I have a lot of respect for birthworkers in all contexts, medical and non-medical, and hospital care has a vital place in helping pregnant and labouring women, offering emergency intervention and operations that can save lives. However, the increasing rate of highly medicalised birthing, speaks volumes about the modern drive to ‘control’ childbirth.
Today, almost half of China’s births are by caesarean, in Italy it is 40% and 33% in the USA, while in Brazil there is an 80-99% caesarean rate in private hospitals. These statistics I believe articulate the current fear and lack of confidence in women’s ability to give birth naturally.
So where does our fear originate? Is it entirely from our human experience of birth mortality both past and present? Or does it arise out of a more unconscious collective disconnection to the Divine Feminine? Is it an attitude that can be found in our sense of separation from nature, from both men and women losing the depth of our relationship to the ‘mother’ within us, and to Mother Earth herself?
My feeling is that in the psyche of most human beings, whether consciously or not, there exists an Archetypal ‘mother’ figure: the embodiment of fertility and sustenance, the great nurturer, the giver and perhaps also the taker of life. She has been in our collective consciousness since we began birthing and she remains within us all now, as a seed longing to germinate and to flourish again.
This Divine Mother, as interpreted by our ancient ancestors, was seen to be wild as the Earth she embodied. Gaia, La Pacha Mama, the Great Mother goddess and all other variations on this theme, was both passionate and powerful. She provided all that was needed for the people, yet expressed her anger through the destructive forces of nature. She was an engineer of miracles, but was still as ordinary and approachable as a quiet hillside. And all that she manifested in the natural world was respected and revered by humans.
Yet with the staggering development of our industrial age over the course of recent centuries, our increasing dependency on economy has made the Earth’s natural resources a dispensable material commodity. And this, seen alongside our western history of around 3,000 years of cultural and social disempowerment of women, reveals how we as a species have predominantly lost our closeness to nature and our reverence for this Mother archetype. The ‘slash and burn’ relationship that big businesses now have to the natural world is a horrifying reflection of how this special connection to the Divine Feminine through honouring the Earth, has been broken.
And medicalised or medically ‘controlled’ childbirth can be seen as another facet to the intrinsically mechanical approach we have developed around nature. Giving birth is a natural act and it always has been. It is a momentous and sacred event with its inherent practical risks, but above everything else it is completely natural and we need to remember this.
The need for us to re-address birth in these times is immanent. It may be a slow process in some places and swift in others, but perhaps, as we begin to see shifts taking place in our attitudes and approaches to birth as individuals, we will start to notice changes which can influence the whole. And mothers have powerful voices. We need to speak up now.