I’ve often heard people compare giving birth to climbing a mountain. Certainly, birth can often require effort, but sometimes it’s nice to use the analogy of floating down a gentle mountain stream. The motion is downward rather than up, and the thought of cool, flowing water is soothing to the soul.

The stream knows its path. It doesn’t need anyone telling it where to go. It calmly and innocently follows the path of least resistance. It is guided, as are all natural forces. And, unless we foolishly try to turn around and swim upstream, we too can be carried along with the current until we eventually reach the sea.

Animals, also, are guided from within. A female cat, left to her own devices, knows how to find a mate, breed, and give birth to her young without reading any manuals. She instinctively allows herself to be guided by an intelligence that she may not self-consciously understand, but that she implicitly trusts.

If a cat could read a manual, however, the advice they offer concerning feline birth is generally fairly sound. Desmond Morris writes in CAT WATCHING, “Most female cats are amazingly good midwives and need no help from their human owners.” And PURINA’S HANDBOOK OF CAT CARE says when referring to the laboring cat, “leave her on her own….The best thing to do at this point is nothing. Keep quiet and do not attempt to help her–it’s her problem. Mother nature usually takes over and it is amazing to see how she goes about doing what comes naturally.”

Unfortunately, human childbirth manuals do not offer similar advice. Obstetricians are instructed to interfere at every turn. Humans, it seems, have no inner guidance. Mother nature does not take over, or if she does, she certainly can’t be trusted. Women must be “helped” every step of the way. The childbirth “experts,” using their “supreme intellects,” have come to the conclusion that they are smarter than the consciousness that created their intellects in the first place.

Luckily, women are free to ignore the experts and listen instead to the voice within. But how many of us do? How many of us still believe that our bodies are so incredibly complex we couldn’t begin to understand them, let alone trust them? Women who do choose to trust themselves in birth and stay out of the hospital are often considered stupid at best and abusive at worst.

The assumption here is that the physical world is all that exists. If there are no experts to tell a woman how to give birth, and no machines to assist her in doing so, then surely she won’t be able to do it.

What many women are actually discovering, however, is that in the absence of outer voices, the inner voice often becomes crystal clear. The knowledge is there. When the inner voice isn’t being drowned out by the beeps of a machine, screams of “PUSH!” or “DON’T PUSH!” or even well-meaning instructions from a midwife or doctor, the inner voice can at last be heard.

I spoke with a woman recently who had planned on having several midwives at her birth. The birth happened so quickly, however, that none of them arrived in time. She was amazed that in the absence of an “authority figure” the knowledge of what to do came through loud and clear. She later wondered if things would have gone as smoothly if she had had “help” from the midwives.

Terra Palmarini Richardson and Rahima Baldwin write in their book PREGNANT FEELINGS about a woman who also gave birth unexpectedly by herself. “She said that the energy connection between her and her baby was incredible the whole time, as if the baby were directing her.” She, too, felt guided and wondered if things would have gone as well if she hadn’t been alone.

This is not to say that every woman should give birth by herself. Most women simply don’t choose to. But if we truly desire a safe and fulfilling birth, we must humbly learn to honor our inner voice that is always willing to guide us, if only we will listen

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