By Mali Schwartz, BirthWorks International Board of Director-Secretary
I was 23 when I had my first child, my first and only son. He was born in the summer of 1975, at the very height of the natural childbirth movement. I remember being diligent about going to my Lamaze classes, accompanied by my husband. I really enjoyed the nurse who gave the training; she was very personable, and I felt that she really cared about each individual class member.
This training helped me in certain ways. I went into early labor in the late evening, around 9:00p.m. My water breaking alerted me to the fact that something would happen momentarily. Remembering that I had to count the amount of time that passed in between each and every contraction, I walked the hallway near our bedroom, pacing back and fourth and feeling increasingly sensitive to the pain.
Finally I roused my husband from his deep sleep and we rushed to the hospital, getting there at midnight-a bewitching hour. As my contractions grew closer together, I practiced my breathing exercises, my husband coaching me at all times. I was interrupted by a medical intern who insisted that he had to do an internal in the middle of a contraction. That's when I lost it big time.
The minute he started poking around, I couldn't handle the intensity of the sensation, and I instinctively reached my arm out and gave him a strong punch in his stomach. He was quite taken aback, but at that point in time, I truly didn't care about social conformity's. My husband apologized for me, and the intern made a quick exit.
I felt violated by this procedure and had a very strong negative reaction. I didn't feel like abiding by the rules, and reacted from a different part of my psyche-a part I wasn't even aware that I had. This was standard procedure of this hospital and could potentially create sensations in the mother of feeling exposed, when most mammals, including human beings, yearn for privacy and seclusion.
I guess the internal examination was the last straw for me. Being hooked up to a monitor, unable to move around, staring at the glaring white walls that reflected the harsh florescent lighting and finally my feelings of vulnerability were stretched to the limit. Looking back on this experience and knowing what I know now about birthing, it was not the ideal enviroment to encourage feelings of being safe and protected.
Although I have never attended a home birth, the idea of a women laboring in an enviroment that she is so familiar in, surrounded by the people she loves, having the lights turned down low, is the type of scene that lets the woman open to the sensations of birthing her baby. She is able to access the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotions, sensations and feelings, called the limbic system. According to Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova, a mid-wife and pioneer of Conscious Birth in Russia, "limbic imprinting happens in the part of the brain which is not directly connected with the cortex. ...That memory lives in the body throughout the rest of our life whether we know it or not."
While the woman is giving birth, the limbic part of the brain is reactivated and is extremely sensitive to stimuli from outside sources. And the baby also is imprinted, based on the type of birth he or she experiences. While most of us would not contemplate the idea of giving birth outside in nature, Elena created a film "Birth As We Know It" featuring 11 natural births-several including women who birthed their babies in warm shallow lagoons, part of the black sea.
According to Dr. Michel Odent, Elena's film prompts us to re-examine basic features of human nature. "Her film explains why millions of women all over the world dream of giving birth in the sea among dolphins." Elena's role as a midwife is to help women eliminate their own birth trauma. She feels that a woman may give birth the way she, herself, was born.
According to a 1995 study by Dr. William Emerson, a pioneer of prenatal psychology, 95 percent of all births in the United States are considered traumatic, 50 percent rated as "severely" traumatic. In expressing her personally deep and beautiful healing experience in helping women and their babies experience being birthed in Love, Elena states, "Healing of one's birth trauma allows one to enjoy the delicious, juicy experience of comfortably owning a body, being fully engaged in life and loving it."
She goes on to then say "by reprogramming our limbic imprint and transmuting our suffering and helplessness during birth into the love and joy of being born on this planet, we can regain our authentic power, clear the pain of our ancestors from our system and set the stage for our children to step into their lives as peaceful, empowered guardians of Earth."