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Waterwitch's Blog ...

By Waterwitch, May 19 2016 06:40PM

Holly Elfin was born at 6.55am on Saturday the 11th of August.

If you follow the astrological significance of birth, this means she is a Leo, born in the Chinese year of the Water Dragon. She was due at the Full Moon, on her father’s birthday, but was a week and two days late, and so was born on her grandfather’s birthday instead on a waning moon in Pisces.

She was delivered by me into the waiting hands of her father, Dan, on our boat, with the support and loving presence of our friends Lisa and Sara. We were moored up in a small wooded copse, in a beautiful wilderness valley in Yorkshire, where the foxes howl, the owls screech and a panther prowls it’s realm.

On the bank, within the Aspen trees was a firepit, and an alter to the beauty and power of woman, motherhood and birth. My firekeeper and guardian of the outside birth space was Lee, Sara’s husband, who lit and tended the fire each night for us, for the three nights that I laboured before the night I actually gave birth.

Inside the boat, the wood burner is lit, my alter brightened by candlelight, reminding me of all the candles that my sisters would be lighting for me for my labour and birth. Reminding me of the strength and love that held me, the energy that we had collectively conjured to fuel me through this journey, when we held my Blessing Way Ceremony. My Rite of Passage into Motherhood. Upon the alter, many of their gifts, candles galore, incense, flamingo feathers, beads brought from near and sent from afar, joined into a necklace of power, a bottle of freshly homemade elderflower cordial, a handmade felted mama holding her newborn babe, healing herbs and flowers for my bath, chocolate ‘celebrations’ in a sheer pink bag, words of affirmation. Gifts of love and symbols of power, from maidens, mothers and crones, this ancient female magic was all the midwife I needed to help me on this journey that I had not made before. To instill within me the confidence of all the women across the ages who had birthed their babes in trust and knowledge that their body was built for this job, and that all would be well.

Dan had been frantically trying to finish building the boat and fitting it out, so that we could move on to our 117 year old Dutch Barge, Cornelia Adriana, before I gave birth. We left our home mooring on the day that I was due and did the five or six hour cruise up to the spot that I had chosen to give birth. Dan did all the heavy work of winding the five locks and pushing the swing bridges, while I got the easy job of sailing the boat at exactly nine moons pregnant! We reached the winding hole that I had decided to commandeer for my birth at about the same time as Sara arrived on their boat Calypso. But shock horror, there were already a gang of lads camping in my spot that I had so carefully chosen for it’s seclusion, inaccessibility, and raw natural power and beauty! So we moored up a little further down and settled into our new spot.

During the following days, I continued to nest and prepare myself for birth. Sara and I hung out and drunk tea and ate cake, and generally reconnected after a summer of them having been off cruising round Yorkshire. At this time, the midwives who I had been having ante-natal checks with came to see where we were just in case I wanted to call them. I had made it clear to them, however, that I would only be calling if I really felt like I needed them for some reason. But that most likely we would be fine, and that we would call them out after birth for post-partum checks.

After two days, the lads were still camped up in my spot! So Sara and I went over to have a natter with them, and find out when they were planning on leaving. When I told them that I had wanted to give birth there, they graciously agreed to pack up and leave the next morning, setting themselves up a little way down the valley instead. And so we moved the two boats over, and set about tidying up and preparing the space for this awesome event. When all leftover rubbish had been bagged up, and the area cleansed with burning herbs and songs of power, Lee rebuilt the fireplace and Sara built us a beautiful alter. Dan and Lee prepared the wood for the fire and we were all set to go.

That night, Lee lit the fire and we had a lovely evening, sitting around the blazing logs, eating curry and re-connecting with our very dear friends who had lived next door to us for several years, but had been off cruising all summer.

That night (which was a Tuesday), Dan and I had some gooood loving! We knew it would probably be the last time for a while, and I also think he was trying to induce me, as he didn’t want to have to go back in to work, and wanted a holiday after all the hard work he’d been doing on the boat, as well as his full time job as a ranger! He had a month of paternity leave booked off, and hadn’t banked on having to wait past my due date for it!

Well, sure enough, his plan worked, and half an hour after we nestled down in the quilt, bathed in the fuzzy love haze of post-coital bliss, the contractions started. They began at 1.30am and after half an hour of regular contractions, 3-4 every 10 minutes, I woke Dan up and said I think we’re on!

They continued all through the night at that regularity and intensity, finally easing up and stopping into Wednesday morning, about 9am. I had called Lisa, who was going to be supporting me in my birth, in her capacity as a doula, and she warned me that they may stop during the day and pick up again later that night, recommending I get as much rest as possible through the day.

Sure enough, as the sun went down and we sat around the fire on Wednesday evening, they started up gently at first. Labouring on my hands and knees, on a sheepskin next to the fire, in a dark wooded copse under the waning moon, who was kissing us with her moonbeams. This one of my fondest memories of my birth. Then at around 2am, snugged up in my bed, once again the contractions kicked in again properly, with greater intensity than the night before.

Once again, I laboured through the night, and once again as morning came, they died down and stopped at about 10am on Thursday morning.

Exactly the same happened on Thursday evening, I laboured through the night into Friday morning, except this time the contractions didn’t stop, they continued all through Friday and into the evening, gradually building in intensity. I knew that this was it now. Tonight was the night, and if the previous night’s patterns were anything to go by, come 1-2am in the morning, we were going to be really cranking it up!

During these 3 days of labouring at night, and trying to rest during the day, I had been drinking lots of good herbal tea (Mama Tea, as I called it, a mix of raspberry leaf and nettles, comfrey leaf and catnip, calendula and chamomile, rose petals and elderflowers and lavender), to calm and soothe me, but also energise and strengthen me, assisting and preparing my womb during this warm up for the main event. I was also taking several herbal tinctures for pain relief, as well as to prevent post-partum haemmorage. I had set up a crystal grid around the boat as well, to help all of us to maintain a calm and focused strength for this birth. I wanted not a single shred of fear to be present that could put me off my course. Not my fear or anyone else’s. I was also taking regular doses of Bush Flower essences, to keep me emotionally balanced, and to help me release any unhelpful emotions, quickly and efficiently, that may surface during my labour.

These were my medicines. My spiritual allies. These were the ones I trusted to get me and my babe safely through this momentus event. And all this preparation seemed to me to be an essential part of the whole process of labour. Steadily preparing my body, my mind, my emotions and my spirit, for the relinquishing of my baby into this world. Gently guiding me ever deeper into the depths of my primal self, into my animalistic and instinctual self. Those parts of me that knew exactly how to give birth, as it is imprinted into the very essence of our being, as women.

We had been keeping Lisa updated over these few days, and we finally asked her to come over at about 1.30am on Saturday morning, almost exactly three days after my contractions first started.

By this time I was adopting an on-all-fours position, hanging over the back of the sofa for each contraction. Dan started gently holding me and tickling my big belly during each contraction, and I was amazed that the tickling really reduced the pain of the contractions massively, and shortened them as well, so I summoned him to tickle me for every one after that!

Lisa texted us to say that she had arrived, and Dan and Sara went to meet her at the road, and bring her up the towpath, and ferry her over to the other side of the canal, where our boat was still moored up.

When she arrived, I was just laid down having a little rest on the sofa, and I got this huge wave of love and bliss, a massive oxytocin rush, that was better than any ecstacy pill you could ever get (and I’ve had a few, so believe me, I know!) That was certainly the emotional peak of my body’s naturally produced chemical and hormonal drug cocktail, and it was fab! Bottle that n sell it and you’d make a fortune!

I vaguely remember gushing a load of “I love you”s at everyone, and then the contractions ramped up again another notch. I decided to adopt a standing position, and ended up hanging out of the side hatch with a brandy (medicinal you understand!) and then moved again to hang off the central roof beam of the boat. I was just moving around, letting my body be instinctively guided into positions that felt good. Doing a lot of circling of my hips, and walking on the spot motions.

Then out of no-where, came a huge emotional release, and I felt a deep sadness well up inside me. This grief just poured out of me as tears started spilling down my cheeks. I let them flow, letting go of this intense sorrow, about what , though,I had no idea. I understood that this was simply a part of the process of labour. An energetic release of emotion that no longer served me and was ready to leave. I can only imagine that this was transition.

At this point, I felt my energy wane. I felt like I needed a rest. So I got a large piece of amber and held it over my Solar Plexus for a few minutes, in order to re-energise myself for whatever lay ahead.

It was at this point I went back onto my hands and knees over the back of the sofa and my body started pushing. The mooing sounds that I had been making during each contraction now turned into roaring, as I used the sound to channel the pain of the contractions through and out of me. I felt like a lioness! I don’t know how long my body was pushing for, but I was acutely aware that I didn’t actually need to do anything. I didn’t need to push. My body did it for me. Just the right amount and not too fast. I also really didn’t want to tear, and so was happy to let this happen gradually and slowly so as not to force this baby through a passageway that was not ready for it. As her head crowned, it rocked in and out over several contractions, slowly easing it’s way out, until finally on the encouraging cries of “come on Jo, it’s time to push this baby out now”, I gave one mighty push and her head was out. The next contraction brought her body quickly and easily into the waiting hands of her father, who swung her straight underneath me, between my legs, and plopped her onto the sofa below me!

She was so small and slippery, and we were immediately wrapped in a big fluffy towel, placing her on my chest, skin to skin, and she let out a good hearty howl to announce her own arrival!

We spent the next half an hour gazing at and loving our new Little Elf and she nuzzled around until she found what she was looking for, and latched on. I had completely forgotten that I also had a placenta to deliver, until a gentle contraction reminded me there was still a little work left to do. I could feel that I needed to get into a squatting position, and on the next contraction the placenta came straight out and Dan caught it in a bowl.

As we were having a lotus birth, we were not cutting the cord, and so while I had a bath and cleaned up, Dan and Lisa dressed The Elf, and cleaned and prepared and placed the placenta into a pouch that I had made for the occasion.

The last thing I remember is drifting off to sleep with my baby wrapped in my arms, exhausted but happy, as I listened to Dan making all the phone calls to new grandparents, every so often popping his head into the bedroom to look at us with tears of amazement running down his face!

And my greatest heartfelt thanks go to all those beings, physical and metaphysical, present and absent, human, animal, plant and mineral who helped me.

You all played your parts beautifully to support me just enough and not too much, to do what I needed to do in order to have as empowered a birth as it is possible to have.




By Waterwitch, May 19 2016 11:48AM

Birth Journey – Blessingway Magic

Let me take you on a journey, sisters, travel with me now.

A journey for my birthing, of where and who and how.

Imagine if you will now, a lovely valley not far from here,

A little way upstream on this canal, do you want to lock or steer?

For we shall take our boat this way, a week or two from now

And I shall take the tiller, and you can stand upon the bow

For bridges are too much for me and winding locks is out

As at nearly 9 months pregnant, I am really far too stout.

So in summer sun, I hope at least, we'll wind our merry way

To the place where I shall birth my babe on his or her birthday.

And so the place that I have picked to bring you to my breast

Is a place of power and nature, a place to stop and rest.

On one side of the valley, the river winds it's course

Twisting like a serpent, an untamed waterforce.

And when I first feel labour start, to you I'll make my way,

To swim and meet the Goddess of this flowing waterway,

To ask for help and healing and an easy flowing birth,

To cool and calm my feelings of excitement and of mirth.

And when i've dipped and dived within her cooling cleansing love

I'll rest within the wildflower meadow drying in sun's rays from above.

And slowly I shall walk with you, stopping if I need,

To catch a breath and let the rush of birthing pass through me.

And as I walk my babe will move in gently rocking hips

To find the right position to birth from out my lips

And to our boat we shall return, to make a special nest,

To make some soup and cuddle up and have a good long rest.

For this birthing, I imagine, will happen when it's night,

And I've always love siestas, and right now, it's far too bright.

And night is when my friend's come out, to lend me of their gift,

To help me in this task of mine, to energise and lift

me up when I am needy of a little helping hand,

And so my friend's I call to you to come and gather round.

On the other side of the valley, between train tracks and canal,

is a strip of unkempt wilderness, and here I hear you howl,

And hoot your greeting under moon so full and pearly white,

So gather now my friends and helpers, allies of the night.

For many times I've heard the foxes mate and love round here,

Screeching with the owls above, from branches they appear,

And glide across this lovely glen on silent wings they drift

Catching evening thermals to gain a little lift.

But the one whose power I seek the most is blackest of them all

She prowls on silent pads of fur and leaps over a wall.

For she's the midnight mistress, the panther of this place

Her glinting amber eyes of gold, and darkened furry face.

Now you may think I fantasise, but let me tell you this

She's as real as real, and has been seen by Dan, now two years since

And locals too have seen her prowl alongside wall and fence.

The jaguar of Shipley, now I know you think I jest,

But Dan found tracks of big cat paws, and that is not the best

A few weeks later a deer was found, a hanging in a tree

mauled and partly eaten, now I wonder how that could be?

So Mistress, now I call to you to come and let me ride you,

For you have been my teacher, my ally and my guide,

Your lessons tough and sometimes cruel, you try to teach me how

To step through fear and darkness, and I think I need you now.

For I have never given birth and do not know the way,

But with you to guide me through the dark, I know we'll reach the day

The day that I'll present my child to the rising sun of morn

The day our life will start anew, a blessed breaking dawn.

But first I must allow my body time to squeeze you out,

Cresting with the peaking waves and rolling with each bout,

Moving round in circles, my hips will gently rock

And to the beat of reggae we'll dance the lover's lock

For that which got you into me, will surely help out,

With some dancing and some smooching and some olive oil about!

For I intend for this to be a birth of ecstacy

Of orgasmic body pulsing and hormonal bliss for me,

And just in case I need to chill, to help me to relax,

I've got my good friend Mary Jane rolled and ready in a box!

So as I let my body ripen, opening inside,

I'll sit and stare at licking flames beside the fireside.

Calling on this energising elemental energy,

To charge me up for the work ahead of pushing you from me.

And when I know the time is right, a choice I'll have to test,

To stay out in nature's beauty or retreat into my nest.

My wild soul, she yearns to birth you under moon and stars,

To present you to the beasts and trees, to Venus and to Mars

To feel the firmness of the land under your tiny newborn feet

To smell the grass and feel the dew, to let you meet and greet

The ones who helped me birth you, the friends who you will know

The old ones who will teach you, and nurture you to grow.

And yet there will be time for that, and so it may just be

That I want the soft warm cushions of my nesting cave round me

To be comfy in the flower-strewn warming waters of my pool

Or to have the firm support of the ancient mother's birthing stool.

And here my crystal helpers will assist me in my task

In their loving vibe and gentle pulse around me I will bask

And if I need some nourishment, upon the stove will be

A pot of soup to feed us well, to help me push you free.

And finally when you decide that you would like to come

Earthside, to greet the world, and meet your Dad and Mum,

My body will relinquish you in a mighty pushing swoon

Birthing our creation from my wonderful big womb.

So sisters help me make this dream my birth reality,

Our group intent and focus, can make this really be.

In circle, we are women who make magic happen fast

So send this vision love and strength in one great mighty blast.

And when you hear that time has come for me to birth my child,

Remember this birth journey, just for a little while,

And if you feel so inclined I invite you to retreat,

with me to Shipley valley and in spirit we will meet.

My love and thanks to all of you for coming on this day

so let's get on with the rest of it, and love and laugh and play!

By Waterwitch, Summer 2012

By Waterwitch, May 19 2016 11:39AM

Freebirth - it is hard to define. I think that's because as a concept and a practise, it is about autonomy. Autonomy from a system, and agents of that system, who seek to control, co-erce, manipulate and ultimately enforce conformity to a self-appointing institutional disciplining authority. I guess for me a freebirther is someone who autonomously births without having allowed themselves to be disempowered or subjected by said authority.

This discussion has spun off from a thread on a homebirth forum today, regarding a lady who wanted to know if she can claim her birth as a freebirth when the midwife was in the room next door. This kind of mentality, I believe, stems from any kind of alternative movement gathering a hip status, cos it's just so “out there man”. Anti-authoritarian political action gains a fashionable following, with all sorts of conformist folk wishing they were that brave/cool/radical etc. You see it in all walks of life, those who aspire to a certain status/class/culture/sub-culture etc, wearing the clothes/hairstyle/badge or driving such n such a car/bike/van etc, spouting the politically correct narrative of said culture, listening to/reading/watching that sub-culture's media texts, narratives and popular culture. There is a huge grey area of transition between the wannabe's and the genuine article I find. And who is to judge who is more genuine than someone else? Especially in an autonomous setting. Where anyone with an ounce of true autonomy won’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of them or their style/actions/ideas/convictions etc.

Autonomy means you write your own script, you dance your own dance to the rhythm of your own drum, and you don’t need anyone to give you permission to do/think/feel/be anything. If you're asking permission, you ain't free. So for me I guess it really comes down to the paradoxical illusion of freedom.

What is it to be free? Are you free if you act without seeking permission or approval from any kind of perceived authority? What if that action provokes a response from said perceived authority that shows you that actually you're not as free as you thought? Some people believe freedom is simply a state of mind. Others think it is an elaborate illusion perpetuated in order to keep the masses docile. Maybe it is both. And there lies the paradox. Is someone free because they decide that they are acting autonomously? Or are they just kidding themselves? Can true freedom ever be reached within the confines of an authoritarian culture, or is it a borderland limbo state of moving ever closer, inch by inch through the tyranical realms of life, towards the self-realisation and actualisation of true emancipation?

I dont know if I have the answer to any of those questions. But I think they are important questions to ask ourselves and ponder. As with any philosophical meanderings, there is no right or wrong answer, and to think you can define such a concept as freedom with any objectivity is to miss the point that freedom is an incredibly personal and subjective experience. It is relative, not constant. One man's freedom is another woman's prison. And vice versa.

It would be convenient to think that we can define freebirth. To put parameters around it that categorises it, and by doing so, gain a collective consensus around what is and what isn't a freebirth. But in reality, perhaps it is up to each individual to assess their own situation. To be truly honest with themselves about their own experience, and to judge for themselves whether they felt liberated by it.

And so I find my mind wandering off on a tangent, considering terminology and the ownership and appropriation of language, as well as the interpretation of definition used by culturally specific narrative discourses.

Does a sub-culture define its own conceptual ideologies and cultural practises? Is it their right to claim ownership over that as well as the language and narrative with which they define themselves and their culture?

It is an unfortunate reality that when classical anthropologists seek to identify, deconstruct and define sub-cultures from an objective and quantitative perspective, they often completely miss its very essence and defining features that only a subjective and qualitative viewpoint can provide. In attempting to force the sub-culture to define itself within rigid parameters of language and interpretation, it attempts to gain authority over that culture and therefore subject it to its own system of values and norms.

As an anarchist I personally reject anyone attempting to define me according to their own framework of ideology and language. I assume authority over my own personal journey, and this includes who and what I define myself as, if I should choose to do so at all. I may choose to adjust that definition to suit different environments and agents within those environments. I may present my true nature or I may choose to conceal that truth, depending upon the nature of the agents and the environment I find myself within. I may choose to avoid such environments altogether because they represent a threat to the sovereignty that I claim over my own life and everything contained within it.

And so goes the choreography of my own personal dance with freedom. I find it to be an ebbing and flowing sea, an endless and ever-changing landscape in which lies calm serenity as well as hidden perils, that may threaten to rock my boat or even sink it at a moment's notice.

I give no-one authority over my own journey, and so, therefore, I cannot claim authority over another's. I think this is ultimately the resting place I find myself at.

As a Birth Anarchist, I believe in autonomy over one’s own body, birth choices and birth story. As the writer of your own script, you may define yourself as a freebirther or not, and you may choose whether your own story is a work of literal fact, pure fiction, or anything inbetween, according to who you are writing it for and why. Of course, whether or not anyone else joins you in consensually validating it, is up to them. How they choose to interpret and place your story, within their own personal framework of reference is also up to them. But as a Birth Anarchist, my body, my birth choices and my birth stories are my own and anyone who says any different can jolly well FUCK OFF !!

By Waterwitch, May 19 2016 01:41AM

This article was written after I undertook some informal research on a freebirth forum that I am a member of, on why women choose to freebirth. This is what I discovered ...


Firstly, I’d like to just address the issue of terminology regarding birthing without medical assistance;

While the term Unassisted Childbirth (or UC - coined by Laura Kaplan-Shanley in the book entitled Unassisted Childbirth) is commonly used these days to refer to a birth that is planned and occurs without medical assistance, the term ‘freebirth’ seems to be generally preferred by freebirthers themselves, as they consider their experience to be one that is ‘free’ or ‘freeing’, whereas the term Unassisted Childbirth implies that childbirth ought to be assisted by someone, and that the mother cannot or should not be doing it by herself.

Also the idea and term of ‘assistance’ is further muddied by differing opinions on what constitutes ‘assistance’. The desire for a birth that is not medically assisted does not necessarily mean that the birthing mother does not want assistance of any kind, she just does not want it from the medical profession. Many freebirthers do desire assistance, either from family, friends, or a doula, to help support them both practically and emotionally through the intense experience of birth.

For this reason I shall use the term ‘Freebirth’ rather than ‘Unassisted Childbirth’ (UC) here…..

Regarding the Medical Management of Birth

Many women choose to freebirth as a direct response to the mass assumption, acceptance and experience of birth as a medical event. This section deals with issues that arise for freebirthers regarding the medicalisation of childbirth……

Trauma from previous medically managed births

Many women cite this as one of the main reasons for choosing to freebirth.

While initially, this may be seen as a choice that comes from a place of fear, many women who choose to freebirth after previously traumatic medical births find the freebirthing experience to be incredibly healing and empowering. Often the trauma that may still have been present from a previous birth is greatly healed by a subsequently empowering birth.

And many women find as they journey through pregnancy, as they prepare themselves practically, emotionally and mentally, that they come to their birth not afraid, but confident and empowered, informed and prepared. Freebirthers understand that they are taking responsibility for their own health and safety, as well as that of their child, and so are often incredibly thorough in their research and preparation for birth.

Detrimental environment and presence of Health Care Proffesionals (HCPs)

Many freebirthers do not wish to give birth in a medical setting, as it does not feel safe or comfortable for them. This may be the clinical and cold setting of a hospital labour ward, or it may even include the use of medical equipment brought with, laid out and used by midwives in a homebirth setting.

One of the most common reasons for wanting to freebirth is the birthing mother’s desire and need for total privacy whilst birthing. A desire not to have the intensely intimate process of birth disturbed by strangers coming in and out, observing, commenting, suggesting, directing, co-ercing or enforcing a certain birth scenario.

Often this choice is to ensure that no-one enters the birth space who may come with their own fears around birth, which may then get projected upon the birthing mother, which may in turn affect her birth choices and outcomes. It has been many a woman’s experience that HCP’s themselves can bring an energy of panic and fear into a birth space, due to their own anxieties and lack of trust around the natural process of birth. This can then have an incredibly detrimental knock on effect upon the psyche of the birthing mother, which can then stall her labour and prompt the need for medical interventions.

Often a freebirthing mother will only want those present whom she loves and trusts. This may include her partner, members of her family, her children, close friends, and sometimes a doula. She will have taken the time to consider carefully whether the presence of any or all of these people will be of help or hindrance to her in her birth. And in the case of having a doula present for practical and emotional help during birth, they will have taken the time during pregnancy to get to know one another, to come to a place of deep understanding of one another, of mutual trust and respect in supporting the birthing mother to have the type of birth she desires.

And sometimes a freebirther will choose to give birth totally on her own, as she does not want the distraction of any other person around her, even her loved ones.

Risk Assessment – Freebirth vs Medically Managed Birth

Most freebirthers would generally acknowledge that no matter how, where and around whom you birth, there are always going to be risks involved in giving birth. No birth can ever be guaranteed to have a 100% safe outcome. With that said, it is then up to every individual mother-to-be to weigh up the risks of all the various options she has to choose from. This choice is an incredibly personal one, and will be greatly influenced by the beliefs and experiences of the individual. Within this context, there is no one-size-fits-all birth that will be the perfect birth for every woman. The best birth will be the one where she feels safest. For some women, this will be under the care of HCPs. But for others, the very presence of these individuals is enough to totally shut down the labour process.

In relation to Risk Assessing various pathways of birth, most freebirthing women have a lack of faith in the medical model of managed birth. They may trust some aspects of it, but not others, or they simply may not subscribe to this philosophy of health and well-being at all.

Some of the most common practises within a medically managed birth that freebirthers take issue with the safety of are;

- The use of any kind of non-emergency intervention (vaginal examinations, cervical sweeps, breaking of waters, induction, foetal monitoring, use of foreceps/ventouse suction, cesaerian section).

- The use of pharmaceutical drugs within labour and birth (none of which have been proven to be safe for mother or baby).

- Early cord clamping, which deprives the newborn baby of much of its total blood volume (which is still in the umbilical cord and placenta), This may increase the chances of; baby needing resuscitation, post-partum haemorrhage and problems delivering the placenta.

- Removal of baby immediately after birth (for weighing, washing, and other medical interventions that may be needed due to the side effects of a medically managed birth).

Put simply, the freebirther generally wishes to avoid the potential cascade of medical interventions, due to the associated risks to physical, emotional and mental health of mum and baby.

Lack of continuous care and lottery as to which midwife you will get.

Unfortunately in our current health system, the underfunding and understaffing of maternity services within the NHS means that most women will not get continuity of care with the same midwife. They will also not be able to pick the midwife who provides their ante-natal care, or who will attend them in birth. For most women, the desire to build a relationship with a midwife who you click with, trust and respect, cannot unfortunately be met within the NHS maternity services. While many women are lucky enough to get wonderful midwives to attend them during birth, many do not, and for freebirthers, this midwife lottery is too great a risk to take a chance on.

Desire for, but lack of available finance for an Independent Midwife.

For some freebirthers, the ideal scenario for maternity care would be that offered by Independent Midwives; the opportunity to pick the midwife who you feel a good connection with, the opportunity to have thorough one-to-one care throughout pregnancy, all the while building a good solid relationship and mutual understanding of the birthing mother’s needs and desires for her birth. Most Independent Midwives are more open to alternative birth models, and have the luxury of time on their side that most NHS midwives would love but do not have. Time to spend with the mother prior to birth, time to be patient during birth, and time to really care for her and babe after birth. Unfortunately, this top class service comes with a price tag that is quite simply out of financial reach for many women. And so this can lead some women to consider freebirthing as their next favoured birth option. While some birth ‘experts’ worry that this route to freebirthing is born out of fear, more often women who come to freebirth from this direction end up massively empowered, as they take the responsibility for their birth into their own hands, thoroughly researching birth and its implications, often far more than mothers who have a midwife to care for them, who essentially takes on the responsibility for the health and safety of mother and child.

Personal preparation in case of quick labour

For some mothers who have had very fast labours in previous births, freebirthing may be considered within the possibilities of a wider birth scenario; of birthing in hospital or having an assisted homebirth. This freebirthing preparation can help mum to feel at ease on a practical level, as well as mentally and emotionally, just in case baby arrives before medical birth assistance does!

Birth as a Personal and Family Journey of Natural Process,

Trust, Belief and Empowerment

Many freebirthers plan this type of birth as they wish to allow the journey of pregnancy, labour and birth to be a natural and intuitive one. A journey where a mother can totally tune into herself and her baby, in order to fully experience the beauty, joy and power of undisturbed natural birth.

Where she can listen to her body and trust its signals, allowing labour to unfold at its own pace. Where she can be the one fully in control of her body and her birth.

Where she can bring her baby Earthside, without the distractions of other peoples ‘expertise’, opinions and agendas.

Freebirthers often have differing opinions on birth to the mainstream medical perspective; based upon their own personal political, ideological, social and spiritual beliefs, choices, lifestyles and philosophies of life.

Here are a number of statements that encompass a range of freebirthing ideals;

Birth does not belong in a medical setting.

Birth is not intrinsically pathological.

Birth is a deeply intimate, emotional and for some, spiritual experience.

Birth flows smoothly if unobserved, like birthing mammals.

Birth flows smoothly if the body is allowed to labour in its own good time.

Birth flows smoothly if we can trust the body’s perfectly orchestrated hormonal journey.

The pain that may be experienced will not be unbearable, and I will be able to deal with it and/or find my own preferred methods of alleviating it.

Birth is a Rite of Passage that will empower me into the next chapter of my life.

I believe and trust in a birthing woman’s instinctive ability to birth without assistance.

There are many things that a freebirther may desire from her birth that she may believe she will not get in a medically assisted birth;

Desire for total autonomy over her own body.

Desire to use non-medical, natural, complementary or alternative forms of birth assistance without interference or unwanted opinions from HCPs (eg. herbs, essential oils, birthing pool, crystals, vibrational essences, homeopathy, reflexology, reiki, acupuncture, hypnosis etc).

Desire for a non-technological and non-pharmacological birth (and pregnancy) (eg. no scans, monitoring, measuring, timing, forceps, ventouse, drugs, surgery etc).

Desire to feel like the most special person in the world, rather than just another woman who is taking too long to push her baby out.

Desire to attain a deeper connection with her own instincts and baby within pregnancy and birth, and to be able to trust those instincts without deferring to a ‘higher authority’.

Desire for deeper, more intimate bonding with baby by having an instinctive, unobserved and natural physiological birth, as well as no interference or removal of baby from mum immediately after birth.

Desire to have a natural/alternative third stage of labour (eg delayed cord clamping, lotus birth).

Desire to allow family members (including other children) to attend the birth, which may otherwise be more difficult/unsuitable/unacceptable within a medical setting.

Desire for a greater family bond and social education from the shared family experience of childbirth.

Desire to facilitate the most empowering personal experience from birth as possible.

Desire for the personal sense of achievement of ‘doing it by myself’, ‘delivering my own baby’, or ‘being the first one to touch my baby’.

Desire for the shared family experience and empowerment of freebirthing; ‘my partner caught the baby’, or ‘my daughter was my doula’, or even ‘my cat/dog helped me during labour’!

Unassisted Pregnancy

It is also relevant to make mention of the journey of Unassisted Pregnancy (UP) here;

While some freebirthers choose to have ante-natal and post-natal care either with NHS or Independent Midwives, some women choose to have a totally Unassisted Pregnancy as well as Childbirth. This is mainly due to a desire to totally avoid the detrimental influence of the medical establishment upon the body, emotions, mind and spirit of both mother and unborn babe. It is the belief of many freebirthers that the pathological approach taken by the medical model of maternity care, can create a shroud of fear around a pregnant woman. The obsession with testing for deformities and abnormalities creates an assumption or expectation for something to go wrong, or for baby to be imperfect in some way, and this overwhelming idea can plague many a mother-to-be with anxieties and fears throughout pregnancy, which may arguably contribute to her fears then inhibiting her within birth, leading to the possibility of medical intervention and post-natal depression.

Official Obstacles to Freebirthing

While freebirthing is technically legal, it has, unfortunately, been the experience of too many women that those who choose to birth outside of the accepted system are sometimes co-erced, harassed and persecuted by various official bodies, from the medical establishement, to the police and social services. While in the vast majority of cases, these interferences are totally unfounded and actually illegal, the pressure and persuasive influence can be intimidating and can spoil an otherwise beautiful birth journey. (In this situation, AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services) are a freebirther’s best friend, supporting them with information as well as legal advice and advocacy, should their legal rights become trampled or infringed)

Freebirthing women who choose to take responsibility for their births must also consider these wider implications, even though the law supports the choice of women to freebirth, interfering professionals sometimes make it their business to try to enforce their model of ‘care’ upon mother and/or child. There is plenty of information and support for women who wish to freebirth, and it is only by women standing up for and re-claiming their rights to birth as they choose, that we will ever hope to change these old authoritarian attitudes, and re-claim full autonomy over our own bodies.

While some women choose to freebirth totally under the radar, without informing the medical establishement of their pregnancy and birth until after the birth, others choose to interact with maternity care in varying degrees;

Some merely inform the Head of Midwifery of their pregnancy and intention to freebirth.

Some accept or choose to take up ante-natal and/or post-natal care with NHS maternity services and either openly plan to freebirth, or go along with an assisted homebirth plan and then do not call the midwives until babe is born. This is sometimes known as a planned BBA (Born Before Arrival).

Some women openly plan to freebirth with NHS midwives to be on-call, in case they wish to call in the unlikely event of problems.

Some employ an Independent Midwife on a reduced service basis, in order to keep the NHS off their backs and help with official paperwork before and after birth.

Every woman’s needs and desires for birth are different.

Every freebirther comes to her birth with different experiences and expectations for her birth.

And it is up to each woman to choose which path to take, to decide how much or how little care she wants or needs.

This is why freebirth is free.

Strength and courage, belief and trust are the necessary ingredients to make freebirthing the most amazing experience of your life!



Recommended Reading

Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan-Shanley.

The Birthkeepers – Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition by Veronika Sophia Robinson and Andri Thwaites.

Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz.

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley

Recommended Websites and Online Groups

Laura Shanley’s Unassisted Childbirth website


United Kingdom Freebirth/Unassisted Childbirth Group (Facebook)


AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services)

Brilliant organisation to contact for legal information on Freebirth, as well as legal representation and advocacy, if freebirthers are being harrassed or threatened by HCPs, police or Social Services.


By Waterwitch, May 19 2016 12:24AM

Mary-Jane – My Freebirth Plant Doula

I’d like to share with you my story of Freebirthing with my good friend Mary-Jane.

Yes, I smoked Ganga at the very end of my pregnancy, through labour, and during the first 2-3 weeks post-partum. I had not smoked anything at all through the rest of my pregnancy, and had not been a habitual smoker for many years.

Here is my experience.......

During my late teens and 20s, I smoked Ganga regularly and habitually. For me it was emotional and mental anaesthetic to numb the pain caused by very violent and traumatic experiences I had from age 17-21. During my 20s I also started learning about healing, and as my healing journey progressed, I relied less and less upon my good friend Mary-Jane, until by my 30s I no longer smoked it regularly. Very occasionally I would be given some in trade or exchange for some healing I had done for someone. And it would sit in a special box for the time when I might really need it. When my father died, for example, I had some that I'd kept for about 6 months or so, and it got me through the emotional rollercoaster of grief for the first few weeks.

By this time, in my mid 30s, I had done a lot of ceremonial shamanic work, and realised Ganga’s nature as a teacher plant, as opposed to it being a 'drug'. I believe and have experienced that it has a myriad of uses, but I think primarily, its functions are as a relaxant, as a pain reliever, and as a catalyst for changing states of consciousness and awareness.

Of course, the level of these effects will depend on how much you take, the method of delivery, as well as the type of plant/preparation you can access.

I have never smoked skunk. It is generally laced with chemicals and grown hydroponically and in an indoor and artificial environment. It has also been modified and bred to concentrate the THC (psycho-active compound) levels. This is why so many people lose the plot when they smoke too much skunk.

My favourite smoke is good old fashioned African BushWeed. Grown in the Earth, it keeps you grounded on your journey. It has been grown outside, with real Sun caressing its leaves, the Wind whispering through it and the Rain quenching its thirst. It has been elementally and naturally grown. Not battery farmed like most of the weed in this country (UK). And it doesn't blow your head off.

When I decided that I wanted to use Ganga for labour, it was as if I was calling on an old friend that I hadn't seen for a while, to help me with this most awesome event. I initially only thought about its pain relieving properties, but it actually gave me so much more than that.

I sourced some nice weed a few months in advance, and bought some American Spirit Tobacco to smoke it with. This Tobacco doesn’t have any chemicals added to it and they are not used in its growing. It is used ceremonially in prayer pipes in Native American ceremony and ritual. For Native Americans, Tobacco is a sacred plant that is used in many ways, including smoking it, primarily to send prayers to Great Spirit. It is the plant ally which creates and facilitates a strong channel of communication between the As Above and the So Below.

The way it is used recreationally in the West, is seen as a sacrilege to the power and true purpose of this teacher plant. It has been abused and tainted. This is why it makes people sick in the modern world. There are Shamen in the Amazon called Tabaqueros, who use and smoke their own grown Tobacco for ceremonial and healing purposes. It is MUCH higher in nicotine than our commercially grown and packaged Tobacco. They never get lung cancer.

The way we are taught (programmed) to see these plants is as 'drugs' and commodities, that are sanctioned or not, but are fundamentally pathological. From a holistic, herbal and shamanic perspective, these plants are wise teachers, who are sentient and conscious, and who are there to help us through spiritual, healing and initiatory experiences, if called upon respectfully and honoured as sacred. So this is how I approached my ‘use of Ganga’ for my Birth journey.

I sat in meditation with the Weed and Tobacco I had acquired, and I asked them to help me in my Birth, in whatever way they deemed appropriate.

Initially, I had only intended to smoke it during my labour, to help ease the pain of the contractions. I had also read that Cannabis is an oxytocic herb, and so it therefore promotes the release of this Love hormone, which as we all know, is essential to the Birthing process. This told me that Ganga had been intelligently designed specifically for use during Birth, by The Creator.

As my due date drew closer, I started having real trouble getting to sleep, partly because I was nervous and excited, partly because I was physically uncomfortable in my fully pregnant body. So about a week before I was due to give Birth, I smoked a very small amount to try and help me to get off to sleep.

My risk assessment reasoning was that by now, my Baby was well and truly built. Any adverse effects would be comparatively minimal compared to if it was during the earlier stages of pregnancy. But something strange and unexpected happened. Because I hadn’t smoked it for a long time, the psycho-active effects of it came on very strongly. Instead of getting me off to sleep, it instead took me into a very deep and contemplative state.

I had just had a Blessingway Ceremony – a celebration and Rite of Passage into Motherhood - and had a table full of gifts, candles, herbs and flowers, affirmations, pictures and words of love and support, strength and sisterhood. I sat up throughout the night arranging all these tokens of Sisterhood Magic into an alter. I read all the words that had been pasted into a book for me. I created a Sacred Landscape of Birth. My Birthing Alter. This took me all night, and in this altered state of consciousness, was my first step into the deep, primal Labyrinth of Birth. I experienced a profound sense of calm and trust in this journey I was embarking upon. That is one of the gifts that Mary-Jane brought me. She connected me to my ancient female instincts and primal knowledge. She chilled me right out and helped me to weave this magic that had been gifted to me by my sisters, into a strong and powerful web. A web that connected me to all Birthing women since always, for always, who make this Rite of Passage, and come out the other side empowered and wise, as Mothers. Ganga helped me to access a state of consciousness that prepared me on the deepest emotional, mental, spiritual and mystical levels. And that is what I needed.

So as the week leading up to my due date progressed, I continued to smoke a small joint late at night, when my partner had gone to bed, and I was still awake. Continuing my personal journey of preparation. Sitting with myself in the dark quiet hours. Looking deep into my own soul. Connecting to my unborn child. I did quite a lot of birth art, expressing my desires as well as my general state of being. Art to represent and call my helpers and allies of Nature and Spirit. The Crystals and the Plants, the Animals and my Ancestors. My cat Inka would sit next to me being the constant reassuring companion that he is. Purring with approval, at my pictures, my simple presence, and my profound processing.

So Ganga facilitated an incredibly deep and profound preparation process that I really had not anticipated.

Before I had started smoking it, I had been scared. I will not beat around the bush and pretend that I was 100% full of confidence. Cos I wasn’t! I felt like I was about to do a parachute jump out of an aeroplane. Having planned to freebirth, I felt like I had packed my own parachute. In my preparation, I had folded, packed, unpacked, checked and re-checked that parachute many times. I trusted myself to pack it well more than I trusted anyone else. But I still didn’t know if it was actually going to open when I jumped out of the plane. That is how I felt leading up to my due date. By the time my due date arrived, I had been smoking a little bit of Ganga each night for about a week, and my foreboding nerves had gone. Replaced instead with a deep sense of peace and trust in the process. My own demons of fear had been exorcised. That is what Ganga did for me. Combined with the ritualised and sacred preparation process I had been going through.

But this is off the back of having had a long relationship with Mary-Jane. I know her and she knows me. We are old friends. And in those weeks, I was also testing out my ‘dosages’ . Seeing just how strong this Weed was. I really did not want to get into the midst of labour, and then find myself spinning out on a massive trip, cos I had underestimated the strength of it. It gave me a time of getting re-acquainted with her, and for my body to build up a little bit of tolerance so that I didn’t get too wasted during labour. I wanted the Ganga to relax me, to ease any pain, and to help me get into a deeply primal state of consciousness. I did not want to find myself out of control, wasted, tripping out too hard, or having a white-out. That was absolutely not the aim of the game. But the reality is that this could easily happen to someone who has not met Mary-Jane before. Or even if you haven’t smoked in a while, or tried that particular batch of weed. It is also much more likely that you will experience these more intense and detrimental effects if Ganga is ingested, taken as a concentrated oil, or smoked in a bong or pipe. When used in excess, the psycho-active effect is enhanced, and the likelihood of a bad trip increases massively. This would NOT be a good place to be in mid-labour. So smoking it in a joint with tobacco is a much better way to use it, because it gives you much more control over your ‘dosage’.

I found I actually only smoked in the early part of labour anyway, as by the time I got to the stage of pushing, there was no way I could have held a joint, much less smoked it.

And then post-partum, I can only say that Ganga was a total life-saver. Again, I hadn’t intended to smoke it at all after birth. But then no-one told me how much my body was going to hurt AFTERWARDS! I honestly felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Everything hurt. And so in the following 2-3 weeks, I smoked it for pain relief purposes, but also as an emotional stabiliser, when my hormones were clearly all over the shop, and my emotions were fluctuating over the smallest little things. Again, she just chilled me out! When my nipples hurt so much that I dreaded the next feed, a little joint eased the pain, and helped my general resolve to carry on through the tough bits. When I felt like crying cos it seemed like I was drowning in a sea of dirty nappies, a little joint stilled the turbulent waters and gave me a reality check, helping me to put things into perspective!

I never smoked around my daughter, and always went outside.

In my overall risk assessment, I considered it to be a low risk to my daughter, before, during and after Birth. When I considered the orthodox medical pharmaceuticals used routinely in medically managed Birth, there simply was no comparison. I do not trust the safety to myself or to my child of ultrasound scans in utero, or other forms of anomaly testing. I do not believe any pharmaceutical drugs to be safe and risk free, be they used for induction, pain relief, third stage ‘management’, preventing post-partum haemorrhage, or vaccination. I trust nature, and I trust plants. I do not trust concentrated, selected and synthesised versions of those plants, as man thinks he can best Nature in strength, dosage and synergistic application. Man always goes over the top, in my opinion. Makes them too strong. Like the skunk. Now don’t get me wrong, Orthodox medicine is brilliant for an emergency. A true emergency. But not used willy nilly, or even worse, routinely.

So that was how Mary-Jane supported me through Birth. She was my Plant Doula! The truth of the matter is I actually value the contribution she made to my journey far more before and after Birth, than for the actual Birth itself. And while it did help a bit for pain relief, during and after Birth, the majority of the benefits, I would say were emotional, psychological and spiritual.

These are also the areas, in my opinion, which we need to re-visit within the whole culture of Birth. Our mainstream birthing framework and perception needs re-evaluating. We need to remember that Birth is about much more than just the physical body and the labour experience. It is a deeply emotional experience that is heavily influenced by a Birthing Mother’s state of mind and emotional journey throughout her whole pregnancy, but increasing in intensity the closer she gets to the Birth itself. When Birth is good, it has the potential to be a profoundly spiritual experience, of deep magic steeped in ancient female mystery and knowledge, profoundly empowering and healing. We need to re-claim these aspects of Birth, for the health and sanity of Womankind as well as for our Children. Because when Birth goes badly, the wounds that are inflicted upon the heart, mind and soul are often deep and can have a lasting and damaging impact upon Mother, Baby and their Family relationships. This cannot be good for our society as a whole, and is unfortunately becoming increasingly prevalent.

A week after my daughter was born, we finally settled on her name, and her initials are HEMP !!! ;-)