Tag Archive | quotes

Birth Quotes and More Birth Quotes

Time for my semi-regular birth quotes update post!

“Birth is the doorway for integration of body and mind.” –Gayle Peterson

“Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” – J. Willard Marriott

“Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Sometime in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself.” – Katherine Sharp

“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

(This is something I try to convey in my birth classes–that when it seems “too much” and you manage to “dig deeper,” you find so much strength that you didn’t know you had and that knowledge of strength can continue to inform the rest of your LIFE!)

“When a woman has a child, it is equivalent to taking life vows.” –Stephanie Demetrakopoulos

“You do not know how a pregnant woman comes to have a body and living spirit in her womb.” –Ecclesiastes 11:5

(I guess tecnnically we “know,” but I think this is talking about the mystery of how we get from no where to now here…)

“Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman’s life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person’s mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary… initiatory event for a woman.” –Maren Hansen

“Birth is an active, completely engaging process and requires that a woman be actively engaged, not only physically and emotionally but also in the decision-making process (before and during the birth).” –Awaken Your Birth Power e-newsletter

“Although women have been giving birth since time began, the lack of cumulative female knowledge and sharing in our society has led us to seek information about birth in books and classes rather than from the native wisdom of community experience.” –Elizabeth Noble

“…many women see the experience of birth as mystical, something they turn over and refocus on all their lives.” –Stephanie Demetrakopoulos

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.” ~August Wilson

“You know being born is important to you. You know nothing else was ever so important to you.” –Carl Sandburg

“Spring has returned. The earth like a child that knows poems.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

“Hope is like a bird that senses the dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark.” ~Anonymous

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” –Harriette Hartigan

“Giving birth is a transformation and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve had eight babies before. It’s still a transformation the next time you have another baby, because you are no longer the same woman you were before you had that baby.” –Penny Handford

“When a woman births without drugs…she learns that she is strong and powerful…She learns to trust herself, even in the face of powerful authority figures. Once she realizes her own strength and power, she will have a different attitude for the rest of her life, about pain, illness, disease, fatigue, and difficult situations.” –Polly Perez

“It is certainly true that for an increasing number of women, the birth experience is ecstatic. But it’s very important to keep in mind that, from a global perspective, the birth experience is still not a positive one for millions of women.” –Judy Chicago

“Woman is the first environment. In pregnancy our bodies sustain life. At the breast of women, the generations are nourished. From the bodies of women flows the relationsiop of those generations both to society and the natural world. In this way the earth is our mother, the old people said in this way we as women are earth.” –Katsi Cook Mohawk midwife

“When we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” –Marianne Williamson

“Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of passing the stillness of the eternal.” –Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives.” –Greta W. Crosby

“Pregnant woman, at once universal and individual, lives the compelling force of creation within her whole being.” –Harriette Hartigan

“Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman’s life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person’s mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary initiatory event for a woman.” –Maren Hansen

“Male science disregards female experiences because it can never share them.” –Grantly Dick-Read

“I usually claim that pregnant women should not read books about pregnancy and birth. Their time is too precious. They should, rather, watch the moon and sing to their baby in the womb.” –Michel Odent

(Personally, I LOVE books–of all sorts–and reading is THE top way for me to learn about anything. I think the best prep I did before having my first baby was to read and I always give a recommended reading list to my clients. However, I also “hear” what he is saying here and wanted to share the quote. My personal opinion is that in our current birth culture it is nearly impossible to go into birth just planning to “go with the flow” and let labor unfold without expectation [if you are birthing in the hospital that is—because the hospital is FULL of expectations and those will often run right over your flow]).

“No matter what your size, shape, percentage of body fat, or BMI, you and I…can start right this minute to express gratitude to our bodies for being home to our souls and allowing us to express our uniqueness on the earth at this time.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup, The Wisdom of Menopause

“In pregnancy’s sculptured beauty, one body grows within another. Energy becomes human in the alchemy of the womb.” –Harriette Hartigan

“The experience of birth is vast. It is a diverse tapestry woven by cultural customs, shaped in personal choices, affected by biological factors, marked by political circumstances. Yet the nature of birth itself prevails in elegant design of simple complexity.” –Harriette Hartigan

“Stress hormones are contagious–if someone in your birthing space is stressed, you will feel it and become stressed.” (Awaken Your Birth Power)

Birth Quotes Update

More birth quotes collected for my Facebook pages. Maybe I need to start compiling a book!

“…natural birth is full of magnificent, life-changing wisdom.” –Christiane Northrup

“The major role that the body’s natural oxytocin plays in birth encourages the idea that birth is an experience of love…birth is a spiritual experience simply because it is largely an act of love on the part of the body physiology and the indwelling spirit.” –Cathy Daub

“It makes sense that we should help our bodies with the amazing work of giving birth, rather than make the process more difficult and complicated. However, along with all the life-saving benefits modern [L & D] units provide, many of today’s routine practices…and interventions can actually slow down labor, increase pain, cause unnecessary stress for baby, and make cesarean surgery more likely.” (Mother’s Advocate)

“…experiences have clearly shown that an approach which ‘de-medicalizes’ birth, restores dignity and humanity to the process of childbirth, and returns control to the mother is also the safest approach.” –Michel Odent, MD (via BirthWorks)

“A calm, watchful, loving presence protects the fragile harmony of birth; frantic coaching has *never* been part of nature’s plan.” –Pam England

“Yes, of course, some women have a choice about becoming pregnant, but whether a woman chooses to give birth or not, once she is in the throes of labor, her individuality counts for little; she becomes caught up in the universal act of ‘giving life.’ She can do this with control and passion or be totally unconscious and unable to participate–but once begun, the birth process is unstoppable.” –Judy Chicago

“A knowledgeable childbirth teacher can inform mothers *about* birth, physiology, hospital policies and technology. But that kind of information doesn’t touch what a mother actually experiences IN labor, or what she needs to know as a mother (not a patient) in this rite of passage.” –Pam England

“Women…are storytellers. They are nurturers…filled with creative forces when they are fertile, pregnant or birthing. Millions of years of biology are on their side to ‘bring forth.’ Nothing can stop the power behind that force, not even the woman herself…She is the living essence of the future. She is a holy woman and there is intelligence at work in her. It is sacred energy.” –Sister MorningStar

“When enough women realize that birth is a time of great opportunity to get in touch with their true power, and when they are willing to assume responsibility for this, we will reclaim the power of birth and help move technology where it belongs–in the service of birthing women, not their master.” –Christiane Northrup

“Before I had children I always wondered whether their births would be, for me, like the ultimate in gym class failures. And I discovered instead…that I’d finally found my sport.” –Joyce Maynard

“Our body-wisdom knows how to birth a baby. What is required of the woman who births naturally is for her to surrender to this body-wisdom. You can’t think your way through a birth, and you can’t fake it.” –Leslie McIntyre

“Birth is an opportunity to transcend. To rise above what we are accustomed to, reach deeper inside ourselves than we are familiar with, and to see not only what we are truly made of, but the strength we can access in and through Birth.” –Marcie Macari

“So the question remains. Is childbirth painful? Yes. It can be, along with a thousand amazing sensations for which we have yet to find adequate language. Every Birth is different, and every woman’s experience and telling of her story will be unique.” –Marcie Macari

“The natural process of birth sets the stage for parenting. Birth and parenting mirror each other. While it takes courage and strength to cope with labor and birth, it also takes courage and strength to parent a child.” –Marcy White

“The instant of birth is exquisite. Pain and joy are one at this moment. Ever after, the dim recollection is so sweet that we speak to our children with a gratitude they never understand.” ~ Madline Tiger

“…celebrate ourselves for our courage to birth. The real question becomes not, ‘Have you done your breathing exercises?’ but rather, ‘Can you love yourself no matter how you birth, where you birth, or what the outcome?'” –Claudia Panuthos

“Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.” –Sue Bender

“As women, we are inherently both power-filled and power-full. Each one of us knows on some level that we do have awesome strength at our core.” –from the book Mother Rising

“VITA MUTARI – the literal translation from Latin to English is ‘Life Transformation.’ That is the closest thing I could think of the feeling of labor/birth…what you are feeling isn’t pain, it’s life transformation. Is it dramatic? You bet! I think it should be!” –Stephanie Soderblom

“…Birth is a rite of passage of women. Their journey should be honored, their rights should be fiercely protected, and their stories should be shared.” –Marcie Macari

“How you view childbirth is a reflection of your philosophy of life…I feel…sad about…our culture where the message is that women can’t have a good childbirth experience without turning themselves over to the control and interventions of the medical community.” –Marcie K. Richardson (OB & instructor at Harvard Medical School!)

“Birth is a three legged stool, a healthy mom, a healthy baby and a healthy birth. Without ANY one leg, it is equally unstable!” –Sharon Muza

“While all of your (birth) planning may spin a cocoon of security, in actuality, the course of your labor is unknowable…your critical task is to prepare for a birth that has NO script.”–Pam England

“A woman in Birth is at once her most powerful, and most vulnerable. But any woman who has birthed unhindered understands that we are stronger than we know.” –Marcie Macari

“Breastfeeding… led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings, and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby.” –Viola Lennon (1923-January 22, 2010, LLLI Founder and profound influence on the world)

“Whether a woman is making children or other works of the womb, the creative power of her uterus is amazing to behold. Some of a woman’s greatest transformations involve the changes in her womb: menarche, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and menopause.” –Tami Lynn Kent

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”~ Ashley Smith

“I would say in obstetrics you are numbed by the technology. Your ability to understand the more sacred and spiritual aspects of birthing is extremely numbed.” –Dr. Eden Fromberg, OB/GYN (in The Business of Being Born)

“There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation.” –Pamela Nadav

“Never underestimate the power of a woman AND never underestimate the power of YOU!!” –Nicole at Your Birth Right

“Although pregnancy and birth is a richly intuitive and instinctive process, a woman will prepare her ‘nest’ and birth according to the style of her culture, in the same way that a particular species of bird will build its nest with whatever is available.” –Pam England

“keeping active during labour and adopting natural, upright or crouching birth positions is the safest, most enjoyable, most economical and sensible way for the majority of women to give birth.” –Janet Balaskas

“Until women themselves value and honor mothering in all its forms, there is little chance that the cultural paradigms will change…Many women with children have come to respect the art of mothering, but still need to advocate for its value when faced with external expectations and pressures to feel professional success.”–Tami Lynn Kent

“…birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers…” –Anita Diamant

“We are made to do this work and it’s not easy…I would say that pain is part of the glory, or the tremendous mystery of life. And that if anything, it’s a kind of privilege to stand so close to such an incredible miracle.” –Simone in Klasson 2001

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” –Diane Mariechild

“Women are AWESOME – We can do such out of control, yet in-control cool stuff with our bodies.” –Desirre Andrews

“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” – Sheryl Feldman

(I don’t think the power “invades” so much as it is already there, inherent, just not tapped into…)

“Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythms we collect as much from one another as from instinct.” –Louis Erdrich

“The woman about to become a mother, or with her newborn infant upon her bosom, should be the object of trembling care and sympathy wherever she bears her tender burden or stretches her aching limbs…. God forbid that any member of the profession to which she trusts her life, doubly precious at that eventful period, should hazard it negligently, unadvisedly or selfishly”. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The knowledge about how to give birth is born within every woman: women do not need to be taught how to give birth but rather to have more trust and faith in their own body knowledge.” –BirthWorks

“A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.” –Anonymous

“Birth is about radical, creative, life-affirming change. It is about adaptation on a nearly unbelievable scale.” –Mark Sloan, MD

“Understanding birth technology shouldn’t lull you into thinking you understand *birth*. The profound mystery and spirituality of birth can never be understood with the mind, they are known through the heart…” –Pam England

“Attempting to fulfill an idea of the ‘perfect’ mother can only prove soul-destroying, as no such person exists.” –Adela Stockton

“Pregnancy, birth and motherhood move us further along on life’s continuum. They challenge us to create a new nomality.” –Pat Thomas

(I feel like having children is an essential part of my “development” as a human being–without them, I’d be a less developed person…)

“Pregnancy and birth knit womankind together. Help weave a gorgeous thread to add to the fabric. Be supportive. Be kind. Be wise. Be open.” –Desirre Andrews

“Birth is a mystery. Words are not enough.” –Marie O’Connor

“Birth matters. It brings us into being, on many levels.” –Ananda Lowe

“Babies are bits of star-dust blown from the hand of God. Lucky the woman who knows the pangs of birth for she has held a star.” –Larry Barretto

“Midwifery calls upon you to be the best you can be: the best advocate, guide, healer, counselor, mother, comrade, and confidant of the women seeking your care.” — Anne Frye

“This is the day which honors the bond between sisters and the freedom of all women. There is no slavery today…Today all women are joined in the joys of motherhood: for we hold up, not our own, but our sister’s children to the sun.” –Ovid, Fasti (today, March 1, was known as “Matronalia” in ancient Rome, the great spring feast of motherhood.)

“I think of women’s kinships as pottery kilns, where two together shape the rough clay of emotion into humankind’s most valuable and prized vessels: human community.” –Pythia Peay

“Simply put, when there is no home birth in a society, or when home birth is driven completely underground, essential knowledge of women’s capacities in birth is lost to the people of that society—to professional caregivers, as well as to the women of childbearing age themselves.” –Ina May Gaskin

“…to give birth with power, without drugs, means having to go to the edge, and beyond…the hospital ‘battle field,’ in striving to be sterile and clean, inadvertently sends a confusing message to women giving birth. Birth-warriors don’t stay clean, made-up, and poised…” –Pam England

“Strange as it may appear…the results of trials and investigations show that fewer women die when treated in their own squalid ill-ventilated houses and nourished by the coarsest of food than when inmates of the best-equipped and best-managed lying-in hospital in the world.” –New York City newspaper ~1801 (I got this quote from the new book Get Me Out. Of course, I would prefer that women have access to non-squalid homes and non-coarse food, but I thought the sentiment was interesting–and relevant!)

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” –Barbara Kingsolver

“…fear has to be present in order for courage to exist. The English word ‘courage’ is derived from the French word for the heart, coeur. Finding the heart to continue doing the right thing in the face of great fear inspires others to become nobler human beings.” ~ Gloria Lemay

“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” — Nancy Friday

“Giving birth is not an isolated event in a person’s life. A woman births with both her mind and her body and participates in the attitudes toward childbearing of her culture and her family.” –Rahima Baldwin

“For each of us as women, there is a deep place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises…Within these deep places, each one holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us…it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.” –Audre Lorde

“The way we give birth is a story about our deepest desires and our fundamental concerns about life, death, and sex.” –Randi Epstien

“…what is normal today is not the same as what is healthy.” –Barbara Patterson & Pamela Bradley

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

“Pregnancy and birth are the most crucial and powerful passages in a woman’s life. Most births around the world lead to some degree of preventable trauma for the mother and baby…preventable because much of it is iatrogenic, that is, caused by the doctor or midwife. In many cases, if the mother, baby and birthing …process had been treated with respect, the trauma would possibly have never taken place…Instead, the mother likely would have had the most miraculous experience of her life.” –Midwifery Today e-news

“Rigid plans work best if you’re building a skyscraper; with something as mysteriously human as giving birth, it’s best, both literally and figuratively, to keep your knees bent.” –Mark Sloan, MD

“It is not ‘ladylike’ to give birth. The strength and power of labor is not demure.” –An Easier Childbirth (quoting a midwife)

“Mothers need to know that their care and their choices won’t be compromised by birth politics.” – Jennifer Rosenberg

“To rediscover midwifery is the same as giving back childbirth to women. And imagine the future if surgical teams were at the service of the midwives and the women instead of controlling them.” -Michel Odent, MD

“…Childbirth in itself is a rite of passage. Being born is an initiation and giving birth is a transforming experience.” –Benig Mauger

“We must attempt to tell the whole truth about birth, the truth that includes the transformation, mastery, satisfaction, personal power and the difference between pain and suffering.” –Cheri van Hoover

“Giving birth is a transformation and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve had eight babies before. It’s still a transformation the next time you have another baby, because you are no longer the same woman you were before you had that baby.” –Penny Handford

“We need nothing less than a revolution in our attitudes towards conception, pregnancy, birth and parenting.” –Sophie Style

“When you destroy midwives, you also destroy a body of knowledge that is shared by women, that can’t be put together by a bunch of surgeons or a bunch of male obstetricians, because physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women.” –Ina May Gaskin

Birth & Culture & Pregnant Feelings

“Giving birth is not an isolated event in a person’s life. A woman births with both her mind and her body and participates in the attitudes toward childbearing of her culture and her family.”

This quote from the book Pregnant Feelings by Rahima Baldwin reminds me of two other relevant quotes about culture, birth, and women’s choices:

“Although pregnancy and birth is a richly intuitive and instinctive process, a woman will prepare her ‘nest’ and birth according to the style of her culture, in the same way that a particular species of bird will build its nest with whatever is available.” –Pam England

“One does not give birth in a void, but rather in a cultural and political context. Laws, professional codes, religious sanctions, and ethnic traditions all affect women’s choices concerning childbirth.” –Adrienne Rich

I think we get onto slippery ground when we start talking about how women just need to “educate themselves” and then they will make different (i.e. “enlightened like ours”) choices. If education was all that was needed, we would see much different things in our present birth culture (more on this later!). As Pam England would also say (paraphrased), thousands of factors seen and unseen go into the resulting birth experience, it is hard to point to one, two, or three factors and say “that was it! I have it all figured out.” (Reminds me of another quote that women birth as they live.) With regard to the second quote, I have to ask myself whether couples truly have a free choice of where to give birth? Ultimately speaking, yes they do, but according to my clients’ perspectives insurance companies and the political climate surrounding midwifery in our state dictate their birth location, as well as opinions of family, friends, books, and so forth. I do a “pain pie” exercise during my classes and after I do it, I always talk about how sometimes choices are actively stripped away from women and we need to keep that in mind when we hear “bad” birth stories—not, “she ‘failed’ or made the ‘wrong’ choices” but that her pieces of the pie were taken away from her (sometimes forcibly!).

The reason I initially marked Rahima Baldwin’s quote is because I am fascinated by how my birth experiences continue to inform the rest of my life–while not the defining moment of motherhood for me, I continue to draw upon the lessons of birth throughout the rest of  my life, as well as retaining a total fascination with the subject. I wonder why I’m so “stuck” on birth? Why fixate on this one element of a lifespan? Does it mean I’m not “moving on” somehow—like a high school football player still reliving the glory of that touchdown from 10 years ago? I think it is because birth touches something else. Something deep and raw and true and we glimpse something that we rarely glimpse in everyday life. A touch of the sacred perhaps. Magic. Mystery. Or is it a sense of personal power and satisfaction in being a woman? I know that the “birth power” experience is a rare one for me—I have never felt so powerful and capable and amazing as I did giving birth. I like to think about how this “birth power” sense could be drawn into the rest of my life—how can I live a powerful and affirming and amazing life, not just as a birth giver, but as a woman? Lately, I am finding some answers in feminine spirituality, but it is a question I love to consider and hope to write more about in the future.

Okay, moving back to Rahima and the quotes from Pregnant Feelings:

Anthropologists’ reports of women working the fields, going to a sheltered spot to drop their babies without any ‘preparation’ and then returning to work describe a kind of mythical natural childbirth that is nearly impossible for Western women. We are far too cerebral, and our twentieth-century consciousness intrudes between us and our instinctual selves. The fact that we question both how to birth and how to parent shows how awake our consciousness is. We must of necessity involve our minds in understanding what we do and create, for it is impossible to turn them off. Nor can we simply erase, or afford to ignore, our culture’s view that giving birth is a dangerous and painful event requiring intervention and technology. Rather, we must consciously replace that view with new knowledge and new images if we are going to be able to reclaim our ability to birth with harmony of mind and body.

Loved this. The mythical woman giving birth by the side of the road and popping back into the field to work is strongly ingrained amongst “natural birth” advocates. Some women draw strength from the image—“if she could just squat in the field, so can I!” Others make a joke of it—“are you one of those nuts who encourages women to just squat in the field?!” And others are doubtful that it has any basis in reality. I also suspect that if said women did ever exist they did not return quickly to the fields because they wanted to do so, but because of the framework of their culture and those seen and unseen factors that shape our lives—perhaps their other children would starve if they didn’t run back to the field, perhaps the overseer would beat them, etc., etc. It doesn’t mean those women were stronger or more capable, but perhaps less valued and less cared for than they should have been.

Okay, back to Rahima again:

Our task is to integrate our minds and bodies, so we can give birth in a way that feels whole and nurturing—to ourselves as parents and to our babies…We cannot go back to ‘natural childbirth’ in which we just let it happen. There must be knowledge of birth and an assumption of responsibility for our own health care and for decisions affecting ourselves and our children. There exists for us the exciting possibility of giving birth with full awareness, participating in the joy and exhilaration of working in harmony with the tremendous energy of creation. But it does not occur automatically or unconsciously…

The potential for conscious birthing can exist independently of the place of birth, although some places require more watchfulness than others….Let us just say that it is actively giving birth in an environment which is woman-centered and child-centered, in which the cues are taken from the birthing woman while she experiences fully the sensations and emotions of new life coming into the world through her. She is not medically managed or manipulated, but is supported with the knowledge, love and experience of her attendants (doctors, midwives, husband, other support people) to birth in a way which is safe, yet does not deny the intense physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of giving birth.

Birthing in this way is rare in today’s culture…less than 5 percent of women in this country today experience ‘purebirth’ [positive birthing/conscious birthing]…

Given the wealth of images of birth that surround us, our task is to recognize that none of them adequately denies or exhausts the potential of birth. Perhaps their infinite variety can help to free us from any one fixed idea of giving birth and help us to realize our freedom to birth in the way that is right for us. We cannot control the energy of birth, but we can control our response to it by deciding to be open, relaxed positive, noisy, grouchy, whatever. We don’t need to behave in a certain way and we can accept ourselves and our births without self-judgment.

What caught me about this section was the mention of not being able to go back to a time when we could just “let it happen.” Though I feel like getting out of my own way and “letting it happen,” was a personal key to my own births—that the surrender is what gets the job done—I agree with her point that there is no letting it happen in today’s culture. A long time ago someone mentioned in an online forum that they were not planning to take birth classes or read any birth books because they felt like they should just let it happen and not have any preconceived notions; that cluttering up their heads with this other information would cloud their ability to do so. While I hear the motive and feeling behind this sentiment and believe there is some (perhaps idealized) truth to it, I simultaneously feel like it is impossible to do this, because women do not give birth in a void or outside of their culture. Women give birth in a context, usually involving other people (even with unassisted births, there is usually someone else there). If you enter the birth room (the aforementioned woman was planning to give birth in a hospital, not unassisted) without any ideas or pre-knowledge about what to expect or what you want, the stories and dramas and ideas and myths and preconceived notions and reading and media-exposure of all the other people present DO enter the room and impact your birth. You cannot just “let it happen,” because they will not just let it happen. Right or wrong, this is the environment in which many of us our building our birth nests.

I’d like to close my thoughts with another quote. This one is from one of my favorite birth books, Transformation Through Birth by Claudia Panuthos. In giving birth, regardless of our nest and our choices and all the seen and unseen elements shaping our lives, perhaps we can simply, “…celebrate ourselves for our courage to birth. The real question becomes not, ‘Have you done your breathing exercises?’ but rather, ‘Can you love yourself no matter how your birth, where you birth, or what the outcome?'”

Cesarean Trivia

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the history of childbirth in the modern world has probably heard the legendary story of the pig-gelder Jacob Nufer and the first successful cesarean section (performed on his wife in 1500). Successful because both mother and child lived, which had never before been documented to happen with a cesarean—and took quite some time to happen again. For example, there was a 100% mortality rate for cesareans performed in Paris for 89 YEARS (1787–1876). I’ve read several excellent books about the history of birth and feel fairly well-versed in the associated facts. However, this month I finished reading a new book by pediatrician Mark Sloan and was surprised to learn something completely new about the history of the cesarean section. This was that, the well-known legacy of Jacob Nufer notwithstanding, the first well-documented successful cesarean section performed in the English-speaking world was performed by Dr. James Barry in Cape Town South Africa in 1826. James Barry was quite the character, small of stature and very big of opinion and personality. He was a British Army officer who clashed frequently with everyone over everything (including even fighting duels!). He even had public arguments with none other than Florence Nightingale! And…then…the conclusion to this already interesting tale is that after Dr. James Barry died—after his forty year medical and military career—it was discovered that he was actually a woman!

I found this extremely fascinating. (I also imagined Jill at Unnecesarean using her Photoshop talents to make some kind of image about this…) So, despite the dominance of males in the medical profession, the first successful cesarean in the English-speaking world was actually performed by a woman! A point the author brings out in this discussion is that, “Here in the early years of the twenty-first century we have reached a point of high medical irony that would not be lost on James Barry: it now can take more courage—or foolhardiness—not to do a cesarean than it takes to do one.” How true.

Some other non-related quotes from Birth Day that I shared via the CfM Facebook page are as follows:

“Birth is about radical, creative, life-affirming change. It is about adaptation on a nearly unbelievable scale.” –Mark Sloan, MD

The quote above is in regard to the physical adaptations required by the baby immediately after birth—I see it as about both mother and baby though and I enjoy that it comes from a man and a doctor no less!

“Rigid plans work best if you’re building a skyscraper; with something as mysteriously human as giving birth, it’s best, both literally and figuratively, to keep your knees bent.” –Mark Sloan, MD

The above quote is from the segment about what he would want to tell his daughter about giving birth. Though the book wasn’t as “alternative” as many of the birth books I enjoy, I found Birth Day to be a very engaging and entertaining read!

Adding More Birth Quotes…

To my ongoing collection (previously posted to my Facebook fan page, but sharing here as well. There are some grief/miscarriage quotes mixed in as well):

“Birth is valuable. It gives rise to our entire future. There is power in our ability to give birth to the future of our planet. We need to reclaim that power.” –Ginger Garner

“Birth is the epicenter of women’s power.” – Ani DiFranco

“To parent well, you have to have the gentleness and courage of a warrior.” –Carol (in the book Joyful Birth)

“There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world”

“You’re braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem. And smarter than you think.”– Christopher Robin

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Pooh’s Little Instruction Book (added by a Facebook fan in response to the above)

“Nature, time, and patience are the three great physicians.” –Greek Proverb

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” –author unknown

Addition to the above from Teri Shilling’s blog. Her adaptation is: “Birth is not about waiting for it to be over. It’s about learning to dance through it.” — Teri Shilling

“We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity, brief moments of insight…Let us gather them up for the precious gifts that they are and, renewed by their grace, move boldy into the unknown.” –Sara York

“A Survival Meditation” by Nathan Walker. It begins: “breathing in…i am aware of my pain….breathing out…i am aware that i am not my pain…breathing in…i am aware of my past….breathing out…i am aware that i am not my past.”

“Birth goes best if not intruded upon by strange people and strange events. It goes best when a woman feels safe enough and free enough to abandon herself to the process.” –Penny Armstrong & Sheryl Feldman

“Your body is the life force power of some fifty trillion molecular geniuses…Own your power and show up for your life [birth]. Beam bright!” –Jill Bolte Taylor

“What makes a good birth experience [depends on] how we discover that energy and enthusiasm that carry us through any challenging situation in life.” –Suzanne Arms

“I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart; yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul.” –Og Mandino

“Whereas loss changes us, grieving loss transforms us. Through the process of mourning, we are rehsaped into more highly evolved souls than we previously were.” –Marie Allen & Shelly Marks

“Growth is measured by…the openness with which we continue and take the next unknown step, beyond our edge…into the remarkable mystery of being.” –Stephen Levine

“Motherhood isn’t just a series of contractions, it’s a state of mind. From the moment we know life is inside us, we feel a responsibility to protect and defend that human being.” –Erma Bombeck

“Over the passage of time, we do more than survive the journey. We go through a labor of self-discovery and give birth to the being deep within…we emerge more enriched, empowered, and evolved women, connect with the instinctual wisdom that lies deep within us, and experience the more whole life we deserve…grieving …opens a door into our souls that might otherwise not have been opened.” –Marie Allen & Shelly Marks

“You are strong! Your body was made to give birth!! You aren’t broken, you aren’t incapable, and you aren’t special!! Your grandmother did it, your great, great, great grandmother did it, and you can toooo!!!” –Hathor the Cowgoddess

“As a mother to be, your critical task is to prepare for a birth that has no script. This requires great courage, flexibility, and a capacity for inner awareness.” –Pam England

“All natural birth has a purpose and a plan; who would think of tearing open the chrysalis as the butterfly is emerging? Who would break the shell to pull the chick out?” –Marie Mongan

(Butterfly & the Cesarean story link shared by a Facebook fan)

“You are pregnant and you are powerful. You are bold and you are beautiful. Go forward in your boldness, in your beauty and in your connectedness. Trust your body to birth and know that the collective power of women worldwide will be with you.” –Your Birth Right

“Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman’s breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.” ~ Robert Heinlein

“[When a woman] has had an ecstatic birth, you can’t talk her into taking drugs that aren’t good for her body. You can’t talk her into a hysterectomy…You can’t talk her into a crummy diet…She knows what this body is capable of. She loves this body. This body loves her…there’s nothing like the transformation avail…able at birth…she becomes illuminated…she’s a channel for life…she’s a channel for life in all its forms.” –Christiane Northrup, MD

“Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” –Kathryn Miller Ridiman

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” ~ Helen Keller

“Motherhood instantly ups your ante in the human sweepstakes. It gives you a very personal stake in the future, and makes you vulnerable…It can also empower. Women who hesitated to speak for themselves may find their voice and advocate energetically for themselves as mothers and for the welfare of their children. Motherhood…the single most common transformational experience in the world.” –Valerie Young

“I think one of the best things we could do would be to help women/parents/families discover their own birth power, from within themselves. And to let them know it’s always been there, they just needed to tap into it.” –John H. Kennell, MD

“[sex], birth, and breastfeeding are survival behaviors of our species, and they’re not supposed to hurt…The way we structure those behaviors often contributes to the pain that is experienced…”–Kathleen Auerbach

“Women birth everywhere–in woods, in shacks, in quaint homes and suburbs and palaces, under trees, in taxis, and lately, in clinics and hospitals. It’s hard to birth in power without privacy, love and a place called home…” –Sister MorningStar

“The especial genius of women I believe to be electrical in movement, intuitive in function, spiritual in tendency.” ~Margaret Fuller

“Birth today is a doctor dictatorship in many practices and in many hospitals. Mothers and babies are missing the healthiest possible beginning, both physically and emotionally. Their human rights are being violated.” –Jan Tritten

“If society hinders the optimal breastfeeding by mothers who work outside the home, society needs to change, not women.” –Elisabet Helsing, World Health Organization

and from UNICEF: “The promotion of breastfeeding must not be seen as an excuse to exclude women from the labor force. The burden should no longer fall on women to choose between breastfeeding and work. The burden is on society to facilitate breastfeeding and indeed child care.”

“One does not give birth in a void, but rather in a cultural and political context. Laws, professional codes, religious sanctions, and ethnic traditions all affect women’s choices concerning childbirth.” –Adrienne Rich

Discussion following on the Facebook page: Me: Do couples truly have a free choice of where to give birth? Ultimately speaking, I guess yes, but according to my clients insurance companies dictate their birth location…
Another poster:
The choice is taken from people far too often! Money talks, doctors can scare, insurance companies manipulate, etc., etc.
Sometimes the choice is pretty much taken away. 😦
AND the cultural, political, etc. The quote is so true… our choices don’t occur in a void, all those things affect choices in childbirth. Its just that sometimes, many of those choices are dictated by the above, and so, can severely limit what we do get to choose.
Me again: When we do the “pain pie” exercise in my classes, I always talk about how sometimes choices are actively stripped away from women and we need to keep that in mind when we hear “bad” birth stories–not, “she ‘failed’ or made the ‘wrong’ choices” but that her pieces of the pie were taken away from her (sometimes forcibly!).

Prompted by the above:

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” –Alice Walker

“Life becomes precious and more special to us when we look for the little everyday miracles and get excited about the privileges of simply being human.” -Tim Hansel

“The beauty of my body is not measured by the size of the clothes it can fit into, but by the stories that it tells. I have a belly and hips that say, ‘We grew a child in here,’ and breasts that say, ‘We nourished life.’ My hands, with bitten nails and a writer’s callus, say, ‘We create amazing things.'” -Sarah (I Am Beautiful)

More Birth Quotes

Reposting some of the quotes I’ve recently shared via my Facebook page…I’m surprised by how many hits my blog gets for people looking for “birth quotes.” I think as long as I bother typing them into Facebook, I might as well then copy them here for those people searching for birth quotes to find! (Here is a link to a previous post with more birth quotes.)

“For far too many women pregnancy and birth is something that happens to them rather than something they set out consciously and joyfully to do themselves.” –Sheila Kitzinger

“Labor is all about finding your threshold and learning you can go beyond it.” –Father quoted in the book Fathers at Birth

“Wise women mean a spicier, more interesting world, not guided simply by linear reasoning and accomplishment, but by intuition, internal self-agreement and fiece creative love.” –Sareanda Lourdes

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” –Harriette Hartigan

“I believe in the power of accurate information to help women make the wisest choices for themselves.” – Judy Norsigian

“Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother’s body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature.” –Patrick Houser

“It has been said that if each of us went out into the world tomorrow and shared our love with two people, ‘such that they got it, and they in turn went out the next day and shared it with two more…following that progression, in less than… 33 days we would reach the entire planet.’ *Thirty-three days*. It begins at the beginning. At birth. A peaceful birth, where there are no hunters and no game.” –Nancy Wainer

“Let parents know that they don’t need special techniques and gadgets to give birth safely and happily. Make sure to communicate to every mother you help, that she has all the essential ingredients for a safe, healthy birth within herself. …A womb, a baby, a vagina, and a few warm pieces of fabric make an excellent, complete birth kit.” –Laura Morgan

“Women’s bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered.” –Sarah Buckley

Birth Quotes

I’ve been periodically posting various birth quotes to my Talk Birth Facebook page. Then, I realized I should also be collecting them into a post where they will last a little longer and be enjoyed by more people! I think I will just keep updating this post as I add quotes, but I may make multiple shorter posts or otherwise sub-categorize them to make them easier to follow.

“…labor is not about dilation. Your body knows how to give birth whether or not you ever have a pelvic exam during labor. Birthing women need encouragement to trust their bodies, and to be the stars of their own labors…”

The Doula Guide to Birth


“The empowerment of laboring women, not the management of childbirth by means of painkillers, leads to satisfactory birth experiences.”

Research conclusion by Belgian scientists in 2007

I received a comment on this quote that is very true: “Satisfactory is the wrong word. Spiritual, beautiful, peaceful, wonderful, mind blowing, amazing, phenomenal…. any of those would be better!” My response is Absolutely! I would say powerful, transformative, beautiful, and empowering 🙂

“In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.”

Everyday Blessings

“The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power.”

Heather McCue

“You will find it incredible that labor gets stronger and stronger–and you do, too.”

The Doula Guide to Birth

“You do not have to be a particularly strong or brave or relaxed woman to get through labor. You just need to be a woman.”

The Big Book of Birth

“It is not ‘ladylike’ to give birth. The strength and power of labor is not demure.”

An Easier Childbirth (quoting a midwife)

“Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don’t know how strong until we’re pushing out our babies.”

Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance

“Women around the world and throughout time have known how to take care of each other in birth. They’ve shown each other the best positions for comfort in labor, they’ve used nurturing touch and repeated soothing words, and they’ve literally held each other up when it’s needed the most…”

The Doula Guide to Birth

“Education for birth consists not, as some would have it, of ‘conditioning,’ but aims at giving a woman the means by which she can express her own personality creatively in childbirth.”

Sheila Kitzinger

“A self-determined birth is a potent symbol of womanly power, of human courage, of loving compassion, even of ecological holism. It may look like childbirth educators are just showing charts and teaching relaxation, but we are also helping to create a gentle atmosphere in which personal and cultural transformation can take place.”

ALACE CBE Manual