by Jeannine Parvati Baker

Imagine a world where child-birth was a sacred event in the family life cycle, where the birth of a child was completely free in all senses of the word. The word "free" originally meant an affectionate relationship - between members of a household - that was not bound by slavery or payment. Contrast that to the reality in Western civilization where birth attendants are professionals. Midwifery is the world's second oldest profession and in ancient times, prostitutes and midwives worshipped the same Goddess at the same altar.

The world wherein babies are born in freedom as a celebrated community event, not a privatized medically MANaged emergency, would transform society. Mothers who give birth focused on the spiritual dimension bring this awareness into the world with them forevermore. A mother who falls deeply in love with her baby will carry a fierce devotion to sustaining her child's wholeness. Rather than the current scene of detached parenting that we can witness at any marketplace in any venue in Western countries, where mothers carry their babies in plastic baskets rather than on their bodies, we would see Mamatoto - the African term for the holy unit mother and baby together. There are no words in this tribe's language for a mother and new-born as separate individuals. The Africans see it the way I do - when birth is a spiritual - as well as natural - rite-of-passage, it doesn't look as if mother and baby are two separate individuals after birth. We see that mother and baby are indeed one until such time as the baby makes moves to crawl off mama's lap. With six children, I can virtually see my heart walking around the planet in six different bodies.

Mothers who open their hearts through freebirth can make the next step in the spiritual journey - and we can extend this unifying vision to all people. Our capacity for compassionate care intensifies when we fully bond with our babies and doesn't stop there. We can feel on a cellular level that we must engage in the community to make it the best possible place for our children and our grandchildren. If when giving birth, I hire an institution and professionals to deliver me, I have less practice in being pro-active for the sake of my children, at the very least. I also have someone else to blame. If I had taken drugs (epidural) when giving birth, I would not have been able to secrete oxytocin, the love hormone. I wouldn't care about, or for, my children as fully for missing this intense bonding and, by extension, my larger community if I gave birth the American way. Does this describe the present condition of society? Apathy?

My vision of freebirth is a community where every mother is her own midwife. It is a world's best kept secret that giving birth is a natural expression of heterosexual loving. It is the most ordinary miracle. We must build a community which supports living closer to the natural world, where birth is celebrated through empowering ritual, rather than managed control as if it is dangerous.

In some tribal cultures, those which are not technocratic and are closer to nature, the visitor, upon asking who is the midwife, will be shown every mother. Mothers help their daughters give birth. There are tribal rituals which support the passage. Obstetric ritual has supplanted the less mechanical, more natural rituals in our culture and mothers who were previously delivered by "experts" have lost the confidence to guide their own daughters. Imagine a world where birth was truly free in all meanings of that word because each pregnant woman had a loving relationship with her own mother - a world where mothers felt free to experience this rite of passage fully empowered from within, rather than to need others to tell them they were okay. In a culture where freedom was experienced at birth, mothers would be empowered to not only protect their babies from harm, but also care for their children without dominating them. Mothers would teach, by their being, that power is not control, but rather the freedom to be who we really are. How do we co-create a free community of beings who cease to dominate one another and the rest of creation? By giving mothers the body experience of freedom at birth, so we can in turn nurture children who will neither allow victimization, nor attempt to control or manipulate others. Power from within, not power over someone or something else, is the way to freedom.

Our communities and our planet are in crisis. We have run the extent of the rapacious greed that focuses on domination. The problem doesn't seem to be so much overpopulation as it is overpopulation by greedy people. When individuals have been born gently, welcomed kindly into the community, breastfed for many years, they do not become greedy people. They come from a place of fullness and balance with all our relations. My breasts taught me a universal principle about giving and receiving, the exchange of goods between people. When I would nurse my babies to completion, my breasts would refill even more. However if I cut off the milk flow before my babies were done nursing, I would diminish my supply. My breasts express a spiritual principle of human relations - the more we give from the heart, the more we receive. Contrast this to the imprint for intimate human relations a bottle of substitute milk gives - use it up, throw it away. Sound familiar? could this be a description of our culture's values and the disposable relationships that are so prevalent? Relationships in which love is measured, sometimes scarce, and one is thrown into feelings of abandonment of enormous proportion?

Our relationship with the Earth reflects this primal imprint was well. Our tendency is to relate to the Earth as we have related to our mothers. From this perspective, it looks like people are rebellious teenagers, trashing Mom's house before they leave for another planet. To sustain our matrix, the planet Earth, we must reclaim birth as a sacred creation event and free ourselves from old primal patterns.

As my father's people, the Native Americans, say, "We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors so much as we have borrowed the Earth from our children." Let us return this gift in good shape. Let us manifest and (wo)manifest freebirth and celebrate the possible family. May we all experience "Mamatoto" with our communities and our shared planet.

(Reprint, "Journal of Family Life, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1998)

This is the final article in a series about Jeannine's vision of a freebirth community. The first, "Freebirth, Every Mother a Midwife," appeared in Vol. 4, No. 1; and "Fear of Birth" appeared in Vol. 4, No. 3.

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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