Many women who birth outside of a hospital setting are changed by that experience for the rest of their lives. It begins in pregnancy as they educate themselves about the choices they are making surrounding birth. In discussions with their midwife, a subtle paradigm shift happens which puts the pregnant woman in charge. A good midwife guides them to see that they need to look beyond what the medical institutions have presented as ‘truth’, and find their own. During a natural, unmedicated, and uninduced birth a woman must listen to her own rhythms of contraction and expansion and learn to work in harmony with them. She taps into a power within herself that until now has been hidden from her. It is an awe-inspiring power that deeply connects the woman to generations of women from the past and the future. From that time on, she knows this power lies within her and she can rely on it. The confidence this brings helps her to look at the world with new eyes. She may make new choices, such as deciding to have her baby sleep in bed with her and her partner even though her best friend says it is dangerous. She may simply feel more able to stick with a choice she already made, such as breastfeeding, even though the first several weeks are rough going.
So how does this help the earth? Well, first there are her choices surrounding parenting in the first weeks and months of her baby’s life, such as sleeping with the baby. Co-sleeping means no trees were cut down to build a cradle or toxic chemicals used to build a crib. On top of that, no fuel was spent to ship it to a store and then get it to your home. No energy was used to run the factory or store. No lights were used at home while putting the crib together.
Breastfeeding, though natural, can be challenging at first. Midwives traditionally promote breastfeeding and are an ongoing resource for nursing education and support. The impacts it can make on our environment are varied. First, it requires no excess packaging, processing, or shipping. There are no bottles to buy, transport, wash, and eventually throw away. This is a huge energy savings, plus there is no damage to our environment from the making and disposal of plastics or glass. Because breastmilk is nutritionally superior to formula, it grows stronger, healthier people who are less likely to need pharmaceuticals or mercury-laden fillings. The fats contained within breastmilk spur more brain growth than formula. We need smarter kids to help us out of the environmental dilemma we are in. On top of all that, exclusive breast-feeding prevents more births than all other forms of contraception combined, which helps slow our ever-climbing population explosion.
Empowered birth creates an empowered woman who has confidence in her physical and psychological abilities. A woman who knows she is capable and has the strength to follow through on those out-of-the-norm decisions, such as cloth diapering. Let’s face it: cloth diapering is a bit more work than disposables, but the small amount of effort required is easy compared to filling up our landfills.
Home birth creates a mother who listens to her own innate intuition. She can listen to herself as a guide instead of relying on ‘authorities’. She will make her own best choices for the survival of her children, even if that means making different choices than mainstream America. She might decide not to fill a prescription for antibiotics which end up in our water supply and create super bugs, and instead rely on rest and mommy love to get her baby through a cold.
Then there are the less obvious connections. A positive birth experience imparts to the couple confidence in parenting to the couple. It creates a solid foundation and unites them in their parenting journey. Midwives often encourage the couple to explore the components of Attachment Parenting, such as baby wearing, responsive parenting, and immediate bonding after birth. This style of parenting creates confident kids with a different world outlook. They tend to think about what the group needs, instead of feeling they would be better off looking out for themselves because no one else will.”
Who knows where a woman’s new-found sense of accomplishment will take her? Perhaps she will decide to roll up her sleeves and plant an organic garden, saving her kids from pesticides and lessening the world’s fuel consumption, or decide to take on the local water board when she finds out there are unsafe levels of chemicals in the tap water her family drinks. Maybe she will confront her local school board on buying more local organic fruits and vegetables for the lunch program. Perhaps she will start her own recycled kids’ clothing store, or get active with her local Earth Day committee. Perhaps she will sponsor a local kids’ sustainable community garden. These are just a few of the things I have seen local mothers do. The power and energy a positive out-of-hospital birth unleashes is tremendous. The possible choices of what to do with that power are endless. The positive effects that might bring for our planet are immeasurable. As a doula, one thing I have learned is to never underestimate the power of a mother!