Humanizing Birth by Marcy Andrew
I’d been called to assist at a birth on a late summer Northern New Mexico day and I was thrilled. The client’s neighbor had agreed to meet me at the main road to make sure I’d find the house okay so I followed his rickety rusty pickup truck on a long winding dirt road with many unmarked turns, through a creek and past an orchard to the one room mud casita where the young couple labored silently. As the potent force of labor surrounded them, this couple was actively attaining a peaceful center place as if meditating in the eye of a storm. The midwife was offering a rooted presence which left plenty of room for them to find their own rhythm, their own strength, their own inner knowing. Before long, the labor intensified and the baby emerged, still all in keeping with this steady and calm cadence. Besides the healthy newborn cry we all rejoice in, all was still quiet and unhurried. We stayed to observe and support this family as the baby found the breast, mama got comfortable and the older siblings came from the neighbor’s house to help celebrate. I drove away feeling a sense of awe, and as I headed back through the creek on my way out, it occurred to me how fortunate I was to bear witness to such intrinsic beauty. At the same time, it struck me how tragic it is that 99.9% of birth attendants in our country have no idea that a birth like this is even possible. A birth where hormones and all their healthy feedback loops are left to do the work of an entirely unique labor, birth and postpartum without the interjection of standardized medical policies and procedures, implied expectations or fears, where the parents are deeply trusted to find what singularly works for them, where this precious holy moment is honored enough to be met with peace and calm.
How a woman gives birth is influenced by the complex and layered variables of her own personal experiences and circumstances, her unique anatomy and physiology, and the intricate influences of her culture. The great mysterious force of labor has a life of its own and adds an entirely distinct element. Not everyone wants to give birth in a mud casita miles off the beaten path. But birth experiences like this one for me exemplify the questions, how often do we give up our own potential to birth humanely for the sake of unsubstantiated fears? How often do we let go of our own power to choose the best path for our children to enter the world because we think others know better? How often do we deny ourselves a truly sacred experience at the most pivotal moment of our family’s lives because we simply don’t have the support to vision it and achieve it? It’s up to us as a community to delve deeper into these questions and support each other in finding the answers.