What is the most important event that
happened in your life? Birth! Coming into this world was quite an event.
Although you don’t remember it anymore, the circumstances in which you
were born could have caused traumas that you are still carrying around,
unconsciously. People who have been regressed through hypnosis to the
moment of birth have remembered unpleasant experiences that caused
psychological problems later on in their lives.
Frederic Leboyer (see below) demonstrates
this with a letter a woman sent him when she learnt about his teachings:
"Allow me to share the following story with you. I can attest to its
authenticity, for it is about me.
I was born in 1915, on June 22. One
month later I became a ward of the state. I will pass over my childhood
and adolescence, which were exceptionally happy. Nonetheless, I often
had bad dreams at night, and one in particular, which was particularly
vivid, woke me up every time. The admirable foster-mother who raised me
would then take me into her bed and comfort me. This ghostly vision was
always the same: a middle-aged woman, wearing an old-fashioned bonnet,
would reach for my throat with such obvious intentions that I would
scream ... and wake up. This nightmare is still very vivid in my memory
for the following reason: it haunted my nights, about a dozen times a
year, until I was about forty (my husband was the one who would comfort
Well, when I was thirty-nine, without having looked for
her, I found my mother again. She explained the reason why she had
abandoned me. She was unmarried, and as soon as she confessed her "sin"
to her mother, the latter flew into a horrible rage. At the moment of my
birth, in a little village near here, she threw her daughter down off
the bed and leaped onto me, trying to strangle me. Some good neighbors,
who were present, called the nuns from the little hospital nearby, and
they took us both away. Faced with repeated threats from that irascible
grandmother, my mother took me herself to the Public Assistance office
in Privas as soon as she was strong enough to make the trip, which was a
long one in those days. When I asked her what that woman looked like, I
had the (totally unexpected) surprise of recognizing, in her
description, the woman who had caused me so many nightmares.
course, have told this story to all of my children, waiting for the time
when I could speak of it to a specialist. Now it has come! I hope that
this will corroborate your thesis on the ability of the baby to feel:
the already conscious state, of a new-born baby. If it is possible for
you, I would like you to give me your feelings about my story, which is
The circumstances of birth were primarily
determined by midwives. In Greek and Roman times, midwives functioned as
respected, autonomous care providers to women during their reproductive
cycles. Some qualifications for the practice of midwifery began to
evolve during this period. For example, in Greece the midwife was a
woman who had borne children herself. This requirement has remained a
commonality in the practice of midwifery.
The midwives of these
centuries generally continued to learn by the apprentice model. As an
apprentice, skills and knowledge were passed down from generation to
As modern medicine gained legitimacy and power toward
the end of the nineteenth century, it called for the abolition of
midwifery and home birth in favor of obstetrics in a hospital setting.
In 1900, midwives still were attending almost half of all births but was
steadily declining. Midwives were portrayed as dirty, illiterate, and
ignorant, and eventually women were convinced that they were safer in
the hands of doctors and hospitals. Midwives were effectively stamped
out in the early years of the 20th century. Physicians trained in the
specialty of obstetrics and gynecology declared themselves to be the
proper caregivers for childbearing women, and the hospital was deemed to
be the proper setting for that care. Birth evolved from a physiological
event into a medical procedure.
By the 1960s women were forced to
endure labor without the presence or support from partners or family.
Infants were taken from the mother at delivery and cared for in newborn
nurseries and bottle-feeding became the norm. Any babies born outside
the sterile environment of the operating room were labeled contaminated
and kept separately.
Although modern medicine has given us many
advantages in health care, the circumstances of birth have completely
changed. Fortunately we have seen many changes in the last decades in
hospitals, maternity wards, and a growing interest in natural births, or
home births, coupled with the advantages and knowledge of modern
Why is the environment at birth so important? As the
newborn baby arrives into a new world sounds are loud and harsh, light
is blinding, and big hands are touching him all over. The baby is very
susceptible to what happens to him, and around him. When doctors took
over midwifery, this fact was totally ignored. Babies were seen as just
a part of a medical procedure. A person who shed new light on the
importance of childbirth was Frederick Leboyer.
M.D. was a French physician who was responsible for creating the
awareness in maternity wards of the intact an functioning senses of the
newborn. Many doctors at the time even thought newborns to be blind at
birth! His revolutionary book "Birth without Violence" changed the way
in which many parents and professionals bring babies into the world.
When I first read Birth without Violence it opened my eyes. Birth
without Violence explores in depth the sensitivity of the newborn and
the importance of how the baby is handled by the people around him. I
first read the book after I had seen a TV program about ‘natural
births’, in which Leboyer was teaching pregnant women how they could
communicate with their yet unborn babies. He taught that the baby in the
womb is able to intuitively understand what the mother is saying, not
the actual words, of course, but what she wants. He would teach them to
put their hands on their belly and tell the baby to move upwards or
downwards in the belly, and yes, after five or ten seconds touch could
clearly see that the baby did move into the desired direction. It worked
Leboyer's focus was primarily on improving the
quality of the birth experience for the baby. His message was that a
sensitive, unobtrusive style of care which is deeply respectful of the
natural process, and a peaceful atmosphere at the time of birth would
help the baby to be born with a minimum of trauma. His famous book and
film 'Birth Without Violence' inspired mothers all over the world to
want to give birth naturally and in a more quiet atmosphere. Birth
Without Violence illustrates how to create an environment of tranquility
in which to welcome our children: a relaxed mother, gentle lighting,
soothing atmosphere, and a warm bath that mirrors the child’s prenatal
surroundings. Dr. Leboyer’s simple techniques demonstrate how a birth
without violence has far-reaching implications for improving the quality
of human life physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Leboyer's book, Birth without Violence, is available at the bookstore,
it is published by Healing Arts Press, ISBN 0-89281-983-9. It has also
been published by Publisher Cedar, ISBN 0 7493 0642 4. You can read it
online at http://www.eco-action.org/dt/bwv1.html .