Curious about who I am? Posts about health and natural birth Resources and posts regarding vaccines and informed consent Posts about Parenting and Relationships Spirituality and Life Lessons Email me Home

Witness to Normal Birth

It was about the best thing I ever experienced.
The minute she came out, I was born again. It was like we’d just been born together.

paper dolls photography

If you are privileged enough to have witnessed a woman giving birth naturally in a place she has chosen, what will you have seen?

You will first be in awe of her strength.
And you will think – for how could you not – what a phenomenal creature a woman is. But you will only have seen this astonishing sight if you have understood that if you disturb her in her work, she will be thrown off course. One must sit quietly and patiently, almost invisible, breathing with her, not disturbing her internal rhythm. And you will see that the pain of her labor seldom overwhelms her.

A deep significance to the mother, the momentous quality of pain, as she is surrounded by the deep sense of inwardness, forced to recognize her independence, her loneliness, selfhood, becoming conscious of her own existence. Paradoxically, this actual self-consciousness exposes a woman to her wholeness, her strengths and her endurance.

Nature would not have organized labor to be intolerable. It is the limits of our human understanding that wish to control all that is surveyed, that has conquered women by making them labor in the most tortuous environment constructed.

Let us bring them into harsh rooms with bright lights. Let us make them lie on their backs on hard narrow beds. Let us tether them to machines so they cannot move. Let us make them stay silent. Let us restriction their eating and drinking. Let us expose their most private parts and threaten them with cold steel. Let us make them push their babies upwards, against the pull of gravity. Let us monitor and measure and chart every move they make. Let us swab, wipe, prod, poke, irate, confuse and frighten them as much as we can.

In these conditions, labor swiftly becomes unbearable and pain relief becomes a woman’s only hope. Get me an epidural, cut it out of me, anything, make it stop. Please help me!

This is not the natural cry of a woman in labor bringing a child into the world, although if you have only ever witnessed labor and birth in a medicalized setting you might be inclined to think so. Her only hope for salvation lies in the anesthetist who numbs the pain or the obstetrician to remove it.

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the
shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that
it’s heart may stand in the sun
so must you know pain.
- Gibran

Altered passage and excerpts can be found in:

Normal Childbirth: Evidence and Debate. Chapter: The Role of Pain in Normal Birth and the Empowerment of Women (Nicky Leap and Tricia Anderson). Pages 25-39. 2004.


  1. Your words are beautiful. I have no children(yet) but hope to some day soon. Our priest's wife just finished her doula certification, and she explains the 'hospital mentality' as those who have seen so many 'dangerous births' that they begin to treat every birth as though it too, were dangerous, no longer recognizing the normalcy of the event.

  2. Wonderfully written and truthfully expressed. I have attended both hospital and home births and the differences are astonishing. At hospital I am constantly 'guarding' the birth space, trying to use the environment and my own skills as a doula to help the laboring woman connect with her intuition and sacred birth knowledge. But everything conspires against that. At home, I am mostly a silent witness to the incredible power and strength of a woman in complete control of her environment and following the ancient wisdom of birth which is all women's birth right. As a birth activist I work with others to make changes in hospitals to protect and respect birthing women. To end, I love the Gibran quote--it truly captures the trans-formative power of birth in a nutshell...

  3. Wonderfully written and truthfully expressed. I have attended both hospital and home births and there is no comparison between the two. At hospital I am constantly 'guarding' the birth space, making it as sacred as possible so that the woman can access her innate knowledge of how to birth her baby. This is very difficult because of constant interruptions that pull her back to her left brain and because of the general distrust of birth in medical settings. And the use of so many interventions...
    At home I am mostly a witness, a silent companion and someone who believes in her and serves her. At home a woman is transformed into a birth warrior, in charge of her space and powerfully tapped into her own innate wisdom and birth knowledge.
    I am a birth activist because I want, need, to add my voice and action to those around the world to change how birth is managed in hospitals, to challenge policies and interventions that do not respect a laboring woman; to educate women and hospitals on evidence based care so that women may experience their power and strength no matter where they birth their babies.
    Finally, I really love the Gibran quote at the end of your article--it speaks to me of pain being the conduit to the transformation that takes place when we become 'mother'...

  4. Simply succintly divine....

    These words that you have shared fill my soul.....they satisfy my inner core...they also make my eyes fill with tears.

    I hope I can get my husband to read this & maybe in some lifetime he will understand.
    My pain is deep...I was perfect pregnancy, exercised daily, organic veggies, omega oil, positive people.....THEN.......
    the absurd hospital birth...and coerced pit drip and coerced epidural and dr.says "must perform cervical checks"

    I spoke my truth to my husband, (before birth)that I hated hospitals....he battled back and said I needed to TRUST doctors.

    Instead, he should have said:
    A) trust Your body, trust Your self
    B) I support wherever you envision giving birth.

    And I am quite assertive...and I certainly never ever thought I would:
    A) be a pawn in our medicalized birth system
    B) be a statistic.

    ...I wish andhope for less intervention and the power to be returned to future mommas.


Please be respectful. If you are about to say something that you would not let your child hear, then please refrain from saying it.