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Birth Easily - Animals as Teachers
The protocols in the world of animal husbandry to protect an offspring at the time of birth—no strangers, dimmed lights, freedom of movement, familiar environment, unlimited nourishment, respectful quiet, no disruptions—are done without hesitation because to do otherwise invites “unexplained distress” or sudden demise of the offspring. These thoughtful conditions are the norm, along with careful observation to determine when to use the technological expertise in true emergencies. When we have veterinarians in our childbirth education classes, they always start to smile and nod when I tell this story. In fact, what did your mom tell you when you found the cat birthing kittens in the drawer? “Shhhhhhh!” And why? Because she MIGHT STOP GIVING BIRTH (AND move the kittens!). These are givens—instinctive givens, even, for animals of all descriptions! Yet what are the “givens” for the human who births not in a barn, but in a “modern and advanced” hospital? In many cases, 100% the opposite!
(Beth Barbeau, Safer Birth in a Barn?, Midwifery Today #83, 2007, accessed online 14 September 2018)
I am a farmer and these days the only babies I watch over are my calves — the moms handle everything just fine on their own, no birthing problems. This is considered unusual for cows. If you read about calving a lot, you will learn that people are always pulling the calves out. (Birgit Johanson, former midwife, Midwifery Today E-News 29 April 2009)
Leah lived on a farm. She had seen lots of babies of all sorts come into this world. She watched from the shadows while horses instinctively did what we call “the birth dance,” prancing back and forth in rhythm with their contractions. They knew instinctively to lick their foals, to get them on their feet, and to nudge them toward their teats. Leah knew cats and dogs usually preferred a dark corner—in a closet, under the porch, in the barn. Cows and goats often go to a far corner of the pasture, if allowed. Privacy is their priority—not running for help, unless they need help. If an animal has trouble birthing, it will get loud so help can be found—but not during a normal birth. Animals seem to instinctively know the rare times when help is needed and will let you know.
Leah had seen these scenarios play out many times in her life. One of her earliest experiences on the farm was when a lamb got stuck. The farmer had the vet on the phone, telling her what to do, but it wasn’t working. She called Leah in to help. Without any formal training, she just followed her instincts. Without fear, she reached up into the sheep and helped the baby turn so it could get out. A few years, and many animal births later, Leah was pregnant with her first baby. It seemed normal to her to birth in the relative privacy of her own home. After only a 10-hour labor, on her due date, she birthed her daughter in her bathtub. She thought labor was not as hard as the pregnancy itself. (Marlene Waechter, dated 1987-2018, accessed 13 September 2018)
Pregnant women and labouring women in particular are very emotionally porous, and they’re very intuitive – and they will pick up on everything in the room. We know that around animals. If you want an animal to birth properly, you don’t surround it with bright lights and a million people. You leave them alone. If your providers knew that their job was to provide a safe container for you to experience everything that was possible, and they encouraged you to do this, you would relax, your body would open. It would be totally different. (Christiane Northrup, MD, FACOG, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Author; Orgasmic Birth documentary, 1h9m36s)
Giving birth is an instinct. This means that when a woman [or any female mammal] is in labour, the most active part of her body is her primitive brain [the old brain]... Current knowledge... indicates that when there are inhibitions during the birth process, they come from the neocortex [the new, rational brain]. The instinctive nature of giving birth means that the new brain loosens its control and takes a back seat.
...each time the neocortex is stimulated [e.g. technology, interventions, logic], the birth process becomes more difficult... Sensitive midwives don’t talk a lot; if they have something to say, they use simple words or body language.
Sight is the most intellectual of our senses, so another way of stimulating the neocortex, and therefore making the birth more difficult, is to keep the labour room brightly lit. Indeed, simply observing the labouring woman will stimulate her neocortex... Privacy is a basic need during labour, and is common to all mammals. It is ironic that non-human mammals, whose neocortex is not as developed as ours, know better than us what to do to avoid harmful situations. All of them seek privacy. Privacy, the state in which we feel unobserved, is subjective. The main prerequisite to reach this state is to feel secure [often with experienced women in the extended family]. Then, our neocortex can more easily take a back seat.
(Jessica Johnson & Michel Odent, We Are All Water Babies, , pp.56-60)
Animals in captivity, for some strange reason, when they’re outside their familiar environment, they have a hard time getting pregnant, they have a hard time staying pregnant, they have a hard time staying healthy while pregnant. And they have a hard time releasing their babies when they feel like they’re being watched, when they feel like they cannot get in what position to have it, they cannot access the comfort measures or the food that they want. They’re fearful, anxious or lonely.
(Saraswathi Vedam, 1m58s, posted 17 December 2013, accessed 19 October 2020)
We know when all of these silly things happen, when mammals are not in their familiar environment, when they’re disturbed, when they have a loss of privacy and dignity – it can affect their ability to care for their own babies.
(Saraswathi Vedam, 11m13s, posted 17 December 2013, accessed 19 October 2020)
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