Sunday, March 11, 2007

Passionate Mothering

I recently bought Dr. Sarah J. Buckley's book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. It is fantastic--well worth the money. She writes about birth and mothering as both a mother of four children and as a physician and scientist. She makes a compelling argument for undisturbed, instinctive birth. If you cannot find the book in your local library, which is likely since it is published in Australia, you can read many of her articles on her website. If you are pressed for time, read this one first.

Here are some excerpts from a chapter called "Healing Birth, Healing the Earth."
The ecstasy of Birth—her capacity to take us outside (ec) our usual state (stasis)—has been forgotten, and we are entering the sacred domain of motherhood post-operatively, even post-traumatically, rather than transformationally....
Giving birth is, inherently and hormonally, a passionate and sexual act. From the perspective of hormone levels in both mother and baby, we could say that birth is the most passionate experience that we will ever have....
These passionate hormones [oxytocin, prolactin, endorphins, and adrenaline] are not just feel-good add-ons. They actually orchestrate the physical processes of birth (and sexual activity) and enhance efficiency, safety and ease for both mother and baby. This hormonal cocktail also rewards birthing mothers with the experience of ecstasy and fulfillment, making us want to give birth again and again....
The problem in our times is that the passion of birth is neither recognized nor accommodated. Birth has become a dispassionate medical event, usually occurring in a setting that discourages emotional expression. If we are to reclaim our birthing passion, we must give ourselves permission to birth passionately and we must choose our birth setting and birth attendants with this in mind. Birth in these circumstances will be more straightforward, with less need for interventions, helping us to step into new motherhood with confidence and grace.
Passion, to my mind, is an opposite and an antidote for despair and depression. This is clear physiologically and hormonally. If we gave birth, and were born, in passion, how different would our primal emotional imprint be? And what about our brain chemistry, which is being set even as we are born?...As a birthing mother I have both witnessed and experienced the enormous passion that can be unleashed at birth, and that can fuel both passionate motherhood and a lifetime’s work on behalf of mothers, babies, and the Earth, and I ask: “Can we afford, as a species, to be born, and to give birth dispassionately?”


  1. Very interesting! I will have to check out those articles sometime. :) Thanks for the links.


  2. wow, she's a great writer!

  3. It is amazing how many women out there are under the impression that birth is somehow an unnatural or unpleasant experience! My mom is a CNM so I have been exposed to her ideas on natural childbirth since I can remember. I am pregnant and due in June and you should see how people look at me when I tell them that I want to have my baby without pain medication! You would think I told them I wanted to have my baby on Mars! I don't think I am as brave as you are Rixa to have my baby at home though! I might consider it down the road with my 2nd or 3rd or 4th....

  4. Hi Annie,
    I am only saying this because you mention you might want a home birth for another baby in the future...
    you know, both you and your firstborn deserve the best birth now!

    Home birth is of course no more "dangerous" than hospital birth, as I'm sure you know. Since you wouldn't be risking anyone's safety, it really requires no recklessness or daring of any sort.

    It does take some courage of your convictions, exactly the same kind it takes to tell others that you plan to give birth without pain meds. Only the looks you get are even stranger! That's about all the guts one needs really.

    (Obviously our dear Rixa isn't lacking there LOL)

  5. Hi Judit-

    Well, I am choosing a hospital birth for several reasons this time. First of all, I am seeing a family doctor for my OB care and I trust her 100%. I have been going to her for 4 years now so I know her pretty well. She does all of her own deliveries and has a lot of the same philosophies on natural childbirth as I do. Second, my mother is going to be with me and my husband when I deliver and since she has delivered hundreds of babies and had 5 children of her own, she knows what she is doing and if she needs to she will "stick up" for me in the hospital. She lives in Vermont and I live in Colorado, otherwise I would have her deliver my baby because there is nobody I trust more! In other words, I know I am in good hands. If I had any doubts about my doctor or the hospital I am going to deliver in, I would find someone else. :)

  6. Yay Annie,
    it feels absolutely wonderful to know you're in good hands, I totally understand.

    The best births I have personally seen as a doula were with family practitioners as primary careproviders (in small private hospitals, but I'm assuming that comes with the turf, right?) Lucky for their patients, somehow these docs seemed to have more leverage in that hospital than the CNM in another, large teaching hospital I've seen. Not meaning to generalize though.

    Hats off to family docs who attend births!!! You will have a wonderful experience.


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