The empowering nature of birth

Natalie - Portland, Oregon
Entered on July 23, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: birth
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Despite my best efforts, I often feel disempowered in our culture. Many choices are made for me without my approval. I am expected to act, look, and sound a certain way. As a woman, this is particularly acute. Sometimes I am expected to be invisible. Often times, silent. Always I am expected to look my best. I am expected to buy pretty things and things to make me pretty. I often oblige. But none of these expectations are empowering. Most are disempowering.

What does feel empowering, when I am in tune with it, is my innate femaleness. At 13 weeks pregnant, right now I am really in tune with this. I can grow and birth a baby, and feed it after it comes out. These facts of life not only make me feel empowered, but also more connected with the earth.

Yet even in this, our culture tries to strip women of power. They tell us that doctors deliver babies, not mothers. We are generally expected to have surgeons, drugs, knives and machines help us through childbirth. We are not always asked whether we approve of what’s happening to us or our babies during birth. Thus, the reigning culture of female submission is maintained, and the taming of all things wild, scary, and animal in nature is maintained.

I am an environmentalist, yet despite the problems with overpopulation and overconsumption, I want to have a child. One reason I want a child is to create a new being with my partner. Another reason is because there are very few things we do anymore that are like other mammals but making a baby and giving birth is one of them. And while humans have manipulated and ‘technologized’ the birth process in many ways, natural childbirth is the most powerful way I know to connect with the earth’s most basic cycle of creation, growth, and destruction in a time when we are more disconnected from nature than ever before.

I am choosing natural childbirth in part because, like other mammals, I want to scream and yell and connect with that earthly power of birth. Those of you who have already given birth are probably laughing right now and figuring I will change my mind when it’s happening. Maybe. But regardless, I don’t want someone taking that power and wildness away from me. I don’t want someone controlling it with pitocin and epidurals. I don’t want someone telling me what I need when it’s happening to me and I know what I need. In the vast majority of cases, birthing women need nothing that the medical establishment gives them (drugs, monitors, knives) and everything that it doesn’t (emotional support, a soothing environment, freedom to eat and move). I believe in my body, myself, and my partner to support me. I in believe in my midwives to know if I need to go to the hospital. I believe in the empowering nature of birth and the ability of women to birth how nature intended.