Earlier today I was giving an interview on Birth. Within 5 minutes I had become tongue tied while bouncing up and down in my seat. I was acting this way because I had reconnected with my deep passion for the subject and was having difficulty reigning myself in while the journalist looked on in amusement.
I am grateful for my fumbling (and somewhat embarrassing) enthusiasm because it reminded me how very important the subject is.
The woman who interviewed me is not a mother and so while trying to express the boundless beauty of natural childbirth, I realised that it was like trying to explain what it feels like to fall in love or have an orgasm – something’s just have to be experienced first hand.
And as I am wont to do – my passion soon turned to anger.
I am angry at the maternity industry. For industry is what it is: empty of spirit and uncaring of casualties.
I am angry that men have taken over the business of birth when to them it is no more than theory.
But mostly I am angry that women around the world are denied the most pivotal, magnificent and transformative experience that is possible to have been gifted with.
We fought hard for equality – we burned bras and demanded equal pay. We have brought ourselves out from the annals of a subjugated history to stand proudly in our exposed skin and beautiful tattoos.
And yet… there is something magical that we left behind during our struggle. In fighting for an equal place in society, we somehow bought into the idea that losing feminine qualities was an acceptable price to pay.
We began frowning upon stay at home moms, we started defining our worth by material accomplishments that still use a man’s benchmark. And worst of all – we allowed our very birth right to be drained of all meaning and substance.
Childbirth – the very defining essence of a woman – has become mechanised and unemotional, something to fear and distance our selves from.
We sit meekly in front of a doctor’s chair as he informs us how our children will be born. We bury our instincts when we are manipulated into giving up all control of our own experience and dare not voice our fear or misgivings.
We have agreed that spirit must be excluded from childbirth, and in so doing gave up a piece of our own.
We swallow the pain and humiliation felt during a birth that we were just a participant in. We tell ourselves the trauma was worth it because we have a healthy child. We spew out the same reasoning that was passed onto us by professionals who have little interest in our emotional selves.
Birth has become deeply wounded, in the untold stories that women bury in their hearts. Of births that turned out other than the way they wanted, of shame, disappointment and regret.
Months or even years of struggling through hidden pain; feeling’s of failure when the only way to have a healthy baby was via an operation, an operation that was perfunctory and devoid of value.
A family member wrote to me, telling me that my book traumatised her because she could not have the natural birth she wanted. And my righteous anger at the industry turned to shame that I had caused her pain.
It was enormously difficult to write Birth, because I knew the backlash it would create. But it is something that must be faced – not only within my own conviction, but most importantly in our world.
Birth should not be steeped in the painful emotions that it is.
Whether we birth our children alone or with help, whether our pregnancies were care free or complicated – we must return to spirit. We must bring back the respect and above all care for women during childbirth, even if they are in an operating theatre.
The industry will not change, it is efficient and profitable and so why should it.
Although some births have no other option but that of a caesarean, even then the experience can and must be sacred. Yes it requires more effort, more time and more consciousness on behalf of the doctor’s – but I challenge you to find any other life experience more worthy of effort than that of a child’s birth.
I call upon women to transform it. I call upon women to demand better treatment, not defined by hospital rulebooks or dependent on an individual doctors character. I call upon women to say that we are proud of being a woman! We are proud of the lives we carry and what we endure to bring those lives into the world.
I call too upon men: that they can cherish the process of birth, and begin to recognise the profound impact it has on a woman. That birth is so much more than a process of removing a baby from a womb, to honour the indescribable strength a woman must find within herself to not only birth her children – but mother them as well.
The desensitisation of childbirth is a global issue: it permeates our culture and collective consciousness. It reinforces the belief that human life is not important, that the mean’s justifies the end.
I say this:
Rise. Rise beautiful women and say No
Step back into the feminine.
Claim back the majesty that is within you when we birth our children. Be proud that the courage within you can overcome any fear that you have been taught to believe. Find your voice as you either squat naked or lie on a table and say that your heart, mind and soul matters.
Lead the change that will see future women birth their children surrounded not by an industry, but by the utmost respect, honour and love,