even involve this special person around the time of conception or even planning the next child.
For both parties, trust and faith are implicit for this relationship to work. Just as with a guru-disciple relationship where the true guru empowers the disciple, a spiritual midwife gradually empowers the pregnant woman. In my own experience and from what has been reported to me, this is why many women find their relationship with an obstetrician or medical midwife ultimately unsatisfactory. This is not just because an obstetrician is focussed on the physicality of pregnancy and birth, but because in institutions like hospitals, the patient must abdicate all power and decision making to the doctor / nurse. Within a conventional medically managed birth, the relationship is always one where the doctor does the doing and the patient is passive or at best assisting. Yet a pregnant woman should not be a patient. She is not necessarily sick or dying. She is simply pregnant. It seems such an obvious thing to be pointing out, but to handle the process of birthing, a women needs to be empowered by her pregnancy.
As with any spiritual relationship between teacher and student, there are times when a woman must be able to have absolute faith not only in her own capabilities, but also in the wisdom and capabilities of her midwife. For example, when she is having unreasonable fears about her unborn baby or getting caught up in the pain of birth, she may need someone outside of herself who is able to bring her focus back to her own inner strengths.
In traditional societies the local midwives are the wise old women of the village. They have had many babies of their own, assisted many of their grandchildren's births and know, so deeply in themselves, what a woman can and can't do. They are known to be endowed with much spiritual understanding and are honoured with great respect. Their relationship with the younger women of child bearing age is indeed very close to the essence of guru-disciple.
In our culture, I admit it is very rare to find such relationships, but it is possible. There are a growing number of hospital midwives who do appreciate the spiritual nature of birth. They are aware of the importance of trying to develop a relationship with the mother (albeit within the confines of hospital policy and their busy scheduled maternity ward activities) and are committed to providing a pregnant woman with emotional support in addition to any necessary medical expertise during the pregnancy and birth.
There are also independent nursing
midwives, sometimes called homebirth midwives, who will travel to outlying areas and into homes to support a woman with pre and post-natal education, birthing support and spiritual guidance. In this way they have a better chance to create the trusting relationship and a more natural birth.
Then there are a few independent spiritual midwives who, although not medically trained, have great knowledge about all the necessary aspects of birthing. These birth attendants were previously called lay-midwives, which is now an illegal profession (at least in Australia). They learned their skills and knowledge not through text books or within hospitals, but by attending many, many births and assisting other spiritual midwives. They fundamentally believe that since women are designed to give birth and have the power within themselves to do so, what they need is support, guidance and faith in the natural process. Such medically uncertified birthing attendants have now been totally discredited by the medical profession as "witches". As a result, in recent years some of these women have gained the required medical certification as midwives so as to be able to continue to practice. Others work as part of a team alongside a registered midwife. Such a team could provide everything an aspiring natural birther could want.
Also existing these days are "doulas" or birthing assistants. These are women who also have much birthing knowledge but primarily support the pregnant woman in a very practical way by helping around the home, before during and after the birth. More about all these different birth support people is included in Chapter 5 - "Birthing Assistance and Support", page 272.
Many of these birthing support roles cross-over. It just comes down to a mother formulating in her own mind what sort of birthing program she would like, the players she wants and what roles they are to play. Remember it is your birth and your baby, so just as with new baby clothes, shop around carefully until you find exactly what is right for you and your baby.
Pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, yoga. Each one offers us an opportunity for profound transformation - to make a leap into a new consciousness. Nature invites us to feel into our bellies, to discover what lies hidden within, to manifest that being and to teach and learn through that maternal bond. My greatest hope is that every woman experiencing pregnancy will heed these silent urgings. My greatest gifts are the teachings of yoga, a way of making this potential a spiritual reality..