By Laura Latina, Perinatal focus group
Janine Parvati Baker, was a pioneer in the field of midwifery. Her words: “Healing the Earth through Healing Birth.” have echoed throughout my own midwifery journey, leaving an indelible mark on both my career and human life. It wasn’t until I embarked on my transformative journey with Compassionate Inquiry (CI) , however, that I really began to understand the true depth of their meaning.
As a midwife travelling the globe since 2008, I have committed myself to understanding what childbirth really is, beyond conventional medical teachings. Following my experiences with women across diverse cultures worldwide, my primary revelation has been that birth is in fact a sacred rite of passage, to be respected and protected, rather than an experience to be feared, manipulated or controlled.
In 2021 CI entered my professional sphere, revealing to me important qualities to incorporate when supporting expectant parents. As therapists, midwives and birth-workers, our pivotal role involves accompanying women and families throughout their journey, and preventing birth trauma by cultivating safety and trust. Birth is not merely a medical event; it is a catalyst, an initiation that shapes our lives forever. How can we guide families toward a vision of birthing in love and support, where parents are fully present, where parenthood becomes a journey to enjoy? That has always been my question.
CI equips us with invaluable tools. It begins with the fundamental skill of cultivating presence, teaching us to focus inwards, to allow ourselves time to slow down, which in turn fosters a deeper connection with our clients. It provides us with the opportunity to feel into our bodies, which many parents or professionals may never have had a chance to do before, and encourages meaningful dialogues on safety, stress, and the emotional landscape.
As birth professionals we are often rushed, pressured, or preoccupied with giving more space to bureaucratic documents than to our clients’ experiences. CI offers a completely different way of approaching the therapeutic experience, which has been transformative for both me and my clients. I can confidently say that I have never received the kind of teaching from medical institutions that I have from CI. The therapeutic space is now filled with our presence and compassion, allowing pregnant women and those present to be embraced for who they are, as creators of life. It creates a space where we can pause for a moment to really celebrate and appreciate the beauty of life.
This pause is crucial because it grants an opportunity for attunement with clients. It allows time for us to understand their needs, and creates a shared space where they too can connect with themselves and their child. As midwives, we assume the role of mirrors, reflecting the potential within women and men. It’s not uncommon for parents to have doubts about their capabilities — questioning their ability to give birth or breastfeed for example — but with patience, compassion and love we can mirror the potential that has always been there, and help them to remember their strength.
Birth is a memory – what we experienced in our mothers’ womb, through to birth and the first few years of childhood – is forever remembered in our body, and shapes the vision of our world. How a baby and parents experience pregnancy, birth and postpartum matters. A nurturing experience in pregnancy and birth, where the hormones of birth (oxytocin and endorphins) are released, contributes to the baby’s first exposure and experience of love as it imprints on their cells and memory. A traumatic, violent birth will suppress the love cocktail of oxytocin and release stress hormones which impact the baby’s brain development and health later in life (Veronique Mead, Adverse Babyhood Experiences). By passing on this information, not to trigger any parental shame or guilt, but to inform, there is an opportunity for future parents to recognise the value of cultivating love and compassion on their journey and for their children. There is also an opportunity for professionals to guide parents in a different way, not through fear, but with presence, dignity, honesty, compassion.
Worldwide there have been extensive reports of negative birth experiences and high birth-trauma statistics; up to 35% of women have reported their birth as a traumatic experience (Simkin 2018), which is most likely an underestimation. There are different contributing factors to birth trauma: reactivation of our own birth memory and trauma, the belief that birth is dangerous and needs to be controlled by health professionals (‘the saviours’), as well as women perceiving that they have been coerced, assaulted, and violated; that their experiences have been out of their control, stripped of dignity, and that they have been coerced into unnecessary interventions (Reed 2017).
In response to what is happening around the world, members of our CI Perinatal Focus Group are developing a comprehensive perinatal training program. This initiative aims to deepen the time and space dedicated to cultivating these essential qualities identified in CI, ultimately redefining the essence of midwifery — being with women. Our Perinatal Focus Group serves as a shared space to disseminate knowledge and collectively remember the essence of birth. While knowledge resides within us, the act of remembrance is crucial. Believing in our ability to facilitate this profound experience is the first step toward revolutionising the birthing narrative.
CI has been transformative in relation to this work, enabling me to show up for my clients in a manner that is profoundly different — one marked by presence, attunement, and compassion. In the heart of Compassionate Inquiry, we are not merely birth workers; we are custodians of a sacred journey, guiding families toward the beauty of their authenticity.
Midwife, Lactation Consultant
Certified Compassionate Inquiry Practitioner