Freebirth, by a Freebirther
To me, freebirth is an opportunity to truly experience birth for what it is. There is a place deep within the feminine psyche that craves the experience of birth, and freebirth seems to satisify this in ways other modes of birth can’t.
Having had both a homebirth with a midwife in attendance and two freebirths, I can attest both types of birth are very different. When there is no one present that can profess to be more knowledgeable than the mother, it seems an alternate knowledge system kicks in for the birthing woman.
Call it what you will, intuition, the wildish feminine, the innermost psyche, women’s knowing, primal knowledge etc, this alternate knowledge system is astounding. It guides women through birth, and assists women in protecting and caring for their babes. It helps women over most birthing difficulties in intuitive, primal ways.
And of course, this alternate means of knowing is pooh pooh’d by those who are firmly entrenched in the technocratic knowledge system of today’s society. As Davis-Floyd (1997) said, alternative knowledge systems are discredited not because they are any less valid, but because they threaten the powerbase that supports and legimatises society’s current knowledge system.
This lends to the concept that birth without legitimate medical professionals in attendance, is hugely dangerous and risky. As with many other things, there is an element of risk to birth, which is different for each woman. I would be lying if I said otherwise.
How freebirth compares to homebirth with a qualified midwife, or hospital birth in regards to risk, remains to be seen. The debates between home and hospital still continues on between hospital and home birth advocates, both whom have waved freebirth as a red flag to further their own causes. It is obvious there are political agendas at play in these debates, and with freebirth entering the public sphere, freebirth has now become a political issue.
Politics aside, I see freebirth as a valid birth option for women. Decisions about birth are things most women take very seriously, and most women will choose options which meet their needs - freebirth is no different.
There are diverse reasons women choose freebirth, and not all of them are due to the current state of Australia’s maternity system! Take myself for instance, I like homebirth, but I like freebirth better. I am a private person, and do best when I am left to my own devices. I am also fiercely independent and thrive on autonomy, freedom, and self-sufficiency. Like an animal, I find it discomfiting being observed during birth, and detest disturbances in my birthing space.
In meeting my needs, I am also meeting the needs of my baby during birth. A relaxed, stress-free mother has an abundance of birthing hormones to aid the process, whereas with a stressed, tense, fearful mother, the birth process is inhibited.
It seems to me there is no distinction between desire and need for birthing women. Desires unfold from innermost needs, and compromising on this further reduces birth to a social practice rather than a biological event. Jordan’s (1983) ‘Birth in Four Cultures’ highlights just how much of a social practice birth has become, with drastic differences between birth for women across different cultures.
Our pets give birth without a vet in attendance. They find themselves a nice quiet, dark place and hide away to have their litters. This seems the same worldwide, a cat giving birth in Egypt behaves in the same ways a cat giving birth in Germany, China, Australia and India, does. This doesn’t apply to humans however.
In the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, the majority of women go to hospitals to birth. In the Yucatán and Anatolia, many women give birth at home. In African states, where there is female genital mutilation, malnourishment, and lack of access to clean water, birth is often unattended with complications like fistulas and babies getting stuck. The rites surrounding birth are drastically different culture to culture, with different outcomes.
What has happened to us? The dehumanisation of birth is a crime against our humanity, a crime of violence which harms both women and babies. How far removed are we from birth as a rite of passage, spirit-walking alongside our physiological journey to bringing forth life?
Too far I say, so here I am freebirthing; when all I really am doing is giving birth without all the optional extras, bells, whistles, flashing lights and whizz bangs.
As if I don’t already sound enough of a hippy already, I also wholeheartedly agree with the idea that peace on Earth begins with birth. I have found such peace with each of my births, and this has continued into my mothering.
Freebirth. It might be for you too.
Davis-Floyd, R., & Sargent, C.F. (1997). Childbirth and authoritative knowledge. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press
Jordan, B. (1983). Birth in four cultures. Montreal, Canada: Eden Press.
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