Why did you want to give birth outdoors?
Six years prior to our nature birth, when I only had my two older daughters, I watched the DVD “Birth As We Know It” by Elena Tonetti (www.birthintobeing.com).
As I watched the scene of Russian women giving birth in the Black Sea, something I had never seen before (let alone considered a birth option) my body resonated instantly. It was as if every cell in my being was vibrating and my whole body was screaming a big “YES!”. I felt deep, deep down that something was absolutely right in what I was viewing. It was if I was re-experiencing the same primal feeling I had when I birthed my two daughters (both were water births in a Melborne birth centre). The love, empowerment, thrill and excitement of trusting my body as it did something beyond anything I had ever experienced before. Except, seeing these families give birth in the sea had an added element – a feeling of being connected to something much larger than me and my own immediate existence.
From that time forward I dreamed of one day giving birth in nature. My personal journey over the next six years was life preparing me for the courage, knowledge and awareness it took to undertake such a “radical” choice for a Western woman. In the end the reasons I gave birth in nature were so multi-layered and multi-faceted, it would take a book to outline the myriad of intertwining threads.
How did it feel to be in the forest?
We travelled to the Daintree forest as a family, a week before Perouze was born. I was certain of my due date because of a dream I had, which was then confirmed in an ultrasound (a month before I was due). Our two-week trip was planned so we arrived a week before baby came, giving us time to organise ourselves, and then a week to gently acclimatise the baby before introducing her to modern, technologically driven life. The plan was also to enjoy a family holiday together. We spent a wonderful week exploring the forest, going to market, swimming in the creek, swimming at Mossman Gorge, eating tropical fruit ice-creams and learning to sleep through the very hot nights filled with raucous wildlife sounds. I thoroughly enjoyed being in such lush surroundings, which mirrored my very ripe body.
I had never been to the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree. However, I have a couple of Original Australian friends and learned a bit about how native Australian women gave birth, including the places they give birth (e.g. there’s a tea tree lake in Byron Bay, which I considered as a birth spot, because of stories about pregnant Original women who would go there to cleanse and sometimes birth). There were other customs I also learned e.g. how they bury the placenta and why. The forest felt grounding and supportive, far more beautiful than a hospital room. With the forest and the knowledge of it’s ancient wisdom came a strong perception that I was part of a continuum of generations of women, through all time, who had birthed and nurtured life for eons upon this earth.
During the labour and birth the feeling of being in the creek and forest was quite surreal and simultaneously ordinary. We had already spent a week as a family playing in the creek almost daily, building rock dams and having family fun. I remember at one point between contractions, watching my daughters playing in the water, hearing their squeals and laughter, watching the leaves move in the wind, hearing the kookaburras and other nature sounds and thinking “I’m just giving birth”. It felt so profoundly simple. Suddenly, my experience of myself and all of life expanded. I felt universal and the “birth experience”, which I had invested so much time, training, thinking, energy and emotion into, became a pure moment in time. It was at that point I felt completely at one with all of existence and the most “normal” I have ever felt in my life. It simply – was.
And then the next contraction hit and I was back in my body again!
How did you feel afterwards?
As soon as Perouze was born I felt nothing but exhaustion. On the video it doesn’t even look as if I’m happy – but I was just incredibly tired. The labour had been longer than I expected and being out of the water, having to always hold myself up, had drained me (I was used to labouring in birth pools and love the bouyancy of water which held me and conserved my energy).
I wasn’t disappointed I had another girl (was kind of expecting a girl), I literally didn’t even have the energy to raise a smile or express any emotion in my voice. It took me 1 hour to birth the placenta, which was longer than my other births. Looking back I realised I had an irrational fear that I would go through all of this and give birth to a baby, only to end up being taken to hospital for a retained placenta. I didn’t voice that to anyone (even though I know, as a birth supporter and emotional therapist the powerful release of emotion when we do voice our fears). Interestingly, my eldest daughter shared, some months later, that this was the only point in the birth she felt fear for me. She picked up my energy. This is part of the awareness I share, how much we are energetically connected and know far more than we realise, yet we haven’t been taught to honour and develop these aspects of human potential.
Once we got back to the house I felt amazing. It was the first pregnancy I ate some of the placenta and I so wished I had done it in all my births! Nick broke off a small chunk and blended it up with a LOT of berries to disguise the colour and taste. The response in my body was incredible. I bounced back from my last birth (after my hardest pregnancy, four children, plus being older) better than any previous birth. I put it down to the amazing properties in the placenta. Understandably, placenta encapsulation is a more palatable resource for most women.
What did your family think of the river birth?
Nick and I had our first daughter together (my third) at home, unassisted, in a birth pool. My two eldest daughters had been present for that birth, so they’d already witnessed their Mum give birth. As the video shows, with them swimming in the background, they just accepted it as another part of life. That’s not to say they don’t, as teenagers, often think I’m a bit “different” to other mothers. When they had been present at my third birth they had been amazingly still and totally present the entire labour. They were amazing “doulas” and blew me away. I think at this birth they had already seen it before and also had the task of keeping their 2yo sister occupied. They only stopped swimming, playing, exploring for the actual delivery. It feels like one of the greatest gifts I have given my daughters was for them to experience intimately the reality of pregnancy and birth and gain the deep knowing of trust in their own feminine bodies.
My eldest now plan to study midwifery. My second daughter, since the age of 6yo, has always said she wants to adopt. That’s the wonderful thing in our family – everyone’s allowed to be who they want to be and how they want to be, as long as they cause no harm. I’ve aimed to model this integrity for my daughters, even if it has meant at times making some very hard choices. I have always been driven by something inside me that wants to explore the edges of life and what it means to be human. So even if my children/partner/friends/family/society don’t always agree, we teach respect for the autonomy of all beings.
Buckminster Fuller said a wonderful thing:
“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”
He also described himself as “a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe” and that’s how I feel.
Nick was unbelievably supportive and I could never have asked more from any man. He was a unique person and highly intuitive. We shared an amazing oneness and I know the birth experience for him was in unity with me. His presence was constant, he flowed with me and at the same time held space for everyone, aware of the children without losing his attention towards me. We were very aligned in our philosophies on life and human purpose, so he was one of the few people who “got me” at the level of understanding I was at. Of course, this was also his child he was bringing into the world and his trust in me still brings me to tears of gratitude. We both wanted the same gift for our child’s existence.
I also want to mention our dear friend Ron, who so excitedly responded to our dream and showed incredible faith. He opened his heart, his home, he gave up two weeks to be in service to our family, he cooked for us and was present at the birth, guarding the space we had created. At the birth itself, he got nervous and all was welcome. We all grew from the experience of sharing such a precious moment in our lives with a friend, creating a deep bond of love. Being supported by two men (not of the masculine medical paradigm) was a liberating experience for all of us.
Why did you choose to share the video with the world?
One of my intentions for giving birth in nature was to change the current consciousness of birth. I imagined my birth as a stone being thrown into the large pond of current birth practices, creating a ripple effect of new awareness around birth and how we birth ourselves as humanity.
Sharing the video wasn’t something I thought about during pregnancy, birth or immediately after birth. However, as the first year of babyhood passed and I naturally started to feel more external, I began thinking about editing the 8hrs of birth video footage. I had not watched it yet and decided to create a concise birth video as a present to Nick for Perouze’s first birthday.
As I finally watched myself externally I realised it was quite powerful and Nick & I decided to share it with other expecting parents in the hope it would aid them. I never imagined it would receive more than 50,000-100,000 views (as other home birth videos seemed to receiving at the time).
Also, during pregnancy we had to decide if our 2yo would be present at the birth. Having watched some Youtube home birth videos it occurred to me that the only way we could know if our 2yo, with basic verbal skills, was comfortable and ready to view her mother in raw birth, was to show her some carefully chosen birth videos. She loved them! In fact, she kept asking to watch more and it was obvious she was fascinated and got so much joy viewing them. I was so grateful to these parents for sharing their experience and helping us prepare our 2yo daughter that I wanted to also share as a gift for others.
The video reframes birth, in a period of over medicalisation: where birth is feared, controlled, women’s bodies aren’t trusted, women experience many complications – even trauma giving birth, and birth is treated as a disease or problem to be “fixed”. I have never understood why birth takes place in the same building as the sick, traumatised and dying. That just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s not a harmonious environment for new life. We are creatures who sense things on many levels and our energetic environment has an affect on us. We’ve all had the experience of walking into a room where two people have been fighting and the air is “so thick you could cut it with a knife”. One’s instinct is to turn around and leave! My question: is why don’t we exercise this level of awareness with the wide open, pure, innocent beings who are being born in hospitals? Stark lights, sharp metal instruments, beeping machines, strangers and an air of fear, control and often panic (whether it’s for the birth mother or just generally in the hospital) are an infants first impression of life, creating an immediate blueprint for what to expect of life.
I wanted to show that many of the modern problems of humanity are directly linked to the limited knowledge of current birth practices. Exposing the reality of birth, in a different setting, highlights how disconnected we are from that which sustains us, that we now think giving birth in nature is “extraordinary”.
What is your message to women who are planning their birth?
Trust your bodies. Educate, educate, educate yourself. Take self-responsibility. Birth can be a positive experience, so don’t settle for all the negative messages of fear out there by the medical profession or other women/parents. It isn’t always a positive experience, granted, but you can increase your chances of having a wonderful birth by how much self-responsibility YOU take for your body, your health, your mental, emotional and spiritual state.
The most heart expanding messages I receive from women fall into two areas – first time mothers or mothers who have already given birth. The first time mothers write and express “I was so fearful of birth and then I watched your video. Each time I began to doubt myself I would watch your video again and it gave me courage. I ended up having a really great birth! Thank you, thank you, thank you”.
The second, third, fourth, fifth time round mothers write “I had an awful/traumatic/horrible/hard birth with my other children. Then I watched your video and I changed my health care provider/dr/obstetrician/birth plan. I started to question and make different choices. I had an AMAZING birth experience. Now I know what birth is really meant to be like”. Or “You totally contributed to my positive birth experience. Though not in nature, you completely inspired me to have a more conscious birth”.
90% of these women give birth in a hospital. It’s not just about where a woman gives birth (although I think the medical hospital system needs a complete wake up, the change won’t come from a system that benefits financially, it will come from the women and parents themselves). It’s about how a woman experiences birthing and the profound precession this has in all areas of her life AFTER birth – in parenting, in her relationship with her husband/partner, her health, her mental state (including levels of post-natal depression) and her relationship with herself, both her body and her inner being.
Reducing birth to a black & white ideology of “live baby or dead baby” is in complete denial of the beautiful complexity and diversity of life on this planet, not the least in humans. Life doesn’t work that way and humans are so egocentric we forget we are part of a vast universe. Trying to control the process of birth is creating more problems than we know how to deal with. It is up to each of us to consciously bring ourselves into alignment with life on this self-supporting planet, a design we still barely understand, yet exists as an immutable law of the universe.
Birth IS about the woman, not just the baby, because the experience of a woman giving birth can have such a detrimental or positive effect on her health and psyche, translating into how she nurtures and rears the next generation. We are all connected as humans, so each birth matters. Each negative birth experience a woman experiences has resounding ripple effects on family, community, culture and economics. We can turn it around and help each woman have a positive birth experience, which could literally change the face of humanity. One woman, one child, one family at a time.