In this three-part series, I want to take a closer look at free birth and what it means to have one while still being supported. I’ll do this through the medium of exploring my own recent experience.
There was some instinct that initially drew me to the idea of unassisted childbirth. But following that happy impulse, was a reckoning: a conscious choice to take responsibility and ownership for every aspect of my well-being and my baby’s well-being throughout my pregnancy and birth. I accepted that I was the sole decision-maker, the primary care provider and that I was acting in full autonomy with sovereignty over my own body. I would choose not to offload this sacred responsibility to any other human.
To do this required, among other things, looking death in the face. Why? Because it has never stopped being true that birth, while bringing new life, also brings us closer to the possibility of death (our own and our baby’s). It required also that I be proactive in lovingly supporting my own body, mind, and spirit in a holistic cocktail of prenatal self-care. It invited me to do the work of learning information and skills while simultaneously UNLEARNING messages I’d assimilated from the culture’s norms around women’s bodies, the necessity of medical providers, the saftey/danger of birth, and more. It was a deep dive into my whole self, not merely the fun work of a birth nerd and certainly not a flippant refusal to face reality.
I got to decide with whom and in what measure I would invite others to participate in my story, which I’ll write about more in Part 2 of this series. But through it all, I was centered as the director or orchestrator, seeking not to be saved by nor to blame anyone who I invited into that journey with me.
As a Christian, the weight of this responsibility is something I get to share with God, the most abundant and loving resource in the universe. In this sense, even an unassisted birth is never unassisted; it is attended, supported, and assisted by the God who designed birth and who holds us in God’s hands. I was never alone because God always goes before us, is behind and beneath, within and around us at every turn. This is our heritage in Jesus Christ, delivered by the Holy Spirit. For me, there’s such rooted confidence in that knowing, such an invitation to walk in step with God as we navigate the self-care and birth-related decisions along the way. It is the purest and most unshakeable support.
Being arguably hardwired to protect and provide for their families, many men have an initial aversion to the idea of birthing unassisted. My husband was no exception. He felt very confident in our home births with a midwife, knowing he could sit by to enjoy our children’s births without having to carry the mental load of handling any possible emergencies. But an unassisted birth seemed to put pressure on him that produced a fair amount of fear.
We had many conversations about what I actually needed from him. It was not for him to take a crash course in midwifery so that he would know exactly how to manage my labor or delivery. If I wanted that, I’d be hiring a midwife, not HIM!. Haha. All I needed from him was his trust, for him to manage his fear, and his loving presence. Possibly also some quietly strummed guitar music. Additionally, we did talk through emergency scenarios both on our own, through reading books, and in a couple of a la carte prenatal meetings with a local midwife. Choosing free birth extended an invitation to me husband to trust God with his wife and child and to trust his wife, allowing her to be powerful without being intimidated or shut down by that.
The next part in this series will focus on the role of other non-medical people whom one might choose to attend the birth. Think, photographer, doula, birth keeper, friend, mother, etc. And will also touch on the role certified professional midwives may play in a free birth journey.
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