Although I have shared this story before, I love it so much that I am sharing it again. :)
by Candace Whitridge, CNM
from The Birthkit, Spring 1994
published by The Midifery Today Association
Copyright 1994, Midwifery Today, Inc.
a woman is in labor, a little fight goes on in the woman's brain. One
part of her brain, the intellect, will tell her that she should do
certain things. Perhaps those are things that she learned in childbirth
classes; perhaps those are things that other people have told her that
she should do to cope with birth.
But from the other part of the
brain will come an urge so deep within her that it will compel her to
move her body and to use her voice in a completely different way.
are her deep instincts about childbirth, but we have buried these for
so long that most of us have forgotten that knowledge. Occasionally,
though, I see women who remember....
Very early in my practice, a
young 16- or 17-year-old girl came to see me when she was very, very
pregnant. She thought that she was getting close to giving birth, so I
gave her a very lengthy exam and we talked for almost two hours. She was
in good health, so I made an appointment to see her the following week.
the next day, she returned with her husband. She smiled and said,
"Well, here I am. I'm going to have my baby today." I looked at her face
and body for some evidence that she was in labor, but saw nothing.
"Well, let's take you back to the room and we'll give you an
examination," I said. " "Are you having contractions?" I asked her. "Oh,
you bet I am," she said. I expected to find a very closed cervix--but
she was 8 centimeters!
She wanted to deliver in our clinic's
birthroom. So we went into the room and she jumped up on top of the bed.
She began to order everyone around. She said to her husband, "Now I
would like you to sit in that chair." And she said to me, "I would like
you to sit on this bed with me." I still saw no evidence that she was in
I got our sterile bowl of instruments and put it down
next to me on the bed. And this woman sat there and continued to smile,
looking like an angel. She closed her eyes and pulled up her skirt.
"Well, as I said, the baby is coming," she said. I sat there with my
silly little bowl. She opened her legs and the bag of waters appeared at
the opening of her vagina. The water broke like a little river and the
head appeared. She took the baby's head in her hand, and when the
shoulders turned she took her baby out and put it on her tummy. Then she
said, "I would like my husband to cut the cord, please." I showed him
what to do, and he cut the cord, and the family enclosed themselves. And
I still sat there, and had done nothing so far. Then she said, "Oh,
excuse me, but here is my placenta now." She pushed it out into the bed
so I gathered it up, and my little bowl, and everyone was fine so I just
left the room.
I talked with her later about why birth seemed so
easy for her. After all, she was only 16. She told me that her mother,
who had had many children, told her that when she was in labor, she
would feel God's power coming through her and she should do anything
possible to welcome it. So that was the attitude that this woman had
about birth. There was no doubt in her mind that she would know what to
do. Her knowledge and courage impressed me immensely.
later, I had another young woman in labor. She, too, had never taken
childbirth classes, but she was very different from the first young
girl.She was very noisy and moved all over the room. She strutted like a
big rooster and threw herself on the bed and on the floor. She roared
around and moaned loudly. She and her young husband did "high fives"
because they were both very proud of what they were doing. Rock music
played in the background.
She had a very fast labor, and she told
me later that she just did what she felt like doing. She did not think
about it. There was nothing to think about--she was just going to do the
work and birth her baby. Women, when they are in an environment that
supports them and are with people who trust them, will birth exactly as
they need to in order to birth their babies. We have forgotten that we
remember. I have also learned that women have a very strong desire to be
among people who are happy and who have a lot of trust in them. I live
and work in a place where women say that birth is so important they
should not waste the opportunity. And they say that birth is something
that one should "get into," and is not something that one simply must
"get through." Imagine a place where women talk about their stories over
and over, because they had such a great time, instead of a place where
women fear birth.
A woman came to me to have her second baby. She
had her first baby elsewhere, using the breathing techniques the
childbirth classes had taught. She said, "I felt like I had to huff and
puff and blow my baby out." All through labor, she said she felt an urge
deep within her that was very wild, almost like an animal. But people
kept telling her to be quiet and to stay in control. Well, she said she
absolutely did not want anyone at this birth to tell her to shut up and
stay in control. She said the feeling in her was so wild--she didn't
know what it was--but she wanted to do as she pleased at this birth. And
she wanted me just to be her guardian, to watch over the safety of her
and her baby as the baby was being born. So, I agreed to her wishes.
she went into labor, I was called to the hospital. The lights were very
low in the room, and my friend, a nurse, was sitting on the floor in
the corner, very quietly watching. The woman and her husband were
dancing cheek to cheek, with their eyes closed, all around the room. The
music was her moaning...aah, aah, aah. I sat quietly in the room and
watched them. When my friend had to listen to the baby's heart rate, she
crawled over quietly with her little machine and listened, then crawled
very quietly back. Finally, the husband opened his eyes and looked at
me for the first time. He smiled and said, "Oh, this is just like the
dance at our wedding."
The woman really didn't even notice I was
there. During contractions, she pulled away from him, threw herself on
the bed, grabbed the pillow in her mouth and rolled around. Then she
came back together with him and he held her, and they continued to dance
together, everywhere, all over the room.
Finally, she bent over
and squatted by the bed. She had a startled look on her face and she
said to me, "Oh, no!" "What's the problem?" I asked. "Well, I'm pushing
already and I was having such a good time!" She did not want it to be
finished. I thought, "Every woman and her husband should have the
opportunity to birth in this way. Unlike most women, who can hardly wait
for labor to be finished, this woman was just beginning to get into
If we can understand that the best things in life do not
come to us without our effort, and if we can discover a different
understanding of childbirth pain, then we will find that we do not need
to pull away and run for it, as if we are frightened.
Only then, can we emerge from the other side of birth much bigger than we were before we started.
Candace Whitridge is a nurse-midwife and farmer in Northern California. These stories are from a talk she gave in Poland.
Reprinted with permission.