Whew. This post has been a long time coming. This idea, this theory, this beleif- has been such a huge part of my journey.
My becoming, is here.
It's actually a little scary to put it all out there, you know the stuff that makes you you. Birth is my life. Even in crazy seasons where there is no births being photographed (ahem, thanks 2020) birth is always on my mind. I live to do this job. I pour my heart into blogging and marketing. I created this website that was just such a labor of love. I never feel like I am working.
I am so so so in love with what I do. I know that no matter where I am in life, birth is going to be a part of me. And that is just awesome! I am so confident in the work, the purpose, the calling. Typing about it fills me up.
It was not easy to get here. And by here I mean a place where I know what I believe in. A place where I know whom and what I stand for.
My past exposed me to so many perspectives. As a kid, we moved around so much. My parents taught me to believe in God- but we never stayed put in any one practice or religion or church. We changed our practices as often as we changed homes. Often it was friends I went to school with that inspired the change, I would go to their church or chapel, eat dinner with their family. I'v heard so many teachings. So many in between's. So many takes on life.
I experienced a lot of opinions, a lot of interpretations, a lot of a lot.
Because I know the passion that fuels the journey down each religious path (regardless of what each looks like), it was hard for me to figure out where I stood and what I believed in. I always had a relationship with God, but there are so many titles for that. I didn't know where I stood on any of the human issues, the politics of religion. Looking back, I don't think that was a bad thing. It taught me to live life with a very open mind. It taught me to respect others lifestyles and religions. It taught me that my relationship with God, was unique and personal. To be honest, there are some areas where I am still learning, still unlearning.
Here is what I know. I believe in God. I have a deep and trusting and intimate relationship with him. Or her. Or they. I believe in the power of testimony, and in prayer and miracles- many of which I have seen in my life. I believe God loves each of us with an unconditional love. I love to talk about that. I love to talk about what God has done in my life. I believe that God defy's definition. He is in the nature all around us. She is within the birthing mother. God is spirit and power and love. There is something thrilling in this spiritual way of believing. I do not consider myself anything but spiritual. But I do believe in God.
I also believe in love. I also believe in dreams, intuition, spirituality, manifestation and karma. I also believe in people. I believe that people come in all shapes and sizes. I celebrate the diversity of skin, and size, and sexual orientation. I celebrate life, and those who celebrate their own lives no matter what they look like. I celebrate birth. I recognize that I do suffer from bias, of so many kinds. I try to actively work on those bias's and encourage others to do the same. Change is not easy, Unlearning is a long journey. It's not just a choice, its a lifestyle. Its something you actively have to pursue, especially when so much judgment comes from the very places that raised you, the very religions meant to be free of judgment.
I believe that every person is on their own journey. That their journey is always ALWAYS going to look different from mine. I believe that I am not meant to judge anyone, not even in my head. I believe that I do not know right from wrong for someone else's life- I only am accountable for myself. And that not even the Bible gives us permission to live like that. On that topic, I believe that the Bible is extremely subject to inerprutation, and is meant to inspire and guide us. Not rule us with an iron law. The very coming of Jesus in the Bible was to do away with the hard and fast rules of religion, to lay down the laws they clung to and pick up something flexible and full and good. Spiritual, empathetic, love. My journey and relationship is always going to be different. I believe that is good. My effort in every aspect of my life is ALWAYS to respect the light and breath inside every other human I know no matter what I know about them. I believe in celebrating our differences, not ignoring them. I believe in good people. Random acts of Love. Service. Value.
Birth. I believe in birth.
Ahhh, birth was HARD to wrap my mind around. There is so much shame built into our religions and societies surrounding birth. Especially in our western world. There is some celebration... of that moment.
Balloons, a cake maybe, a rush to the hospital. There is joy... but it is so conditional. There is celebration from most... when baby is cleaned off and handed to mom people awww. When a mothers birth is private and takes place in a hospital it is right. When she listens to her doctors she is wise.
Birth on your back. Don't ask too many questions. Don't even mention home birth in some circles unless you want your great aunt Betty to faint. Vernix? EW. Cut that cord, wash em off, and then maybe we can look at that little alien that just came out of her. Let's pretend it didn't come out of her... but from a stork! Birth is pain. Birth is shameful. Breasts, don't even think about using those. If you do make sure you cover yourself with a blanket or sit alone on a toilet first because you can't do "that" here. Don't talk about it. Don't ask for help. Do it all. Be super woman- isolated. Breastfeeding? Not in this restaurant, in church? ha! Maybe in the baby room, MAYBE. Postpartum depression or even psychosis? Mind over matter.
This was the narrative that echoed around me. That echoes around so many. That is part of it. There is more. There is so many harmful narratives surrounding birth and motherhood.
I didn't like it. It makes my stomach hurt to this day. When I became a mom, I felt saturated in it. In this toxic shame filled culture. I knew there had to be more. More then this. This was not good enough for the women who were literally birthing and raising our future generations!
So I learned. I learned so much. I can't begin to count the number of nights I spent researching why it was this way, why it was so terrible and shameful. I spent so much time searching for answers. Why is there such pain? Why is there such fear? Why are mothers not respected? Why was birth this way?
I discovered something. It didn't have to be.
Birth, did not have to be this way, and for many- it was not. Birth could be beautiful. Birth could be supported and cherished. A mother, when cared for and supported fully- actually thrived in this environment. I discovered the world of birth rights, and instincts, home birth and options. I discovered birth as it should be. Spiritual, and deep, and made of every color in the rainbow.
Birth shouldn't be universal. It's not a one size fits all, and neither are any of its variables. Each birthing person is an individual, and their experiences are individual, and everything in birth needs to be catered as such.
When options other than home birth first came to us(as a society), it was personality and need based. Some mothers continued care with their midwives, and some mothers headed to the new birthing hospitals. (May I also mention that the birthing hospitals at the time were separate from the sick people hospitals.)
It was exciting to have these options. Somewhere along the way, they faded as options, and became culture. Hospital birth became popular, and became the thing to do. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being a choice. Some women, realized that these hospitals were not all they were cracked up to be, and started to go back to home birth. Midwives, who protected and passed down their knowledge- empowered that move. They fought to keep the wisdom and the tradition in birth, and thank goodness it somehow survived all this time. When the hospitals realized this was happening- they changed the culture again, tried to eradicate the midwife. They began to implement fear as a standard tool. One almost all doctors now wield. Not because they want to scare anyone, not because they understand that this is what they are doing at all. Doctors have been taught to view birth objectively from the very being- separate the clinical and the emotional- treat it as something that must be managed.
I am not anti doctor. I am not anti hospital birth. However I will recognize and push against the standard of care- a standard in which pregnant people are pushed into choices with fear tactics and pressure. A standard of care that turns real mothers into numbers. Mothers began to believe, and pressured each other into the fashionable way to birth- the "safe" way to birth. You can not take the spirit out of birth, and when you try- you end up with a culture of women detached from the miracles of childbirth. Detached from their own instincts and from their own powerful spirits. We, for a time, lost the art of honoring birth. Luckily, we are on our way back to a culture that embraces womanhood, birth, and the mother. We all are a part of this. This starts with calling out those who are trained to believe that there is only one way to birth. That there is only one place to birth. From the beginnings of time we have been fighting against the idea that different means dangerous. We must recognize that this is what many clinical birth providers believe, and fight to change it.
Because every birthing option, is a valid choice. And when certain options become risky, it should still be within the rights of the birthing person to choose whether or not to take those risks. A birth option should never be taken away because of a trend, a lack of education, or a lack of care.
The point is, there is a lot more to birth than portrayed. Birth is a vast expanse, a spectrum if you will. And there are so many valid options choices and paths one can walk within that expanse. There are so many places to birth on that spectrum.
After my own birth experience I fell into this expanse of knowledge and options. And then, I discovered something else about birth.
It's not a punishment. It's not something shameful we must bear. It is not the curse of all womenkind. It is the secret. The secret all birth workers know good and well. Not that birth is hard, but that mothers are strong. That birth is beautiful and magical and ethereal. There is a power within it, that no one speak of. It is something truly amazing.
You see there is a side of birth that church won't speak of. You won't hear a western pastor connecting with his people over contractions and dilation, or vernix and cord blood. You won't hear a priest speak of the fetel ejection reflex, or the oxytocin hormones. But you should.
Birth is miraculous. And not just because a baby is poof magically born of another being. Not just because they are knit together in their mothers womb with great complexity.
Birth is a design. Maybe God did curse Eve with the pain to bear children, but he didn't do so without thought or without purpose. He did not abandon her to her misery. God designed this immense beautiful process, that can bring us close to him in ways that we never talk about. But we should.
We should talk about all of it. Every messy moment. In school we learn about the miracles that exist within plants, photosynthesis and the way flowers bloom and procreate. We learn about the ants, trees, why the sky is blue. In church we learn about following a good path, avoiding temptation. We marvel at Noahs task of building an ark, we talk about porn and marriage, children and family. So many topics are breached. But not once, have I heard a message on birth.
Perhaps its because its so sacred. But more likely, it's because in our culture its taboo. We just don't talk about it enough, we don't give each other the permission to talk about it. It's almost mystical, something we hear of but don't know what to believe about it. Like the Loch Ness freaking monster. Nothing within birth is common knowledge. Which blows my mind because each one of us on this earth was born. Everyone is touched by birth. Everyone.
The last thing I discovered, is that in choosing my own path- I wanted to be one that talked about it. Without shame. Without reserve. Without fear. Because God is within birth. Because birth is the most amazing miracle I have ever witnessed.
I pause here, and I think of a moment. When I birthed my daughter at home, far far before her due date. She was so small, she fit in the palm of my hand. She was born en caul, in this perfect egg shaped circle of water. I could see her eyes, her ears, her fingers and toes that were begging to form. I could see all of her. Her little placenta, and umbilical chord. All tinted in a golden hue. She was a miracle. I didn't get to keep her. But that's another beautiful story full of grace, for another time.
I am here now. The person who not only talks about birth, but photographs it and shares every aspect of it! I love birth, every moment of it. I love breasts, and the way they nourish our children. I love how milk is produced exactly to the specifications of what the newborn needs. There is no programming or measuring needed. It is just life sustaining from the first moment it appears.
I love stretch marks. I love how they spread across the skin like a sun or a map, one to show your children, "look child! You were here!"
I love the way contractions work, how they move the body and the baby to the perfect position. I love how they come in waves, like the ocean. I love how they birth a baby. How there are so many different ways to birth a baby. I love the variations of normal in birth.
I love cesarean births, and the way doctors have been so blessed to find peaceful and family centered ways to perform them. I love that when its needed, we have that option. It's a miracle that I honor so much. I especially love the doctors who honor it as a spiritual and physical experience, not just another job or another surgery. Did you know that a cesarean birth can be magical? Spiritual? That you can be an active participant? Find the right provider and it can be.
I love home birth, the way it folds a mother within a blanket of safety and familiar warmth. I love how the family moves and breathes together with the mother as she labors and births. I love the trust and safety I see in home and unassisted births. I love seeing a child open its eyes for the first time, to see the place they will grow up in.
I love the sounds a birthing mother makes. I love how her breath and sound can aide her body rhythm. I love how her body releases the perfect cocktail of hormones to induce euphoria and joy after a baby is born. I love the moment of crowing when a child is in between worlds.
I love how the world within (the womb) is so much like our relationship with God. Here is this baby who has never seen their mother, but they trust in the space that holds them, they feel her warmth and hear her voice. Much how I trust the space God holds me in. I feel his warmth, and hear his voice.
I love how the suffering of birth, brings birthing people so close to God. As his design moves through us, his pain and sacrifice move us in ours. I love how in loss, women can uniquely relate to the experience of loosing a child, as the God who lost his only son. I love the connection here, that is never talked about. Within all that grief, is so much grace. God grieves right along with us in these moments. I'll talk about his heart on birth, children, and how their presence is such a unique gift in birth- all day long.
I truly love birth. I am so grateful that God has brought me to this place. This shame free place where I can marvel at their design, even when birth ends in tears, even when the child isn't compatible with this life, there is design and miracles in so many tiny moments. There is beauty. There is grace. And there is so much value in the grief and the pain and the breath. The Journey here was LONG. I shake it off. All the shame, and the fear, and the taboo vibes around birth. I invite you to do the same.
I believe in birth. I believe in love. I believe in God. I do not believe in shame, pressured modesty, or fear in the birth space or in motherhood. I believe that when it is present, we should do what we can to irradicate it. I believe in respect. I believe birthing women, and trans birthers, and gay birthers, and every human that births a child, I believe they ALL deserve to be cherished and respected and honored. I believe in life. I believe in Gods love. I believe in choice. I believe in birth. I won't hide that to make anyone feel comfortable. This is who I am, and where I stand, and where I work. This is my birthwork. And I love every moment of it.
While we're here, I just want to testify how incredibly grateful I am that God called me to this work originally. How grateful I am for the personal sacrifice and design and this creation. This birth work. This grace. This hand of divinity in my life, where so many times I thought I would fall but didn't. May my heart echo this. May my hands be of God's hand, serving in the true spirit of love and grace. Happy Palm Sunday. I rejoice today. <3
-CordeliaGrey Oriana Allen
Your Wildwood Birthkeeper
Your Wildwood Photographer