this last week, i went to the grand canyon with my husband, children, and parents. it was very very cold but oh so beautiful!
as i was browsing through one of the gift shops, i came across a book about the women native to the grand canyon. of course, i picked it up and started browsing for anything on childbirth. the book covered all sorts of subjects from menstrual cycles, menopause, sexual customs, marriage, and childbirth. i would have loved to have bought it but...i didn't.
anyways, i loved reading the passages about their feelings on childbirth. the feeling i got from it was that (in general) #1 - women did not fear the birth process, and #2 - they were surrounded by other women during labor and delivery.
i thought that was so interesting because as i have researched natural childbirth and prepared myself to have my own natural childbirth, those are two of the things that seem to be beneficial.
one of the indian women was playing with her friends when all of the sudden she experienced a pain and thought to herself that it must be time. as first time mothers, they often did not know what to expect but they just let their bodies follow a natural course and eventually ended up with a baby...amazing, right? but even with the lack of knowledge or preparation, i got the feeling that these mothers did not fear giving birth. this girl, after feeling the pain, went to the teepee that was set apart for giving birth and that is what she did, surrounded by many women, including her woman doctor, a medicine woman, or midwife.
another story was about a woman who again, was out and about her daily duties, when she also felt a strong sensation. she knew it might be time so she began to run to the place designated for giving birth and as she did so, her baby dropped out of her. so, she sat down and held/nursed the baby. her aunt came along and cut the cord with her fingernail, then they both went into the house to rest and clean up.
as i read these stories and customs, i thought of dr. grantly dick-read's findings on natural childbirth. after observing many indigenous women giving birth, he concluded that pain in childbirth was caused by fear and tension (see my post on the fear-tension-pain sequence here). he observed women going about their daily duties in africa, and when they felt that delivery was near, they would stop and squat against a wall, birth their babies, and then go on their way. women would do the same as they worked in the fields.
i always thought - how on earth could a woman give birth (naturally!) and then get right up and continue working? i couldn't understand that. i mean, childbirth is painful and you tear and yada yada yada...so how could they be so normal afterwards?
it wasn't until i experienced natural birth myself that i understood. after i had my baby girl, i really could have gotten up and gone about as normal (i didn't, i did rest, but the surge of energy i felt was incredible).
i think our birth culture greatly contributes to the amount of fear women feel towards giving birth. we hear of all of the horror stories that were probably truly scary, but we don't always hear about all of the positive stories. have you noticed that when you're pregnant everyone wants to tell you all of the scary stuff about childbirth? why do we as women feel the need to scare others out of their mind? it doesn't make sense to me. that is why i feel the need to help share positive birth experiences - i want to help women realize that they can give birth and that it doesn't have to be a scary, frightening experience. instead, it can be beautiful and peaceful and can be done without fear.
it is really striking to research other cultures and see how they feel about childbirth. as i read the passages about the native american women, i felt so good, for lack of a better word. what i was reading felt good and natural, and right (to me). i loved how they did not seem to express any fear or hesitation about the birth process and as a result, their childbirth seemed to be free of tension or pain.
i'd really like to continue doing more research on these native american women and who knows, maybe i'll even purchase the book someday :)
update: check this article out about birth at a native american hospital...i think we have a lot to learn from these wonderful people!