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Dreams of Freebirth
Copyright © Jeannine Parvati Baker

Dreams of Freebirth

The voice says she is calling from Rhode Island but I hear New York in her accent. She is excited– a mix of fear and suppressed sexual passion I often hear in pregnant women’s voices.

"I had a dream about giving birth and told Nancy Wainer Cohen who then said that I must tell you." I have had the honor of co–teaching a workshop with the author of the Silent Knife and Open Season, and so Nancy knows of my work with the dreams in pregnancy directly– hence the referral.

For over a generation, I have been midwife for my community. The babies I helped be born are now having babies. Having apprenticed directly to birth itself, I have cultivated a way of reminding women becoming mothers that they already know how to give birth, even if they’ve temporarily forgotten. Dreamtime is integral to this remembering, for it is at night that most babies are conceived- and if left to choose on their own, also born.

Dreams can be healing, as well as alarming. In actuality, it is the frightening dreams in pregnancy that I have found most promising for healing. It seems to me that dreams invite us to be more of who we really are, without the dayworld ego censoring and claiming phenomena largely for its own purposes; dreams show us fuller pictures of our soul: ones which especially in pregnancy are multi-dimensional. As a midwife, anyway, I can support the imaginal bodies of the family transitio; which I find brings greater inner wisdom to laboring, birth and caring for the whole, holy newborn.

Pat, as I will name the pregnant caller, already had three miscarriages she handled at the home with her mate. Now that she was pregnant, she was feeling anxiety about the impending fourth birth and had a dream, which brought her fear home. In her dream, Pat tells me that she is "in labor, too early and all alone. It’s awful until I do a disgusting thing– I eat some hay or straw, and immediately the pain stops and I, I know what to do. I birth the baby but when I leave of birth, I don’t have a baby with me."

Upon further dialogue, Pat tells me that when she eats the straw she connects with her animal–self. I ask what "disgusting" is all about- the old story of the work of birth being animalistic, therefore sub-human, is retold. Through our conversation, Pat remembers that birth is woman’s unique, creative work and indeed, the animal–within is our ally for spontaneous delivery.

The hay, or straw is of importance for several reasons - Avena sativa, commonly called Oatstraw, evokes an entire archetype, amongst which is the symbol, the totem of the horse. Horse medicine is power- and indeed in Pat’s dream, eating Oatstraw empowered her to give birth naturally. The horse carries us two-leggeds only after we have domesticated– or tamed– the wild animal. Such is the condition for the animal body wisdom of women today- we have also been domesticated to carry the culture’s misogyny on our backs to the point that almost all women of technocratic culture have forgotten how to give birth. The wild mother in dominator culture has been tamed into the siliconic housewife, shrouded in her high–tech man’s idea of what is feminine, deeply estranged from the fullness of female sexuality. Giving birth and breastfeeding are mature female sexual activities, but young women in our society are taught a home economic based on corporate consumerism rather than on how to be the embodied fount of nourishment ourselves.

First was Artemis Britomaris, with many breasts adorning her. Then midwife was given the apron as her symbol, then the nurse a stethoscope. The message carried by the change of symbols over the course of "western civilization" suggests a distancing from the mother’s body. From nurturing with our breast, to serving food, to the machine to listen to heartbeats- the wild women, mother, midwife and healer undergone a profound change.

Dreams are one way amongst many to listen to the hearts of our children. The stethoscope is the main tool for access to the inner experience of pregnancy is in the technocratic paradigm. Yet dreams, in this author’s experience, can be revelatory in multiple dimensions of reality grounded in the ensoulded body. At the very least, the fantasy of the mother about her baby coming is expressed in dreams of giving birth- if not messages from the baby herself.

Returning to Pat, the mother phoning me with her dreams, the animal which appears is an ally in revealing another level of this dream. The horse is an animal which, though diurnal [day dweller], gives birth at night away from the herd. The horse therefore has more wisdom that two-leggeds- it recognizes that members of its own species are at best a distraction, if not dangerous, during birth.

Talking with Pat about her fear, we can transform it into power. First, accept it, then ask how it serves. In this case, fear of hospital and doctor isn’t paranoia- it is dangerous to give over birth into the hands of the experts. Hospitals are the least likely places to give spontaneous birth, though women are inventive and strong, and despite the sado-medical rituals of obstetrics, we can give birth anywhere (including during an earthquake, bombing attack, mid-air in a parachute, in an elevator or taxi, etc). Comparatively, a hospital maternity ward is still more dangerous, for its covert assault on the soul. (See Baker, Jeannine Parvati in "The Shamanic Dimensions of Childbirth" Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, Volume 7, Number 1 Fall 1992.)

Pat’s fear is not abetted by her mate’s. Indeed the baby’s father has no conscious fear of birth. Pat’s husband wants them to birth their baby at home, together. He says it is easy, natural. I affirm this yet add that it is easy for him to say it is easy, as it’s not through his body the baby is birthed. We agree that indeed labor is work- and not by nature "hard" or "easy", just work, female sexual and creative expression. And it’s no more work that we can lovingly and willingly do– when we are in our power.

We bring to birth our whole creative selves- try to leave any part out, out of the circle, and it gets bigger than life. Life itself shows us how to give birth, as Life did with conception. Yet to make one aspect wrong, is to make it even more scary. For millennia, women’s sexuality being expressed in any other way than intercourse with men has been "wrong". That is what is being repressed by medical rituals that turn a sexually mature female into a "patient" to be "delivered".

During the wtichcraze, young girls saw their mothers tortured and so learned to fear their own sexuality and power for healing. In effect, so has it been with birth. In a few generations, the knowledge is lost– the embodied gnosis of mothers is eradicated. Women have forgotten how to give birth. We become passive patients to be rescued from the most primal and natural expression of our heterosexuality.

In dreamtime, this raw, primal power is remembered: the power– within to give birth. Like Oatstraw, an aphrodisiac rich is hormonal precursors to carry Life’s message, dreams can tell us stories which carry us beyond our egoic, self-imposed limitations. Like plants, mothers know how to turn light into matter. Eating of the dream plant re-earthed this mother in her inherent power to give birth.

There are as many dream theories, as there are dream therapists. I can tell you only this– pregnant women reclaim soul at an astonishing rate, in pace with the more obvious growth of belly. Pat’s dream is rich with meaningful symbol in this, her 4th birth. Straw–into-gold and alchemy are all constellated upon a night sky to be explored and appreciated. By honoring dreams as messages to the personal soul, we enlarge our capacity to be conscious of the probable, larger than personal connections, to Life itself. When women carry new life under our hearts we also gestate dreams of importance for all our relations.

Pondering the image of birth, I am reminded of the event horizon of astrophysics. When partners of energy dance about the rim of a black hole, sometimes one escapes transformation (annihilation). Multitudes of women who become pregnant and put the baby up for adoption, or miscarry, or abort, are living Pat’s dream.

I see as a sign of desperation to me that women’s rights to control our bodies, our sexuality, have focused on abortion rights. That women think controlling our bodies means aborting babies is the irony of this century. If we can control our "bodies" through abortion- controlling our minds is not so easy for abortion is denial of female sexuality at core- mothering as a female sexual expression.

Controlling birth, managing labor, monitoring pregnancy and technocratic contra – or con – ception are all ways through which women seek to control our bodies, our fertility. But dreams cannot be MANaged (which is why you can’t find medical practitioners paying attention to them!). But beware turning dreamtime into a cybernetic self-surveillance effort by taking dreams only literally. It is vital that the dreamer find direct revelation rather than have a dream interpreted, or the cult of the expert will have a new member- the dream interpreter. Indeed, only the dreamer knows what the dream means for this time- and the meaning will deepen and change as more soul is revealed.

As midwife, I hope our conversation will evoke insight and that many metaphors will reveal which myths claim the birthing mother’s soul. Better to clear the road to birth NOW of erroneous beliefs which limit the capacity to give spontaneous birth.

With Avena sativa as guide, the dreamer can connect with a natural knowing, rooted deeply in the common, the wild- and like her, of nature itself. She has left the baby behind, for what purpose, we are not yet told. Perhaps when the Oatstraw is no loner disgusting, will the baby come with her out of birth as full partner. Will dance about the even horizon, and instead of succumbing to the black hole of obstetrics, become the white hole- where something new comes into creation, the point of origin for stars. For indeed, it will be a new experience for this end of the galaxy when partners, women and men, give freebirth, trailing clouds of glory.

It seems appropriate to conclude with two letters from Pat, who wrote at the middle of her pregnancy to me and then again in her early postpartum. They are quoted verbatim:

Dear Jeannine,

Thank you for talking with me. I recently went to the herb farm. But first I located your book HYGIEIA, A Woman’s Herbal, and read up on Oatstraw. Amazing when I went to the bottled herbs. Oatstraw was exactly what I had eaten in my dream!! It was a wonderful feeling. An inner knowing turning outward!! Plus an eerie feeling. There’s no way I consciously knew that information. I’m ordering the Prenatal Yoga & Natural Birth book...

Somehow our conversation has made me aware of how much I want to be home to birth… or home in the backyard... but home to birth. I have fewer reservations than before about it. I did/had all my miscarriages (3) at home. Everyone thought I was crazy but my body worked…

As I realize that I need to find or accept the animal in me to birth… as with birthing in the Barn and eating hay, I remembered that you mentioned horses. Horses eat hay… you know I am a Sagittarian!!! _ human, _ horse. The rear end- when I birth is a horse!!! Maybe birthing in a barn or a field Eating hay is just right for me… a Sagittarian!!! For the part of that is an animal.

When Pat sent me her final letter with the date of her baby’s birth, I looked up in own dream journal to see what my soul was saying. As she was giving birth that night, in my dream, a woman and a man were dying together. As she realized first their transition, she shouted to her husband, "oh the Light, the Light– go to the Light!" In my dream, I then became them both and was immersed in a tremendous rapture of love. What this dream tells me is that my own, and possibly Pat’s experience of giving conscious birth, is like dying unto the old self. When we "go to the Light" coming in and going out, what is present is pure love. She did give birth, by her own power, with her husband and wrote to me exultantly the following:

Dear Jeannine,

I had a wonderful birth experience!... I did it, Jeannine! I pushed him out in 23 minutes with No drugs, No episiotomy. No forceps. No vacuum suction!!!! It was fabulous to do/Be (intimate) the Goddess by birthing. I did scream because it hurt. Burt it was worth it to say, "I pushed him out!" It really was a great time! A gentle birthing… Thank you for all your love and support. As I look at my child he reminds me of my victory.

The journey into our catastrophic fears in pregnancy, when supported psychologically, may bring us into the light of love. For a pregnant woman, with two hearts, what is possible is a doubling of courage for their victorious deliverance. Our allies in the journey of birth are the elemental aspects of our psyche, of which the essential animality of the human soul is paramount. If myths are to a culture what a dream is to the individual, may ours at the edge of the millennium embrace new dreams of freebirth.

With gratitude to Dr. Robbie Davis Floyd for editorial assistance.

* Retyping effort by Leilah McCracken at BirthLove.com
* This article retyped by Jill McDanal

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Dear Jeannine, et al.,
Finding you on the web is a joy! Then, reading though your articles, especially the 'spider & fear' one, was a blessing... or , rather, many blessings.

Many years ago , a friend and I welcomed you to give talks in Huntington Beach California, when Halley was a baby.

Later, another friend and I attended a ritual evening you gave at in Portland, Oregon. My first "meeting ", though, came many years earlier, in my teens, when my mother bought Prenatal Yoga . Your wisdom has been a boon through four births, years of nursing and more. Now, with my son and daughters in their teens and beyond, in my crone era, and newly widowed, it's a wonderful thing to find a familiar voice. Many thanks for your wisdom, courage , and creativity.

Jamie F. Brown


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