The article describes what is meant by the term ‘birth trauma’ and what exactly is involved in water birthing. It illustrates its advantages over giving birth in hospitals. It speaks about the inception of the practice and offers a few resources for the interested.
Have you heard of the term “birth trauma”? Psychologists regard the process of birth as being one of the earliest traumas that one invariably faces. Essentially the term highlights the shock that the neonate encounters upon its entry into the world. For nine months the fetus has evolved from being a tiny seed into a recognizable human baby. This growth has occurred in a warm, watery, dark, enclosed, protected and relatively silent environment of the womb.
When it is ready to make its entry into the world the mother helps it along on its journey by pushing, heaving, squeezing and thrusting. Usually it is not an easy time for the mother, she works hard to bring her baby out, she labors. The little being undergoes all this strenuous activity and once out, in several cases is faced with harsh lights, loud noises, perhaps some well-meant whacks on the back, at times some eye drops, some nose drops and at times, even forceps have been used to pull it out. The mother might have been anesthetized / sedated and all these conditions together amount to what is known as the birth trauma.
Trying to put myself in this young organism’s place, and of course I have been there once (at least) as we all have, I imagine all of it as being rather overwhelming – what an enormous influx of sensations and perceptions and all seem to be rather unpleasant. Well, all except the widening of space, what a relief to be able to stretch one’s arms and legs and to not have to be in the fetal posture! But the rest, phew(!) and that portends the beginning of all the rest that is to come in one’s time on this earth?
The Frenchman Le Boyer has been credited to be the first to address this issue. He sought to minimize the shock for the new entrant and to make the transition of birth as smooth and gentle as possible for the mother as well. Toward this end, he insisted on soft lights in the delivery room, ambient music, minimal medication and only when essential, encouraged the mother to breathe in a way that facilitated the birth and helped her to relax and be at ease, also instructed the doctor’s team to speak in hushed whispers and to acknowledge the mother and the forthcoming(!) baby and to talk with them from time to time. Le Boyer succeeded to a great extent in lessening the impersonal and clinical environment of the delivery room and making it a more respectful and humane place for the mother and child.
Water birthing is a logical extension of what Le Boyer started in the western world. In water birthing the mother labors and/or gives birth to her child in water. She remains immersed in water from neck/chest down and most women find this very relaxing and soothing. Contrary to common doubts the baby does not suffocate or choke in the water. The baby starts to breathe only after the placenta stops pulsating, which can take anywhere from ten minutes to ten days. But there is ample time to allow for the baby to be brought to the surface of the water, where s/he starts to breathe naturally.
There are a lot of resources available for anyone interested in pursuing this subject further and/or for opting for water birth. ‘Choosing Waterbirth’ by Lakshmi Bertram is a book by the mother of five, all water babies! Her website contains resources, information and stories on water birth and natural birth.
Water babies are known to be more intelligent, more articulate about their feelings, more flexible, more fearless and far more intuitive than their land counterparts. I have seen at least a couple of films documenting actual water births, while attending training workshops in rebirthing and past life regression therapy. The water reservoirs used for the purpose of birthing ranged from warm bathtubs, large cylinders, saunas and natural reservoirs to the sea. The women were often accompanied by their spouses and sometimes also by the older siblings, some had mid-wives or trained professionals to assist them some did not.
After all women have been giving birth for at least as long as the humans have been around, i.e. much before medicine or even witch-doctors entered the picture. So why do we now rely so heavily on what the doctors tell us? We have the ability and the power to give birth and we know in our bodies and our cells how to do it. I am not advocating that medicines and doctors be banned from the process of giving birth. I am asking women to be in touch with their body’s wisdom and to trust that and not to give away their own power in this most natural process. And I believe if women choose to give birth in water then they are conspiring with nature even more.