I Call For a Return to Primal Birth Wisdom

22 10 2013
from La Razón

from La Razón

Woman in Mexico gives birth on the lawn of the hospital after they refused to admit her while in labor, telling her to come back tomorrow. Irma Lopez was obviously planning a hospital birth, and so understandably was fearful of this unplanned UC. NOT the ideal, at all.

“I didn’t want to deliver like this. It was so ugly and with so much pain,” Lopez told the Associated Press.

Apparently this is an example of the treatment indigenous people in her area are accustomed to. A lot of them are “forced to give birth at home”… wouldn’t it be great if we could help them give birth at home, wean them from a system that mistreats them and which they don’t need? Wouldn’t it be great if we could reconnect them to primal, natural birth so they could actually deliver with less pain and more joy? And there’s an excellent chance we could help them have better success and health in childbirth in terms of outcome, too.

In America, there is a similar problem with the indigenous and minorities receiving less than stellar hospital treatment, having higher maternal/infant mortality and morbidity rates than those in the majority, etc. The assumed connection is that their lives are treated with less value. They are not taken as seriously. It could be argued that their quality of life during pregnancy suffers when compared to the majority, which contributes to poorer birth outcomes, and this also may play some part. Either way, it becomes a racial/cultural/socioeconomic issue that we need to address. This is where birth being an issue of feminism, human rights, and racism all coincide.

Can we foster autonomy for women in childbirth which is rooted in the return to traditional wisdom? Can we re-emphasize the solemnity of birth and honoring your inner wisdom and instinct? Do we do this merely by trying to spread the word?

If so, let’s try.

At the very least, if every woman (regardless of background) were prepared for an unassisted birth (even just in the event that help is not available), she could do so in a much more calm and less feared way than this poor woman endured.

Here, print this book out. It’s a great start.

The following are excerpts from Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing, by Patrisia Gonzales (which can be purchased here, courtesy of The University of Arizona).

This Indigenous woman’s declaration of the sacred act of birth as a ceremony led me into a terrain of practices, of forms and symbols surrounding birthing squats, of umbilical cords, placentas, and trees of life as I looked for further expressions of this ceremonial knowledge.

During ceremony, we must rely on something beyond our cognizant powers and allow spiritual matter to appear, produce, recede, return.

As I helped Native women birth at home or in hospitals and clinics, the reminders that birth in North America has become increasingly medicalized would present themselves in phone calls. A Native woman would want help to prevent a threatened induction because Western time measurements that dictate clinical protocols asserted that she was overdue…

In the 1970s, US women challenged the medical model of pregnancy and childbirth as they sought to reinstate lay midwifery and traditional midwifery care, which had been banned or made illegal in numerous states from the 1940s onward. Indigenous communities especially experienced a loss of communal ownership and a loss of individual sovereignty for women and families as births moved from home to clinics and hospitals. The ceremonial knowledge surrounding birth became restricted by clinical settings and protocols. And yet, as I would explain my research to Indigenous elders and ceremonial leaders, they would nod quite matterof- factly that “birth is a ceremony”-as if it were so obvious it did not need to be stated.

I have interviewed hundreds of elders from across the Americas regarding Indigenous knowledge, establishing a narrative record of ancestral memories. Beyond the medicine of words, I also began to learn and follow medicinal teachings, exposed again to the teachings of numerous elders.

These birthing narratives demonstrate an Indigenous understanding of birth as a process that is larger than delivery of a baby.

These symbols reveal how pre-Columbian peoples associated sacred powers with birth, particularly feminine powers. These powers continue to be called upon.

“For Gonzales, a central guiding force in Red Medicine is the principal of regeneration as it is manifested in Spiderwoman. Dating to Pre-Columbian times, the Mesoamerican Weaver/Spiderwoman—the guardian of birth, medicine, and purification rites such as the Nahua sweat bath—exemplifies the interconnected process of rebalancing that transpires throughout life in mental, spiritual and physical manifestations. Gonzales also explains how dreaming is a form of diagnosing in traditional Indigenous medicine and how Indigenous concepts of the body provide insight into healing various kinds of trauma.

Gonzales links pre-Columbian thought to contemporary healing practices by examining ancient symbols and their relation to current curative knowledges among Indigenous peoples. Red Medicine suggests that Indigenous healing systems can usefully point contemporary people back to ancestral teachings and help them reconnect to the dynamics of the natural world. ”