Last month I went to Germany for a trip with my sister. We decided to couchsurf which is when you register on the couchsurfing website and are able to contact people living in the place where you want to visit. They offer you a bed or a couch for free. Staying with complete strangers? Sounds risky?
If so ask yourself why. Is is media induced fear or based on real stories?
In fact the couchsurfing motto is “creating a better world, one couch at a time”. Similar to a hypnobirther I know who states “creating peace in the world, one birth at a time” !
I’m married with two kids, so it’s not the sort of thing I do much any more – I am a little averse to risk with two toddlers in tow. But given the opportunity to enter into a bit of an adventure and get in touch with my inner teenager – I’m there.
So a few weeks ago Cherry, my sister, and I turned up at a family flat on the University Campus in Goettingen where our hosts Aline and Raubert had laid out coffee and biscuits for our arrival. This was a sign of things to come from this family who were such great hosts.
Aline and Raubert are from Brazil, a very different culture to me, so we got chatting, talking about all sorts of things, during which she asked me what I did. It turned out that her close friend Giovanna was leading a natural birth project in Brazil, but was living nearby on campus. For me that was a remarkable coincidence – this couchsurfing that I’d seen as a bit risky was turning out to be a wonderful and almost fateful experience.
Giovanna came over to visit on Saturday. She was a doula in Brazil where the caesarean rate is about 80% – women book their sections in to coincide with their manicures, facials and waxing. In certain part of Brazil, natural birth is disappearing altogether. Which is tragic.
Giovanna told me that her culture was rich with birth traditions which not only resided within the indigenous tribes but which came over with African communities. She was working to resurrect these traditions looking at the holistic approach to birth rather than a purely physical one. She viewed birth as a wonderful, spiritual, experience that people were missing out on. She understood that the switch to medical birth put babies at greater risk, and also jeopardised that bond between mother, child and the communities they live.
Giovanna was familiar with breathing and visualisation work – but unaware of the use of hypnosis which showed me how hypnosis and altered states are two things with just different labels when it comes birth. She even knew the opening blossom visualisation – though hypnobirthing is unheard of in the permaculture communities she works in.
The stories she told reminded me of something I’d heard about recently in Ecuador of a newly set up natural birthing centre in a hospital which was using a method called Gravity Birth. By reverting to natural birth and reintroducing their indigenous birth traditions they have managed to reduce the rate of caesarean sections from 18 to 8 percent, as well as the neonatal death rate from a national average of 19 per 1,000 to 7.8 per 1,000 births.
Finally, Giovanna showed me a closing ceremony which midwives perform, while chanting hypnotic songs, on the mother after the baby has been. By wrapping the mother up with a Rebozo and pulling it tight across spiritual centres, or Chakras as we know them, they are able to close the mothers body up spiritually following birth. Whilst Giovanna didn’t know the songs she showed me the technique, which was incredibly calming, centering and relaxing. She told me that having had it demonstrated on her by local midwives she had felt wonderful and as if an inner balance had been restored.
Sadly we didn’t have much more time together, but this trip did show me that by taking what we perceive to be risks within our existing belief systems, we can actually get in touch with memorable experiences that would have otherwise completely passed us by.
The story of Brazil, and their birthing culture, makes me realise how fortunate we are to have a culture where we still birth naturally but I’m also aware of just how vulnerable our birthing culture is to the process of medicalisation.
The future of birth is in our hands ladies. Trust in your body, trust in humanity, trust birth.