnant with our first. My OB/GYN asked me if I had any questions & all I could think of was "This is my first time so what questions should I be asking & what should I be doing?" My OB/GYN just smiled at me & sent me on my way. A friend of mine was 6 months ahead of me with her pregnancy & being from Germany she was looking for a midwife & found one that lives in our neighborhood. I was four months along & getting tired of the chemical doctors way before my first meeting with the midwife. My husband was with me & she had asked me the same question that my doctor had asked to which I gave the same reply. Although I had been doing research before the visit I still felt lost & nervous. My midwife smiled & shaired info of all kinds with us & even had a library of books & DVDs she lends out to her clients to help them along with there research. I felt so good after that meeting & so very happy that I chose a natural birth for my first time. I met so many women who did the hospital birth first then went natural for their other children. All of them told me that I was doing it right the first time. :-) Between my vast & in-depth research, having my midwife so close, & a good support system my first birth experience was only 6 hours (3 inactive, 3 active) labor. My midwife also has monthly informal mom meetings that were a great support system for me as a new mom. The kicker of the whole experience is that I come from a family of doctors who thought that natural home water birth is stupid. With the amount of info I have found they are showing signs of rethinking the box they are in. Natural birth is a better way to go.

Jun 10, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Dear Aleksandra,

Thank you for this post! I bookmarked it on a couple of services for you. Women are slowly remembering just how powerful they are. Spread the word. Because once enough women remember, things will change in a blink.

We ALL need to be on our soapbox.


Jun 13, 2011 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaryn Leister

I would really want a normal delivery rather than a Ceasarian Section, despite the pain (I don't pay for an epidural), it is because I know for a fact that at times, C-section has a number of risks. I am due this month for my second baby, I was told by my doctor that I might undergo a C-section because my baby is in a transverse position. I hope in 3 weeks time, he will still be able to turn into a cephalic position so I can deliver him normally.
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Jul 5, 2011 at 1:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterbuy phentermine

Is there a midwife in your area who might be willing to help you turn your baby by changing positions? Midwives know amazing natural techniques to help turn a baby. It may be worth your while to start looking today if you want to make every effort to avoid a c-section. Good luck and congratulations on your baby!

Jul 5, 2011 at 6:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatasha Panzer
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