Birthing in the Spirit by Cathy Daub
Reviewed by Cristin Tighe
Writing a synopsis of this book is a challenge!… it is so full of rich, detailed information as well as really important concepts relevant for all birth workers, especially useful for birth and postpartum doulas to bring emotional support through service to their clients. The titles of the three sections on “Foundations”, “Values” and the “Promise of Birth” just give you a brief glimpse into the detailed, from-the-heart lifetime work of the author, Cathy Daub.
The concept that stands out as most representative of the essence of her vision and this work, as well as what I took away as key, is highlighted in the “Education & Educare chapter”. Education she sees as “worldly knowledge” and the word educare she says is “to bring out that which is within” and “represents education in the spiritual sense and is the process of going within to find the primal place that contains knowledge of how to give birth” (p. 17). She describes this place as a spiritual, values-based one that “cannot be seen”… and equates it to a women’s confidence, humility, deep knowing, and empowerment within to birth. Cathy values the educational aspects (understanding risk, birth setting, your providers, research, resources, childbirth preparation as useful), AND she highlights that education is just half of what birthing women need. We also need to come to relate to birth in spirit - having faith in our bodies, feeling safe, trusting caregivers, with determination to put intentions into practice (e.g. good nutrition during pregnancy, using knowledge of pelvic bodywork understanding during labor, trusting our own inner knowing), believing in our own sense of what feels right (despite what others tell us), recognizing birth as a process and trusting its unfolding, and following our intuition and inner-knowing about what feels right.
Her approach is deeply heart-felt and heart-centered — coming from innate understanding that birth is instinctual, natural and the power to birth lies within each woman and that they know how to birth. (It is a huge leap forward into the future, reminding us of the values of the past, before midwives and the medical system in the US, disempowered women around birth.) Much of her approach is based on human values - truth, right action, peace, love and nonviolence - bringing character, self-confidence/satisfaction/realization and more (p. 50). Practicing these feed into positive pregnancy experiences and birth experiences and also transformationally impacts on our lives after birth. In addition to values, there are also a lot of useful yogic-type tools explored in depth, like self-reflection, affirmation and positive thinking, connecting to intuition, finding peace within, and fear and grieving.
I found it useful to consider grieving and healing during pregnancy (p.237-247) both socially and physically, as I agree that overcoming fear/the past allows women to open energetically and have the freedom to birth. She discussed both loss and “perceived loss” (p.238), with the realization that both are important. For example, loss would be previous experience with miscarriage and perceived loss would be giving up being pregnant, dreams (that must be put on hold to have a baby), childhood, or a significant other (and expectations of their support if they didn’t show up during pregnancy or labor as a woman hoped). The stages of grieving: shock and disbelief, anger, guilt, expression of depression, acceptance and forgiveness (p. 241-242) are useful. Discussing this with birth doula clients, and having this context during challenges with labor, as well as if moms are overwhelmed or depressed postpartum will be very useful.
The many spiritual concepts she describes are balanced by detailed, well-thought-through comprehension of more educational topics like physiology of birth and optimal pelvic bodywork that opens the birth canal and eases labor. Putting much of this into practice with birth doula clients, then using the pelvic bodywork during labor, and having this spiritual context for postpartum is so useful.
Her book and work are inspiringly academic, thorough and so deeply needed. It is the real focus on the spirit part of body-mind-spirit that she brings as a deep and hopeful offering to both awareness and possibility for women and birth, as well as for humans opening and evolving our spiritual selves. The book is truly visionary and one I will definitely keep on my shelf for a long time!