Women chose a variety of different reasons to birth without a medical attendant. It can be a need for independance or a desire to have a private birth experience. Sometimes it’s accidental or because a midwife is too expensive. Some women do it to be in control. Others want to be put in touch with their innervoice. Birthing unassisted can be religious and spiritual. Maybe a person simply feels birth is too ordinary–or to profound–to include medics. For whatever the reason, the movement is on the rise, and more women are discovering the freedom of birthing unhindered, with just their closest loved ones present.
There are women who birth unassisted purely by accident, which is the most dangerous form of childbirth. Women who chose to birth unassisted spend months planning and preparing so that they can handle anything that may come up. When an unassisted birth is accidental, usually the woman is not ready to take full responsibility and be in control of the situation. This can happen when labor is too quick. Either the mother didn’t make it to the hospital or the midwife didn’t arrive on time. In these cases, the risks are slightly higher. Birthing unassisted, however, is not as dangerous as it seems, as usually the outcome of even accidental births is good once medical attention is received.
Other women simply cannot afford a midwife and know that birthing at home is safer than at the hospital. In some states, midwives are not allowed to attend homebirths, and doctors often refuse as well. Some places don’t even have any practicing midwives there, so there are some people who must birth unassisted because their only other option is hospital birth. Some women simply live too far away from a hospital or birthing center. Many women begin their journey to freebirthing because of this, but upon closer examination, discover that it was the right choice for them all along. Maybe it’s destiny.
There are many reasons why women chose homebirth over hospital. At home, a woman is in control. She can do what she pleases and cope with her labor using the comforts of her own home. She can birth in the way that feels natural to her. She is free from unwanted medical intervention, and no one tells her who can and cannot be in the room during the birth. Children are welcome to witness a homebirth. There are very few restrictions in place, giving a woman the freedom to enjoy her birth.
Many studies have proven homebirth to be as safe as, possibly safer than, hospital birth. For many people the fact that birthing at home has been the natural way of things for centuries is the sole reason they desire to do it. Doctors mean well, but their methods aren’t always positive or supportive. Hospitals aren’t completely clean either, considering sick people come and go leaving behind foreign contaminants in the air.
Women who birth unassisted take it one step further, and they have a variety of reasons for doing this. Some women birth completely alone, and others chose to include only their partners. The right choice for others is to have a hands-off midwife present, but not participating or standing by just in case. Children and other relatives may be included. These births are considered unattended not because the woman is alone, but because no doctor or medical professional is present. With fewer people present, there are less distractions, and this allows a woman to focus, undeterred by the worries of others.
Most animals in nature birth alone, or only with family present. This is true of most natural cultures across the globe. When a woman is laboring and birthing, they are on their own in the forest or assisted by a few close family members. We tend to be self-conscious when we are watched, especially by strangers, and this can prevent us from birthing as freely as we could were we not being observed. When we are only with our loved ones, or completely on our own, we are less inhibited. We do not have to worry about embarrassing ourselves, nor do we have to feel like we are participating in a spectator sport. We can birth as we were meant to do, surrounded by love and acceptance.
Birth for many is a personal private function, similar to taking a dump for which they simply prefer to be alone. Some couples see it as a private event of a sexual nature, similar to making love. For other women, it is a family function to be shared only with one’s partner and other children. When you have complete trust in yourself and those around you, you can birth unhindered. Many do not feel that type of relationship can be built in nine months, so they opt not to have a midwife. They don’t want someone there who feels like a stranger.
Midwives can interfere with the birth process in other ways. Midwives often perform vaginal exams, just like doctors, which is uncomfortable and poses a risk of infection. In some areas, law inflict a time limit on placenta delivery, so midwives may reach inside a woman to remove it. This can cause severe postpartum hemorrhage. Midwives are wonderful women who are very dedicated, and most of them try their best to give a woman a gentle birth. However, they are only human, and we all make mistakes. They are limited by state regulations, like doctors.
Midwives are powerful advocates for women, and sometimes this can lead them to put their beliefs above the woman’s desires. They want to protect their patients, as is understandable, and will go to great lengths. This can mean encouraging them to go to the hospital at the first sign of trouble or even inadvertently coercing them into undesirable positions or unwanted checks. They takeover the direction of the birth and become the expert. For those who wish to be in control of their own birth and forego intervention, this is an issue. A midwife, even a hands-off one, is still an outside influence. Midwives are restricted by state laws, which limits them in providing the exact kind of care individual women may need or want.
The midwife will try to include a woman’s partner in the birth, but he would be more involved were she not there. Often it is the midwife who catches the baby, unwraps him, and hands him to the mother. She weighs him, examines him, cleans him up. She lets the mother know when it is time to push. She may instruct the husband on how to help her care for his wife and may take over care herself, rather than letting the husband do it. She may treat him as a helper instead of as an equal partner in the experience. This is not true of all midwives, of course, but there is no way to tell until the moment comes.
Many women birth unassisted with only their partner around, feeling the midwife will limit his participation. They want their significant other to share equally in the experience. These ladies want their man to be the one whispering words of encouragement, offering a backrub, and catching the baby. Her man can step up and be second-in-command only to his wife. Being the one to meet all of her needs can make him feel needed, valuable, and appreciated. It can empower him and bring him closer to his lover. Being attended only by her husband can make the woman feel more comfortable. She is used to being naked around him and being seen even at her worst moments by him. The experience of birthing as a team can be amazing.
Some birth unassisted for religious reasons. Zion birthers refuse all medical treatment whatsoever, which unfortunately carries higher mortality rates for mothers and their babies. Zion birth and unassisted childbirth, however, are not the same, as most women who plan an unassisted birth are willing to accept medical treatment when it is necessary. Unassisted childbirth for religious reasons and Zion birth are two different things that should not be confused. Zion birthers tend to believe that the hand of God will save and heal them and that if they die, it is because God wills it.
Those who birth unassisted for religious reasons do so because they believe it is natural and will bring them closer to nature and the gods. They want to explore their own creative power and get in touch with their inner priestess. Some want to be the goddess of their own life and follow their own path. One may simply want to get in touch with their hearts and ground themselves to the Earth. Most women who do it for religious reasons are seeking enlightenment, but that is not the only factor behind religious unattended birth. Unassisted childbirth can be a great way to reconnect with your own intuition, and it can help build confidence in oneself which can have a profound impact on family relationships.
Birth itself is considered profound by most, though for others it is considered no more profound than passing a bowel movement. Some women simply see birth as a normal part of life that doesn’t require a lot of fuss to be made. They may birth while everyone else is sleeping or at work or school, without calling anyone to assist. The moment you meet your child is always beautiful and life-changing, but the act of delivering a child feels ordinary to many people who chose to birth unassisted. They just see it as a normal life experience that doesn’t have to be witnessed.
These women don’t want or feel that they need help to achieve motherhood, just like they wouldn’t want assistance (or an audience) when wiping after using the toilet. Some may be offended by this comparison, but it is simply the truth of how some people view the process. Creating new life is a miracle; that is something all mothers respect and understand. However, not all women view birth as a miracle, just an everyday event. The thought of managing it is as offensive to them as the comparison of birth to using the john may be to others.
Unassisted childbirth can be a healing experience that repairs the wounds caused by C-section, loss of a child during birth, and birth rape. Some women aren’t yet ready to forgive midwives or doctors for inflicting that pain upon them, so they chose to birth unassisted because of that lack of trust. We do not want to give up our dignity because of paranoia. We do not want to lay down because authority tells us to. We want to heal from being coerced, manipulated, and deceived into consenting to unnecessary, harmful medical procedures. We need to be free of those experiences.
Some unassisted birthers are women who are just overly independant. Others will say that they chose it because “It just made sense.” Few women birth out of fear, but that can still be a reason. Many women chose to birth unassisted because the professionals are discouraging homebirth or encouraging C-section. For a woman who can’t find a midwife to deliver her breech baby at home, unassisted birth is the only option. A woman who choses this path trusts herself more than any attendant. If she goes to the hospital or births in a certain position, she wants it to be because her body told her to do it. We also understand that a birth attendant is not needed; a baby will come no matter who is present!
Medical professionals and most midwives do not approve of unassisted childbirth, so those of us who chose it are going against the medical community. Many people in mainstream society look upon it as an irresponsible choice that endangers the life of one’s child. Some accuse freebirthers of using their birth to rebel against authority or to prove a political point, but purebirthing is not about that. Chosing to birth unattended is about learning to trust your instincts and take complete responsibility for the life of yourself and your child.
These women do not make spur of the moment decisions to birth without a professional present. Rather they simply put their faith in their body’s ability, and spend months preparing for the big moment–doing way more than just taking Lamaze class. Women who chose this path come from a variety of backgrounds and have many reasons. Most women don’t have just one reason for doing it but an entire mental list. The choice is very personal and often very important to those who make it, so much that they risk disdain from others for following their hearts down this road.
As Arwyn from MDC says, “I think labor has the potential to be social, to be sexual, to be spiritual, to be orgasmic, to be sacred, to be ordinary, to be painful, to be scary, to be revolutionary, to be so many things. I don’t think it’s necessarily one more than any other – I think it’s up to each woman to pursue the aspect she most wants/identifies with/is called to. For some, that means they want just their partner there, or they want no one there, or they want all their women support there. I think there are ways to give birth that are more safe, or less safe, and prepared UC is one of the safer/safest ways, but women are more than capable of weighing their options and making an informed choice about which path is right for them.”