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Dreams of Freebirth|
Copyright © Jeannine Parvati Baker
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 womens
"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 coteaching 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
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 theyve 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.
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. Its 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 dont have a baby with me."
Upon further dialogue, Pat tells me that when she eats the
straw she connects with her animalself. 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 womans unique, creative
work and indeed, the animalwithin is our ally for spontaneous
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 Pats 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 cultures 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 hightech
mans 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
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 authors 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 isnt 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.)
Pats fear is not abetted by her mates. Indeed
the babys father has no conscious fear of birth. Pats
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 its 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 its
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, womens 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
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 Lifes 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. Pats dream is rich with meaningful symbol
in this, her 4th birth. Strawinto-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 Pats dream.
I see as a sign of desperation to me that womens 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 cant
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
mothers soul. Better to clear the road to birth NOW
of erroneous beliefs which limit the capacity to give spontaneous
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:
When Pat sent me her final letter with the date of her babys
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
Pats 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:
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
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
40 North State Street
Joseph, UT 84739 USA
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