Empowered Birth: From the Personal to the Universal

Welcome to the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival
This post is part of the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey. For this special event the carnival participants have shared their perspective on Empowered Birth. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I began writing this piece by breaking down an empowered birth into a list of criteria which I would then elaborate on:

A woman giving birth on a birth chair, from a ...

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  1. Care provider
  2. Support
  3. Education
  4. Location
  5. Preparation

Then I realized I don’t fit my own criteria, yet managed to have four empowering births. So, what do I really believe an empowered birth is?

I consider an empowered birth to be a birth in which mother and baby feel supported emotionally and physically. This can be achieved in any location, with any care provider or none. It can be due to education and preparation or none at all. It can even end in a good outcome or not.

Empowerment of birth is in how the woman who births feels about her experience.

I used to have opinions that it was necessary to have certain items on a checklist in order to have an empowering birth experience. For example, homebirth not hospital (check), midwife not OB (check), education not ignorance (check), healthy baby (check), and so on.

Then I started listening and supporting mothers. All mothers. It doesn’t matter the choices they make or don’t make. It doesn’t matter what my personal criteria for an empowered birth are. Any mother can experience an empowered birth in any situation, if that is what they take from it (the converse is also true.) For me to argue, “oh well, if only you had…” would only serve to undermine her.

I am not belittling those who have had a traumatic birth experience. I honor and hold the space for those stories as well. What I am saying is that empowered birth is independent of circumstances. It is a choice, whether conscious or unconscious to decide where to hold the power of an experience.

A traumatic experience is not something to be “gotten over” in favor of an empowered experience. But, it is something to weave into the fabric of your self-identity. From there the woof and weave of life will hold it in place no matter how or if healing is available. Choosing empowerment is no better or worse than whatever a mother actually feels. The actual feeling deserves support. This alone is what is important. The support and non-judgment.

Don’t believe me?

What would you say if you knew the story of the woman whose baby died on a Sunday, who then went into labor and gave birth on a Monday unassisted, at home to her dead daughter. Would you pity? Would you chastise? Would you…judge? Is this mother allowed to have an empowering birth experience or is she irresponsible? Is she supposed to be so wrapped up in the horror that her birth experience couldn’t be exquisite?

“But, what if?…”

Exactly. But, what if? Should…supposed to…

That was the story of my second birth. And it was beautiful and horrible and sad and empowering and all that birth can be. But in truth, any one of my four homebirths could have been empowering or shaken me to my core. With each of my births, there are some things I would like to be different. There were decisions I question.

The point is that we can never know anyone’s motivations or experiences unless we listen. Judging someone else, especially around transformational experiences, won’t help. We can listen, support, and perhaps offer words when they are wanted. A personal birth experience deserves to be heard. My hope is that if we keep talking and keep listening, eventually there will be a space to share without fear of harsh words. If we do, then talking about different experiences will become so common place that it will no longer be seen as judgment, but of true sharing in the kinship of birth in all its varied embodiments.

What are your feelings on what makes an empowered birth? I’d love to hear from you.

Related articles


The Empowered Birth Blog Carnival was lovingly hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey

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We invite you to sit, relax and take time to read the excellent and empowering posts by the other carnival participants:

Empowered Birthing – Amy at Anktangle shares a simple list of things that support an empowered birth experience.

Little Miss Green’s Home, Water Birth Story – Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her (home, water) birth story. Even though it happened 10 years ago, the empowering feelings are the same to this day (and yep, it STILL makes her cry!). This post is also a tribute to her husband who was there mind, body and soul throughout.

Save Birth, Change The World – Toni Harman, mum and film-maker talks about the highs and lows of creating the ONE WORLD BIRTH film project dedicated to helping more women around the world have empowered births.

12 Steps to an Empowered Natural Birth – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle wants to talk to all pregnant women and tell them YES they can have an Empowered Birth! This is her personal 12 step guide.

The Blessingway: a sacred blessing for birth – The Blessingway is a sacred ceremonial circle of women gathered with the intention of blessing and preparing a pregnant woman and her child to give birth. Betsy Dewey describes the beauty and the how-to of a modern Blessingway.

Informed Birth is Empowered Birth – Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe tells us why it’s important to take control and be responsible for our own births. She says Informed Birth is Empowered Birth.

Empowering Birth in the Trenches – Over at Belly Tales the Midwife explores what empowered birth looks like in an urban hospital with a vulnerable population.

An Empowered First Birth – Zoie at TouchstoneZ follows the path she took to her first homebirth and finds she may not have started out as the best candidate for an empowered birth.

And these to be published:

September 9th
Why Hasn’t the World Stopped? – Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares the emotional story of the empowered and unassisted stillbirth of her daughter.

September 12th :
Empowered Birth: From the Personal to the Universal – Zoie at TouchstoneZ questions the criteria for what makes an empowered birth and finds she has to let them all go.

5 thoughts on “Empowered Birth: From the Personal to the Universal

  1. Pingback: Four Years Ago Today, My True Love Was Born… « The Aniweda Dream

  2. Thank you for this. I have to admit I was a little afraid to share my birth story during the Carnival of Birth Reflections because I was afraid of judgement. I was afriad people would write – you should have refused the induction, you should have refused the vaccuum extraction, etc. And althought no one wrote that, I have no idea how many people may have thought that. It seems to me that it should not be the case for any woman to feel like she cannot share her experience for fear of judgement. It serves only to silence women.

    • Thank you, Shana. I hear the story you relate almost every time I speak with other mothers about their birth experiences and it hurts my heart. I hope that a safe space can be created where women can share their experiences without judgment. Perhaps the next Birth Reflections you will feel that there is something you would like to say. I will welcome your words wherever and whenever you choose to speak.

  3. I love the point you’re making here.

    I have had several friends who have given birth at the hospital but whose labors went too fast for them to be given pain medication. My reaction was always, “Sweet!” but these women didn’t share that opinion. They talked about how upset they were that their births did not go as they’d planned. I admit that I thought there must be something wrong with them that they didn’t love the way their births had happened. It took me some time to accept that they were feeling the same way about their accidentally unmedicated births as I was about my reluctantly medicated birth.

    I’m coming to the understanding that an empowered birth depends more on how well it fits with a woman’s circumstances, expectations, and needs for that particular birth. One isn’t “right” or “wrong” in a global sense, it’s just a better or worse fit.

    It would be nice if we could connect with other mothers based on the emotions we share rather than comparing and judging based on the details of our birth experiences.

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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