Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Vision of Unity

I have been disturbed by all of the antagonism, fighting, gossip, and divisiveness that envelops childbirth. So many of the choices surrounding birth are framed in terms of polarized debates: home versus hospital...midwives versus doctors...epidural versus "natural" childbirth...assisted versus unassisted. Rarely does either party walk away having accomplished anything positive. We wield studies and statistics like clubs, hoping that we can intimidate each other into submission by sheer force or volume or rhetorical ingenuity. We hurl horror stories at each other: woman catches fire during her cesarean! baby dies during a breech homebirth! two best friends die after their cesareans! woman loses both arms and legs after giving birth in a hospital!

I cannot take part in this violent war of words. Mothering has transformed me. I never knew that I could love so passionately and so completely. Happy Sad Mama's words echo my own feelings: "I love my kids so much, so intensely much, and I am so grateful for them that my image that flies past the blackness of my eyelids when I think too hard about this love is of me lying, face-down, on the ground reaching up for them. I want them so intensely interwoven with me, I feel absolutely addicted to them and entranced by them and I just can't imagine that everyone else in the world feels this way because I am almost CRAZY with the love and addiction for them."

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I felt an intense inner need to give birth to her at home, in privacy. When a reporter from Grazia magazine was interviewing me last spring, I unexpectedly broke into tears as I was telling her how I had wanted Zari to be born in an atmosphere of love, knowing only the warmth of her parents' arms. I am not a crier, usually. I didn't cry at my daughter's birth. I was calm. Intensely happy, of course, too, as you can see in the videos right after her birth.

I feel a kinship with Sarah Buckley in this regard. She too felt a strong inner pull that her fourth baby needed to be birthed at home, into the presence of her own family: "Our baby’s birth was to be witnessed only by the family--there had been a strong feeling from the start that this was what this baby wanted....There was also a simple, domestic feeling to this pregnancy--no need for outside activity or people--and I felt keenly this baby’s love of family." The birth story is definitely worth reading, by the way.

Love is a tremendous motivating force. I challenge you to join me in transforming our verbal swords into plowshares. Let's turn the endless debates into something more beautiful and more useful: a Vision of Unity.

by Jeannine Parvati Baker

Like many of us, I have been praying with my ears, listening to midwives all around the world.
How can we (wo)manifest the vision of unity that would serve families?
Meditating upon the divisions between birth attendants, a vision came to me.
I saw a circle wherein the tribes called to heal the Earth by healing birth sat together.
It was a medicine wheel, with all styles of midwifery and obstetrics represented.
Across the wheel from me sat a medical doctor.
To each of my sides were medwives and CNM's, seated across from one another.
We defined the cardinal points in the wheel, but were not the whole circle.
From where I sat, I could see directly what was behind the doctor, and visa versa.
To either side I had an oblique angle to view my sister medwives and CNM's.
Then I realized why we needed one another. It is to keep us honest.
I can see what is the shadow of obstetrics, as the good doctor can see the shadow freebirth casts.
Nurses and medwives add to the bigger picture across the wheel from one another.
No one can turn around and see ones own shadow alone. This is how we serve one another.
All of us who attend birth are holograms in this circle of life. Each has the whole truth about birth within.
When we bring our versions of the truth together, there is a finer resolution and
multi-dimensional viewing into the great round of being.
In my vision, we are sitting in birth's circle, representing our various tribes.
Not my circle, not yours, but birth's circle.
Each tribe, each perspective, is precious to birth.
Together the living oracle will be voiced through all of us.
Let it be the voice of what the Earth needs through each of us.
Remembering this always: What we do to one, we do to all.



  1. Rixa! I've been checking in like hourly to see where you go -- this is a beautiful post.

    There must be something which is ultimately very human and vulnerable and good, underneath the divisiveness and combative attitudes all around. Your link to Happy Sad Mama got me thinking... All mothers are swept up in this crazy love, perhaps not daily, but it's forever at the heart of how we define ourselves as mothers. Our passion is just as intense as the divisiveness among us is insane. As if we all saw phantom aggressors we must protect our babies from. Happy Sad Mama's description of love and loss reveals the place where that may be coming from? Not all mothers have experienced the death of a child, but without exception we have all imagined it over and over one way or another and it fills us with a dread that adds the craziness to the passion in our love. In the absence of any real daily need to defend our babies' lives, perhaps we end up defending our parental convictions (whatever they may be) with this misplaced fervor? Or react defensively even when our convictions are not even really under attack?

    I hope this doesn't just read like platitudes or psychobabble... sorry if it does... I'm NOT out to accuse womankind of being all hysterics LOL. I'm a sleep deprived mama today. What I AM trying to say is, when we recognize this slightly crazy all-too-human vulnerability in other moms, we can start thinking of using it to forge the unity you're calling for...

    Oh one last thing: that video brought happy tears in my eyes! Thank you :)

  2. Judit, I had never quite thought of it that way, but I agree.

  3. I really loved this post!

  4. I enjoyed this post. (As I do most posts, but this one especially hit home...) Those words from Happy Sad Momma describe so well how I feel about my daughter. I too have wondered if everyone feels that same crazy, addicted love for their children. I wonder if they do feel the same way, how they can drag them roughly by the arm, or spank them, or abuse them...the world is such a backwards place.

  5. I believe that childbirth and breastfeeding can contribute to a "lioness" quality in mothers and maybe helps them become addicted to their babies. It makes me wonder about a certain pop culture sensation and her children. Weren't they born by scheduled c/s without labor? Maybe this is what Michel Odent is talking about when he says that routine c/s may harm civilization! Could it be that for some, it may impair their ability to become addicted?

  6. Thank you, Rixa. I love what you wrote here.

    (I'd love to write more, but it'll have to wait since I have a piano lesson in a few minutes, and a thoroughly cluttered living room.)

  7. I dunno about you, Anonymous, but I had a C-section and I am just as addicted to my son as Happy Sad Mama is to her children. :)

    Beautiful post, Rixa. All of us would do well to strive to be as peaceful as you. It can be hard for me sometimes, being as loudmouthed, vulgar, and passionate as I am, to not get angry. But I'm doing better with it. I really am.

  8. Rixa, as always, I truly appreciate the honesty and rawness of your posts. I in humbled by your ability to jump in the the vastness of birth and be laid wide open by them. I stand solid with you in your Vision of Unity.

    I also have often discussed this same topic (vision of unity) with others, so frustrated that we must argue about mere choices in birthing. I can't stand that I must fight for my RIGHT to birth my baby at home, or in a hospital, on a boat, or on the cool soil of the earth.

    Even more frustrating is the fact that we even call it a RIGHT. It's not a right, it just IS. A choice, a "birthright" perhaps, a fact of life, a part of our cycle of womanhood. It's like saying we have a right to breathe. No...it is primal and biological and utterly part of our cellular print.

    How about we just concede to sharing true, stripped down, honest versions of birth stories (from OUR eyes, not the words/eyes of our care providers)? Yes. We can discuss the emotions in how important the birth journey of our babies are and how birth is obviously a rite of passage...how can we honor this?

    Perhaps we will see that hospital births and homebirths can actually have much in common; not of women divided, but of them united in compassion, caring, love.

    Of course, I am still a staunch homebirth advocate. But I have lately found that my advocacy has turned to working towards more peaceful, less interventive hospital births. With the hope that someday birth professionals and women will begin to validate the ultimate normalcy and safety of birth in general. Perhaps then the Great Shift will occur, once again having women moving back into homes (or boats or jungles or earth's soil) to birth their babies.

    Or maybe they will remain in a hospital if that is where they feel safest, but hooked only to the monitor of their baby's breathe and inherent wisdom and instead of some machine.

    That is my hope.

    It is all I have.

    Thank you Rixa for opening your space up to such topics.

  9. what a Vision.

    Jeanine Pavarti Baker is my heart teacher, a spirit I call upon often as I stand in my place as a birth-worker (looking for a better term) and as I settle in as a birther (soon baby three will come from me).'

    She was a prophet for birth, we all are.

    Thank you.



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