Get Off My Back
The Natural Birth Community's Commitment to Subjugation
Did you know that since the beginning of humanity, women have intuitively given birth in every position imaginable, from standing, to squatting, to side-lying, to lying on our backs, to sitting up supported by a chair or another surface?
Did you know that when women aren’t being commandeered, pressured, irritated, drugged, hooked up to medical technology, paralyzed with pharmaceuticals from our necks to our toes, or otherwise dictated to, the position we take during birth is inevitably instinctive, because birth is a force that cannot be contained without the impositions of a tyrannical technocratic control apparatus?
Did you know that the position in which a woman gives birth has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with “gravity”? The uterus is the most powerful muscle in the body—powerful enough to effectively expel a baby even while the mother is in a coma, or literally paralyzed.
(In fact, one of the recent graduates of the Radical Birth Keeper School—the authentic midwifery program that I created and teach with Emilee Saldaya of the Free Birth Society—supported a wheel-chair bound paraplegic mother as she free-birthed her baby alone, in her home, without the ability to feel her legs.)
Birth tends to work when it’s not being sabotaged—in whatever position.
It’s very interesting to me the way the pathological perspectives of the industrial obstetric complex are mirrored and then distorted by the so-called “natural birth community.”
The notion that women “should not” give birth on our backs, or that if we were really in tune with our bodies that we wouldn’t do so, is just as infantilizing and insulting as being told that we must give birth on our backs, for the benefit of medical professionals.
Countless people have recently tagged me in a short essay that’s been circulating social media. I don’t know who authored it, but if you do, please let me know.
Here it is:
“Did you know that before 1600 Western Women gave birth squatting, sitting and standing?
This changed when King Louis XIV of France ruled that in order for him to witness the birth of his children, his women had to give birth lying down.
Although that posture makes childbirth more difficult and painful, it soon became widespread, and French doctors had to invent forceps to avoid some of its consequences. In a short time, the obstetric instruments multiplied, and it came to believe that childbirth was always an emergency that required medical attention to be uncomplicated.
The idea that women should be guided by their own instinct when it comes to childbirth is growing in popularity. The number of expectant mothers opting for natural childbirth—understood as the birth where external intervention is minimal possible—is on the rise.
French obstetrician Michel Odent, one of the most notable advocates of natural childbirth, claims that the midwife should not stick to any rules, but obey her instinct, which makes her an expert in giving birth. Odent gave his patients total freedom to proceed as they please, and even allowed them to sit in a tub of warm water to relieve the pain from uterine contractions. That's where the idea of water birth came from.
Current physiology knowledge has shown that vertical birth—standing or squatting— allows baby birth to be faster and less traumatic. However, there is no such thing as a universal posture for giving birth. In the most primitive communities, early birthing mothers are guided by the council of the most experienced women.”
Like so much of what we think we know about birth, this article combines a sliver of truth, with an overwhelming serving of utter nonsense.
To attribute “birth on our backs” in general to the actions of one perverted and degenerate French King, or to the implementation of torture devices and procedures is to negate the fundamental authority of women over ourselves, and this only furthers the narratives of dependency and servitude.
I have spent the past twenty years supporting thousands of women (many of them in-person) as they have given birth in accordance with their primal knowing, spontaneously, entirely outside of the medical industrial context, without any direction, or guidance from anyone (including myself).
What I have witnessed, is that birth is movement, and that throughout the birth process, which can last from 30 minutes, to several days, women, in the absence of disturbance, interference, or undue observation, writhe and wiggle and rest and walk and dance, and move continuously.
When it comes time to release their babies into the world, many women often choose to give birth on their backs, simply because it’s more comfortable, more easeful, and feels right for them in that moment.
Women often choose to give birth on their backs simply because it’s more comfortable, more easeful, and more intuitive.
There are also many women who prefer to give birth on their hands and knees (a very common position), and in my experience there have also been a few women (but not most) spontaneously choose to give birth squatting or standing.
I also happen to have personally given birth to my own nine children at home, similarly without any doctors, licensed midwives, or medical professionals present.
My first baby was born in water, while I was leaning back, sitting on my tailbone. My second baby was born in the same position. My third baby was born while I was on my hands and knees. My fourth baby was born while I was lying flat on my back in the water. My fifth baby was born on my hands and knees, leaning forward. My sixth baby was born on my hands and knees. My seventh baby was born on my hands and knees. My eighth baby was born while I was lying flat on my back on my bed.
My youngest baby—my ninth child— was born at home like all my children, but this time, home was a little house in the Nicaraguan jungle 300km away from the nearest full-service hospital (the further the better, for me).
His birth occurred four days after my water broke.
The entire four-day experience was utterly peaceful, totally pain-free, and orgasmic even, and I moved through the waves alone, until my husband came in the room during the last 5 minutes.
My child’s head was born—ecstatically—while I was laying on my back, which, again, as always, is the position I instinctively took.
I surrendered to this, and all my birth experiences without thought or premeditation—and in not one of these births did I assume a particular position “because I had watched too much tv” as one pompous internet ass suggested.
It is just as demeaning to invalidate the wisdom of a woman who chooses to birth on her back as it is to insist that she lie down.
Giving birth while lying on one’s back is emphatically not, as the writer of this piece suggests, “more difficult and painful” than any other position, when that’s the position that happens to be correct for the mother.
Of course it’s true that in order to violate a woman with one’s hands (the vaginal exam), or with metal instruments (forceps), or most other forms of abuse, do “require” (or are at least facilitated by) the woman being on her back.
But the idea put forth by this article, that “current physiology knowledge has shown that vertical birth—standing or squatting—allows a baby’s birth to be faster and less traumatic” is total bullshit. Yes, the author concedes that “there is no universal posture for birth”, but the rest of it betrays a total misunderstanding of birth physiology, and trauma.
Birth trauma has nothing whatsoever to do with a particular position, and everything to do with cruelty, torture, and mistreatment—which is sadly can just as easily be (and is) inflicted on women when they’re squatting.
The passage about Michel Odent is similarly demeaning.
Don’t get me wrong—Odent isn’t a bad guy, and I don’t disagree with all of his conclusions—in fact, I think he has a lot of accurate things to say about birth. In particular, I deeply respect his educated assertion that men don’t know anything about birth, and that they don’t belong in the birth-room (or at least, have no authority there, and have a place only if invited by the mother). But the writer reveals their own biases (or internalized misogyny) by reporting that Odent “gave his patients freedom”, and “even allowed them to sit in water”. If this were true, it’s part of the problem.
It is precisely the notion that women might “be allowed” to do anything (or not) during birth, that exemplifies the very dynamic of power-over, and control, that erodes our primordial knowing, endangers the birth process, and leads to pain, humiliation, and trauma.
(And No, Odent did *not* “invent” waterbirth. This is also factually incorrect. Incidentally, Frederick Leboyer didn’t “invent it” either. The fact that humans require, live near, and *are* water, “invented” it.)
There is no “good” position or “bad” position for birth except the position that a mother is being forced into, whether by coercion, or through circumstances necessitated by medical industrial paraphernalia.
Furthermore, just because we’ve been told that “in the most primitive communities, early birthing mothers are guided by the council of the most experienced women” and that this somehow meant that women always gave birth squatting, is ludicrous, patronizing, noble-savage nonsense.
First, we don’t actually know if this is true—cave-paintings and artistic depictions aside, and if “primitive” mothers *were* instructed to give birth squatting, surrounded by a bunch of other people, then we can infer that they probably screwed a lot of births up too.
I do wish people would stop pontificating about what “natural birth” is, or should be, when they clearly have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
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