About 20 years ago I stumbled across some public health research documenting a group of women in the US who had hysterectomies performed on them after they had given birth, without their knowledge or consent. This was supposed to be a public effort to eradicate child poverty in African American communities. This deeply shook me. I presented a university paper on this research and the more I dug into these cases, the more I became aware of the general growing lack of control and understanding women have of their own bodies and rights during childbirth.
In that same year I met a “granny” midwife in the Sea Islands off of South Carolina on the Atlantic Ocean. This was the first midwife I ever met and she impressed me with her nonchalance and trust when speaking about childbirth. She had learned from her grandmother how to attend births and had attended nearly every birth on the island. At the time, I had no idea birth could occur safely outside of hospitals.
These impressions were in my background memory, but it was not until the birth of my first daughter years later did the internal sensory experience of childbirth allow me to really contextualize what is possible versus what is generally available to birthing women world wide. Once I was drawn into witnessing my own body shifting and transforming to allow my daughter to emerge, I went deep into an internal space I had never heard described. I could only observe with fascination the power of that experience. With only my ‘midhusband’ present, we birthed her into the world alone at home. This set off a deep interest in understanding how this is possible and whether we could make this experience available for more women, should they wish.
As I encounter voices and experts that bring to light important un-asked questions and rare knowledge about how we birth, I try to engage in conversation to expand the reach of their work. This is how the Birth to Birth Talks platform was born. In my role as a practicing birth attendant (doula), I also try to transmit my own trust in birth, while helping women and their partners navigate their own path to becoming mothers (fathers).
I was in Brooklyn, caring for families postpartum, processing birth stories and holding space for the emotional transition into parenthood, although I had never yet heard the word, doula. One of the mamas I worked with (who is still a close friend) had a basket of books in her daughter’s room, on the top of which, shining and colorful, was Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Every day, in the quiet hours of rocking with the baby, my eyes were glued to the cover of that book. It was clearly some sort of bible…for artists or creators of some kind. Before a holiday break, I asked if I could borrow it. “That’s so weird,” she said, “but this morning I had a vision of you reading that book!”
After taking in the truth of these primary texts, written by mothers themselves, I had to read everything the libraries of New York State had to say on childbirth and the global state of maternity care. The research unequivocally indicates a public health crisis in this area; birth mythology and practice is a human rights issue of epic proportions, as it affects every person alive on this planet. Called to further this work, I sought out mentorship and community, certifying with Doula Trainings International.
In my work as a birth and postpartum doula, I have found again and again what I always knew to be true: that empathy and love are the most valuable resources in the world. When birth is allowed the freedom to embody these, the world can be healed through this movement, one family at a time.
Michel Odent’s presents an integrated theory of spirituality, sexuality, and physical health as forces which intimately cooperate to contribute to the birth giver’s power and well-being. I am excited to help bring advocates of evidence-based, non-intervention based maternity care practices, like Odent and Lammers, to a wider audience.
Carla A. Alvaredo Memeyagi
My Inspiration: My first child!
I was born in Argentina but have lived in Germany since I was 15 years old. I got together with my partner in 1997. Over the years we have grown to a family with seven children, all of whom were delivered in our own nest. With each pregnancy I entered the world of motherhood more and more deeply; pregnancy, delivery, the life of the natural accompanier of children. Our third child died at just three months. Despite the enormous pain this caused, I have developed through this experience, a feel for wonder and gratitude for miracle of life itself. I am very interested in questions such as ’ how we can carry out the role of a ‘life accompanier’ respectfully?’ and ‘what do we need to experience our own life and development in an authentic way?’ I have found that through mindfulness I can best assist families, women and girls to be connected with their own natural force.
The inspiration for the work in our program started 10 years ago. I noticed for the first time the idea of me having a child was no longer just an abstract dream but rather I began to think seriously about how my child and I would would communicate and what our lives together might look like.
It was the month of October and one evening rather late I was walking through a park in Berlin. I was completely lost in my own world when I came across a child’s beanie. The beanie appeared as though it were an extension of my thoughts materialising in the real world.
I picked up the beanie and took it home. My daughter was born 18 months later, she wore that beanie gladly for years.
Since then, an awareness when it comes to the relationship with my daughter, as well as other children. The knowledge that the signals being sent out are the most important part in every parent-child relationship. It is this position that forms the central part of the work on our project.
My inspiration: My child and the children who surround me.
The experience of giving birth for mother and baby is a kind of initiation process. For both, it is an extremely important and profound moment.
During the time my son came into the world I was looking for themes and ideas that could provide me with more inner peace and strength. But I had the feeling that the picture during that time was not quite complete. For my second child, I want to fill in those gaps.
In the stress of our everyday lives we often lose sight of the fact that our children are a wonderful gift. Many women are afraid of natural childbirth. They want to bring children into the world in as easy and painless a way as possible. Losing sight of the fact that a “natural” birth can shape the rest of their and their children’s lives.
That’s why, for me, Dr. Michael Odent’s ideas and expertise are so important and timely. I’m honoured for the opportunity to help as many people as possible gain access to this information and be able to profit from it just as I have.
My story of inspiration goes back to the moment I told my husband that I wanted us to have a child.
We were standing near the Berlin Wall and I fervently convinced him of what great parents we would be and that our children would live in the very world that we were going to create ourselves: a world of full of love, whithout borders and limits – constrained only by the limits of our imagination
We named our son Buba, as we felt that this name suited him. During the whole pregnancy I searched for something that would match with what I felt to be the best for our son as a human being.
And so I met Michael Odent. (I mean – his books first.) Once you read it, you’ll feel that it’s all about love, about being conscious and about being human. This work is about humanity in general and about how great every human being is, and how can we keep this quality and raise children from the unlimited potential of their nature and spirit.
This brought me to the idea of sharing this knowledge with people. To give them an opportunity to find themselves, to feel how great they can be and what they can learn from their children.
Michael Odent and Liliana Lammers for being such an inspiration and allowing me to be a part of the stream they’ve created.
Veronika and Iliya Nazorovi, for translating Odent’s and Lammer’s books. Veronkia and Iliya also encouraged me to meet Michel and Liliana, which was a great honor for me and I want to thank them for all that they put in for the Natural Birth movement in Russia. Their efforts and the organization inspired me to bring this work to other places and I have continually learned along the way.
To my own family and my parents, who bore and raised me in accordance with their own hearts. Thank you to my son – the best teacher ever. I’m learning so much from you all the time. What it’s like to be present, truly authentic and to love one’s self with abandon.
And the love of my heart my dear, grand, unglaublich husband Maxim, who is the Love itself, who once, a year ago, drew this flying Stork in my sketch-book and to whom I dedicate now the whole “BabyBuba” project: the new platform, where people will be able to realize how great they already are.
Ardjani Puig (art work and conceptual poster design), Anette K Hansen (website design and layout), Veronika Hubert (interpreter), Ramona Spiegel (interpreter), Jana Zschömitzsch (tree installation), Paula Redlefsen (translation), Olivia Page, Polina Fix (translation), Karsten Gebbert, Maike Hofstede, Myrna Benninghoff (translation), Isabella von Philippovich (communications), Karo Just (photographer), Jessica Hannan, Jessica Yazbek (Gala development), Annie Kocher, Dee Mulrooney, Janet Merour, Nathalie Solis Perez, Gail Tully (Spinning Babies), and Jan Tritten (editor, Midwifery Today)
A portion of the proceeds from the seminar registration fee will go towards providing resources for displaced refugee women who are pregnant or giving birth in Berlin.