What is a natural birth?

Posted by: on Jul 16, 2013 | No Comments

Something struck me today about the term ‘natural birth’ and I had a little ‘aha’ moment to myself. So I thought I’d share my thoughts with you on this.

The term ‘natural birth’ conjures up certain images of tree-hugging mamas with hairy legs and sandals. (Guilty!) Natural birth is seen as something only some women achieve, while the rest, do not.

But what is ‘natural?’ How do we define it?

In its purest sense, to me, behaving naturally means acting from pure primal instinct. The reaction that we don’t even think about. A reflex. Something ancient. Something we cannot control or tame easily. An automatic reaction hardwired into our bones, deep down.

So when a mother goes into labour, her instincts will be entirely natural and primal to her.

If a mother has heard a lifetime of horror stories about birth, her natural reaction will be to fear birth.

If a mother feels unloved by her partner, or unsupported, her natural reaction will be to fear the coming of the baby on some level and all that means – perhaps unconsciously holding her baby inside for as long as she can – on a level of primal instinct.

If a mother feels unsafe in her birth environment or unsure about her carers, her natural instinct will be to clam up a little. She will not be relaxed in her body. She will naturally feel a little reserved in her body and personal space.

If a mother has been told her birth is likely to be difficult, or that her body will fail her, she may naturally feel deflated, scared, and disempowered, with a compromised sense of her own personal power, dignity and strength.

If a mother feels she cannot give birth without assistance, without interventions, under her own steam, how much harder for her to do just that? If her partner or mother or sister or friend or neighbour or midwife undermine her by telling her “Ooh you’ll never do it on your own steam, you just wait you’ll be screaming for the drugs like the rest of  them” – isn’t it only natural, when repeatedly told something, that it should become a self-fulfilling thing?

And equally, if a woman is repeatedly told “Your body was made for this. Birth is not as bad as you think. The pure intensity of it is normal and not to be feared. You will cope, like millions of others. This is an ordinary event. I believe in you. I will trust your body and only intervene if absolutely necessary….” then surely it naturally follows, that her body will relax and feel safe. She will open up and feel more in tune with her baby. She will turn her body this way and that and allow the baby to play an active role so they do a birth dance together, not against each other.

When we look at birth in this way, we can be more generous with the term natural. Our primal and natural set of behaviours are determined by whether we  feel safe and loved and properly listened to and cared for – or not.

When a woman understands the mechanics and psychology of the birthing body, she is in a position to truly activate something more powerful in herself than reacting from fear. Perhaps she rises above the expectations she had of herself. Maybe she finds a strength she never knew she had. Perhaps she, for the first time in her life, discovers a power, an autonomy, a determination and grit she never knew before. She recognises her vulnerability for what it is. She looks it in the eye and says “I see you, vulnerabilty and naked fear, I respect you, I honour you, and I understand you.” She lets go of the little girl self that needs to be looked after. And in that moment when she thinks she’ll split open, a natural warrior is born.