SHAMANIC MIDWIFERY
Hands that Heal Birth








by
Jeannine Parvati Baker
originally published in The Mother magazine, Summer 2002


I am a spiritual midwife, called to heal the Earth by healing birth.

I first heard my call to assist women becoming mothers, to realize birth as a spiritual as well as a
natural rite-of-passage, by birthing my own babies consciously. My initiation in giving natural birth was
in January of 1970. It was the first time an obstetrician had seen a woman squat on the delivery table
to give birth. Post-partum, when I wouldn't be separated from my newborn Loi Caitlin, (as they had no
rooming-in arrangement) they put me back in the labor room with my baby. A laboring mother in the
next bed was screaming, "Ah Dios, Dios!" How she suffered: My heart went out to her and I soothed
her from my bed, my first experience as a spiritual midwife.

About this time in my life, I began to teach childbirth education and Prenatal Yoga classes. My goal was
to help more babies be born consciously -- thus, creating a sustainable future for my own child -- and
future grandchildren. I had a significant dream during these years -- In my dream two brilliant white
doves flew to me. I watched them land on my hands, and when they walked from my hands, now
tingling with energy, up my arms, to my heart, I was filled with radiant light. I understood at that time
that my hands and heart were agents of the healing light.

It was awhile later that I met this archetype in the Greek myth of the two midwives who flew to the
birth of the twins Artemis and Apollo in the form of doves. By then I was well known as the "baby lady"
of my community and preparing for my next challenge in reclaiming birth.

My second and third births were twins and when I was in the hospital, they x-rayed me and announced
that my pelvis may be too small and I would need a cesarean section. I checked myself out of the
hospital and went home to give ecstatic birth to my footling breech baby, Oceana Violet and her head
first twin, Cheyenne Coral. From that point on, 1974, I have only birthed and midwifed at home. I
clearly saw what a distraction hospitals can be when giving birth.  After my third birth, I understood
that I needn't hire anyone to be paranoid for me when laboring to bring forth my young.

In 1975 I became a spiritual midwife whose main tools are my faith in the naturalness of birth, my
healing hands and word medicine.

My community made me a midwife by asking me to attend births. Rather than getting trained by an
institution, and learning a medical set of rituals to take women through birth, I apprenticed directly to
birth itself. My promise as spiritual midwife is to honor the journey, be attentive to what presents itself,
and remind a mother by my presence that she already knows how to give birth. I trust that if a woman
consciously conceives her baby without the help of experts, she is able to give birth unassisted by the
medical experts. My "back-up is whatever God-Us is "on call" that night -- in over a generation of
attending births, every woman I have midwifed has given spontaneous birth.

Once I was called to a birth and forgot to bring my birthing kit. Then I realised that I am my midwifery
kit -- I had my ears through which I could hear the baby's heart, I had my hands through which I could
feel the baby, and I had my heart -- which loves the baby earthside. After that experience in 1980, I
founded HYGIEIA COLLEGE, a mystery school in womancraft and lay midwifery I teach the "inward skills"
-- how to cultivate intuition and know our embodied perception is the medicine bundle, or midwifery kit
par excellence.  Rather than a method, or a training course, Hygieia College is a journey to the sources
of healing and an un-training of erroneous beliefs and actions which interfere with spontaneous
childbirth. I see this un-training process akin to removing the mind swaddling of the prevailing
technocratic culture.

From attending birth mindfully, I recognized that there is a lot of work to be done to heal fertility,
specifically the abortion epidemic and on the other extreme, infertility. Women who had abortions as
well as women who had difficulty conceiving, are more likely to have difficulties surrendering to the
power of the birth-force.  My work in spiritual midwifery includes conscious conception and I often
connect with a family before they conceive their baby in capacity of midwife. What I notice is that a
baby who is consciously conceived, who is desired by both mother and father, already has the
foundation for health, wholeness and holiness in place. A baby who is not wanted, on the other hand,
is spiritually handicapped in that their Source, the earthly mother and father, are disconnected. Children
who are not wanted are more likely to be abused, and "act out" for negative attention -- for it is better
to be wanted by the police than not at all.

According to research reports, babies who are born in violence (standard obstetrical management of
birth in hospital) are more likely to be involved in violent crimes as youths and adults. (See the Jonn
Vascocellos congressional report from California.) My work in conscious conception, toward making
every baby a wanted baby (rather than a mistake in a contraceptive method), contributes to a more
peaceful society.

My firstborn son, and fourth baby, Gannon Hamilton, was our first freebirth. We didn't pay anyone to be
responsible for our baby's birth and in 1980, my partner, the baby's father, and I experienced a most
powerful spiritual initiation. There were no other adults present to distract us from the immense sexual
bonding of the original lovers greeting their newborn together. The Holy Trinity has new meaning for us
since Gannon's birth -- Mother/Father/Baby. And we honored the Son as he is -- already enlightened,
whole, perfect. Needless to say, no circumcision.

When I conceived and birthed my fifth baby, Quinn Ambriel, in 1985-86, I prepared for these
experiences as a vision quest. I was given a vision which has sustained me spiritually ever since. When
I ecstatically gave birth underwater to my fifth baby Quinn, I saw every mother on this earth giving
birth with her lover between her legs -- in a unique, and creative expression of love. No masked man,
no paid paranoid in attendance -- only the original lovers who first invited the new one to join them in
holy family.

I see this as central to what will bring peace and an authentic self-sufficiency to the world. Once
parents birth their own babies, in a balanced partnership, they know they can also take care of this
baby. The trust that is established in a freebirth, a delivery free of MANipulation and medical control,
lasts a lifetime.

The fear-based imprint of hospital birth is "the institution will take care of me". The consequence is
socialized welfare -- the institution of government taking care of our own responsibilities. Again the
experience of being my own midwife has made me freer ever since and the sequel of homebirth
naturally follows: natural healing at home (no pediatricians), home school (no teachers), and the living
experience of spirit (no churches). We do not rely on institutions to mediate or make safe life for us.
Birth is as safe as life gets.

As a spiritual midwife, my primary responsibility is to empower the mother to give birth spontaneously.
The tendency is to enroll in the cult of experts who say, "I know more about your body than you do."
My responsibility as a healer is to return any projections of power upon me to the family I am serving.
The truth is that I am not medically nor surgically skilled -- I cannot deliver a mother's baby for her.
Rather, I remind the mother that she is the only one able to give birth (her other option is to be
delivered) -- and I support her every way I can. In this way I am able to respond to my original calling --
to be the guardian at the gate.

To aspiring healers who are called to attend childbirth, I advise the following; first:

Midwife, heal thyself.

and next -

Do no harm.

Remember your own birth and forgive any trespasses upon your soul. And always, listen to the still,
small voice within -- and the voices of countless mothers before who gave birth with dignity and as a
natural expression of sexuality. Last, realize that mothers who give freebirth can connect with the
Source of all creation and be the God-Us in action.

It is an honor to see the original face of any new one. Each baby born holds the light very purely and
as a spiritual midwife, I greet the new one with celebration and gratitude for the ordinary miracle of
birth.

Humility, patience, trust, integrity -- these qualities are essential to a spiritual midwifery practice. I was
called as a young woman myself, yet traditionally it is the grandmothers who are asked by Spirit to be
midwives. Now that I am a grandmother, I see the wisdom in first being seasoned by life before
answering the call. However, as a young midwife, I would take my children to births with me,
considering this the best part of their home school experience. Therefore I encourage young midwives
to be who we really are -- if we have children, to give a living model to the families we serve by being
real mothers and taking care of our own children.

At the edge of the millennium, more midwives are being ordained by the God-Us to heal birth without
being indoctrinated nor controlled by medical licensure. In that one legal definition of a license is
permission to do what society considers "dangerous or immoral, we are choosing to be midwives based
on authentic need. Homebirth is not dangerous or immoral" --actually the converse is true -- hospital
birth is dangerous and immoral. The U.S. is 20th in the World Health Organization's statistics on
perinatal mortality and morbidity. In other words, there are 19 other countries in the world where it is
safer to give than birth than in an American hospital. The other countries with better statistics almost
exclusively use midwives rather than doctors. But what about the "consumer" or "patient" -- do they
not need protection? Let me clarify that I am not suggesting a "buyer beware" attitude toward
midwifery. If a midwife is capable, she will stay in practice. If a midwife is not serving her community,
she will eventually not be asked to attend anymore. We do not need the State in our bedroom for
indeed, birth is a woman's expression of sexuality -- and in my practice, not under legal or medical
jurisdiction.

Traditionally midwives are the wise women, the herbalists and psychologists of their communities. They
knew who was sleeping in whose lodge -- and being attentive to the sexual dynamics of their
communities, could facilitate the sexual energy of birth. A major eradication of wise women took place in
the dark ages and most midwives were destroyed as "witches". It has taken a long time for a
renaissance in birth to occur. Midwives today must be courageous to practice in our constrictive and
litigatious climate. Sometimes the most courageous amongst us, are targets of litigation. Midwives need
the support of the entire healing community to face the challenges ahead.

In 1986 I gave birth underwater to my last baby, Halley Sophia. As in our last three births, we hired no
expert to attend "just in case". All my work is devoted to making every mother a midwife -- so I practice
what I preach. I live in a state where parents have the right to chose where and with whom they give
birth so we broke no law. Yet, in my neighborhood there was an unease which, in my pregnant,
intuitive condition, I sensed. I went to my neighbor's church on a fast and testimony meeting day and
addressed the congregation all at once. I said, "I have prayed about this birth and have been told that
being home is our sacred place. However I have one fear and that is, if something goes wrong in this
birth, I'm concerned what you would think. So, I now ask that you pray for a perfect delivery at home."
After the meeting, the very ones who had been in the most fear about our upcoming unattended birth,
now were enrolled as allies for they soothed me with stories of their own relation's various births at
home and promised to pray for us.

With all these prayers, during Halleys ecstatic birth, I had a vision where I had eyes all over my body
and could "see" multi-dimensionally. I realized that I was like the White Hole in astrophysics -- that
source point where something new comes into material existence, the opposite of a Black Hole. My
uterus is the universe -- I am the stargate. As mother, I am the means by which life creatively
expresses itself and giving freebirth is akin to the origin of stars. In other words, I know how God-Us
must've felt giving birth to the universe.

How can my personal experiences in birth serve the world now? One idea of how evolution works, is
the morphogenetic field theory of Rupert Sheldrake. It has been popularized by Ken Keyes in his book,
THE HUNDREDTH MONKEY. What this idea states is that there are leaps of evolution for an entire
species which occur simultaneously amongst all members regardless of geographic location. In regards
to childbirth, I observe the phenomenon of morphic resonance in this way -- more and more families are
choosing to freebirth, all over the world. When a critical mass is reached of ecstatic rather than
suffering birth, there just may be a leap of faith. All mothers may remember that we are co- creators of
life and have totally within each of us the capacity to show the world what our love looks like in the
form of a baby. Whenever I give a talk or workshop, I imagine that the one mother who is the "critical
mass" for freebirth may be attending and inspired by my word medicine to reclaim birth. Indeed, each
mother I speak with, in my mind, is the hundredth monkey, a change agent for evolution, as well as the
God-Us incarnate. For as the canon of Hygieia College states, Healing One Mother is Healing the Earth.

Blessed Be the Babies!!


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Jeannine Parvati Baker, (1949-2005), is the author of
Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth,
H
ygieia:  A Woman's Herbal, and Conscious Conception.