Creating a Culture of Natural Birth

Over the weekend, I organized a first-in-awhile Birth Circle meeting here in the city for local moms and their partners who are passionate about natural birth. We were joined by a Boston-area homebirth midwife who offered her insights and perspectives as each of us shared our birth stories and hopes for future births. Some of the stories were tinged with disappointment, births that ended with invasive hospital interventions that in hindsight may not have been necessary or ideal. Most were inspiring, raw, and beautiful.

One story, in particular, got me to thinking about the true purpose of these Birth Circles. It was from a woman and her husband who had their first baby a few months ago in a natural, peaceful, beautiful homebirth. I am always in awe of women who choose a homebirth for their first child, as it took me until my third to finally catch on. This woman shared that, for her, homebirth was a deep part of her cultural consciousness. She grew up in a culture in which homebirth and natural birth are treated as natural life events, not dangerous medical conditions. Her mother gave birth to her and all of her sisters at home. She saw some of them being born. For her, there was no doubt that her default birth choice would be a natural homebirth.

So why is it that for most American women the default birth choice is a hospital birth? I think it all comes back to culture. For most of us, our cultural messages lead us to believe that pregnancy, labor and birth are scary, dangerous, painful, and wildly unpredictable--events to be closely controlled and managed. Our culture keeps us detached from natural birth; we don't see it, we don't grow up knowing about it, we rely on hearsay and television programming to learn about it. No wonder we're afraid of it.

I see these Birth Circles--in a very small but hopefully meaningful way--as an opportunity to create a stronger culture of natural birth here in the city by bringing together women and their partners to discuss their natural birth hopes and experiences, build community, and reveal the truth about natural birth as a safe, beautiful, powerful, life-changing experience.