unassisted childbirth

November 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

today i am going to hip you to the unassisted birth culture.  frankly, for all the strangenesses and weird alliances (can you say witches and fundamentalist christians sharing notes on childbirth?) i love this movement…and this blog has in large part been an exploration on the empowerment of women during pregnancy, birth, and mamahood and i believe that unassisted birth is a large part of that.

unassisted birth (a birth without birth professionals) is not everyone’s or most people’s imagined ideal birth scenario.  actually i was talking to my teacher from palestine a week ago and when i mentioned home births he said: people still do that?  ha ha ha.  but i do believe that in the core of our culture we need to know that birth happens.  it does not do so because of any professional or any machine, it simply happens because that is how the human race brings forth the next generation.  and that each of us has the right to decide what we are going to do with our bodies. we must decide for ourselves whether and how we are going to conceive, carry, deliver and  care for our young.  we must learn the ways that our body and our minds communicate to our person.  that the bodies intuition must guide us.  and if that intuition says scheduled c-section, then do it.  and if it says give birth in the woods next to a lake on a bed of mushrooms, do it.

we do not live in a culture that honors this knowing.  and for those of us who seek this knowing without the vestiges and garb of patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, and other oppressions, it is harder for us, because we are going against the grain of ‘motherhood’.  our culture does not have models for anti-oppressive revolutionary pregnancy and birth.  and so we have added burdens (as if we do not have enough already) of creating these models, living these models, and sometimes, dying by these models.  these models which are so life-affirming and yet because they are so heretical to the ‘powers that be’ give our culture’s leaders permission to jeopardize our life and our children’s life in order to discredit these life-giving paradigms.  and yet we must continue to fight.  not simply for ourselves, or our children, but for the women who are looking for models…they must learn that they have the power to create their own.


when i first became pregnant, i wanted an unassisted birth.  i had total faith in my ability to do so.  but, family pressure (around my 5th month) started to weigh on me.  i wanted my family to support my transition into mamahood and i figured that i could compromise with a homebirth midwife.  this was a huge mistake.  not that i think that all hb midwives  are like the one i had, but i found out, as i went into labor, that this midwife, aly folin, had no faith in my body to give birth.  that when she felt out of control of my birth (she was preggers with her first child at the time…) she, without my permission, turned my birth over to an obgyn.  i was not prepared at all for the hospital and did not need to be there.  the birth support (my friends and fam) that flew in from around the country went along with her decision, assuring me that none of my fears of being in the hospital would come true.  i ended up having an emergency c-section.  that c-section, and the scar that i will wear forever because of it, are one of my few regrets in life.

everyone was just relieved that my birth was over.  for months afterward i dealt not only with the ‘baby blues’ but with ptsd from the birth trauma.  i felt like everyone had abandoned me.  taken the advice of my midwife over my knowledge of my own body.  i begged everyone to please, please, listen to me, i could do this, i felt fine, i knew what i needed to give birth, please, please, just listen to me.

to this day people ask about how my body failed me.  my body didnt fail me.  my daughter didnt fail me.  they worked on their own time.  i just wanted to have one person around me who said: i trust that you can do this birth on your own.  here. in your home.  where you feel most comfortable and secure.  and i will believe in you no matter what.


it took me a long time to be able to work through that trauma.  living in chiapas, mexico saved my sanity.  san cristobal, chiapas gave me the space, the time, and the beauty to find my heart again.

my daughter got through the c-section healthy.  a little dopey from all the drugs the first day, but she was strong and assertive and determined from the moment we conceived her.

one of the horrible gifts that san cristobal gave me was that in san cris there is an 80 percent c-section rate and so there are plenty women that cry tears of trauma when they tell their birth stories and so it gave me the freedom to cry mine.

honestly, most states based peoples are so condescending about birth, especially c-section.  if you have had this type of birth then it is because either 1/ your body failed you. 2/ you weren’t strong enough 3/ too posh too push 4/ didnt care about your child’s health 5/ cant handle pain etc.  rarely does anyone mention the way that the medical establishment, including doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and other birth support treat a woman, especially a woman of color, especially a working class woman of color with no health insurance, when she walks into the hospital.  no one mentions how the birth professionals threaten you by saying things like: if you dont do what we recommend, your child’s life is in danger.  if you leave this hospital, and an emergency occurs, no hospital will admit you because you have refused care.  you are being selfish (and endangering your child’s life) by not taking this advice.  there are no other options.  everyone is just ready for this birth to be over, everyone is tired.  i can’t stick around here for you to make up your mind.

i tried for months to build out of sticks and stones this lil birth community for my daughter’s emergence into the world and then i gave away all of my power at the crucial moment of the beginning of my labor to a midwife who assured me that she had my best interest at heart.  who, among my lil community, would dare contradict such a great and gracious birth expert?

plus, i was black and poor, and you know how those black women are…


so after that birth i began to research much more about unassisted birth after cesarean.  my dream birth.  where i have faith in myself and my body and my unborn child.

funny that throughout this post i have been crying.  what is it with this blog being all weepy the past few days?  okay pull myself together and post the links….

unassisted homebirth


pure birth

you may notice that all of these sites feature white women.  yep. like most of the western birth world it is homogenously white.  i am not entirely sure why.  women of color have a higher rate of c-section than white women (if you are wondering why check out some previous blog posts…short answer: racism, classism).   are provided with less options once they enter the medical establishment, and are assumed to be less healthy and intelligent than their white counterparts.  (case in point, my midwife for 6 months was convinced that i had gestational diabetes, even though there was little to no evidence for this, other than the fact that i really liked to eat fruit during my pregnancy and before one sugar test, i ate a brownie baked by a friend, and thus scored higher than normal.  she also thought that i had an eating disorder–also with no evidence.)

and that the websites dont deal directly with unassisted birth after cesarean (ubac).  although i have read and communicated with plenty of women who have had a ubac…there is not an entire website that i can find dedicated to the topic.  hopefully, there will be soon. if you are interested look at the yahoo lists topic: ubac and there are plenty of stories and resources.

it is especially important that we support women of color during their pregnancy, birth, and mamahood.  not only because they are the most vulnerable in the face of medical, governmental, and social institutions.  not only because many of women of color live in third world conditions in the midst of this first world nation.  not only because birth professionals insist upon treating women of color as if they are ignorant, irresponsible people who are unable to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.  but because this world requires that mothers be strong, empowered people who believe in their ability to create and to change the world they live in.  and having women whose bodies and minds are traumatized and frightened by the ‘powers that be’ (white men in official looking white coats) will not help any of us to create the world that we want for ourselves or for our children…


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§ One Response to unassisted childbirth

  • china says:

    I always love your writing. funny I came over here because I wanted to share *my* birth story with you; and then first I read yours 🙂

    thank you for writing this above. I feel sensitive to post underneeath it, and what you shared, with your tears. I felt sensitive to write it, how to frame my own story . . .

    I was asked to write one, to help with creating more diversity in a collection, by being the story of a single mother who was youngish (compared to some these days) – but my story did not make it to print because I never send in the release form, and it kinda really sucks, since I worked hard on this (and V. helped edit it into shape) – so I was just in the mood to post it and share it with more people.

    what the editor did was put it up on her ezine, after she learned about the confusion; that I hadn’t chickened out of submitting was just unorganized and messed up.

    anyway – long story , just to share something, with you too, as well ….and thank you maia for writing this above and all that you write.

    – – –

    New Stories – by China Martens

    “If my strong, beautiful, resourceful, and clever sisters feel like some kind of failure because of this, then it must be addressed. Something in the natural birth movement, meant to empower us, is creating a mythology that can work to sabotage individual truths. …..

    (to read more click on the link below)


    p.s. this ezine and press is looking for more fertility stories

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