Monday, February 6, 2012

Gentle Birth

I saw my favorite birth film again the other day. It's an old film, only ten minutes long, not too dramatic or brash. Just very calm, quiet, gentle images of women giving birth.

It's called Birth in the Squatting Position, and the voice-over makes it clear that this is definitely the best position to birth in, not only from the woman's point of view but also from the baby's. It is the position that we see in images that are centuries, even millenia old, and when we think of traditional ancient midwifery, we think of a woman squatting on a stool or on the ground with her attendants around her.

In this film, the women squat on small stools like meditation cushions. Under her is a soft pad, and the baby lands on the pad. In a few of the births, you see the attendant's hand gently cushion the baby's head as it lands.

What strikes me about these births is that there is no excessive emotion. The women do not grab their babies, or have their babies given to them. The baby lies there, the woman watches, then she reaches down and strokes or picks up her newborn. The attendant does nothing.

I am not a great advocate of the squatting position - it's value is overshadowed by all the greater obstacles we have to struggle with. If a woman manages to give birth vaginally and without drugs, that is already a great achievement, and sometimes the smaller details are let go.

But I am an advocate of gentle birth. I am an advocate of silence in the birthing room. Of a hands-off approach. Of respect. Of allowing a woman to greet her new child the way she wants to.

A doula can facilitate this gentleness and respect even when everyone else is busy with their hands on, in and around the birthing woman. She can put her mouth close to the woman's ear and whisper encouragement. She can let her know that it is okay if the newborn just nuzzles and does not exhibit a perfect latch within the first few minutes. She can create a bubble of calm and comfort around the birthing woman, her partner, and her new baby.

Let's all work together towards gentle birth!


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