Monday, November 7, 2011


Dear Birth Peeps,

Several times I have heard of the following group “recognition” observance. It goes something like this. A group has gathered for birth storytelling or a birth movie, and a leader asks everyone who has had a cesarean to stand. The room is silent for a moment. The cesarean mothers sit. Then the moderator asks all the mothers who birthed normally to stand and applause breaks out.

Not wanting to assume I understand the meaning of this curious ritual,  I would like to ask each participant, “Who is observing silence or applauding?,” and “What message are they intending to send to cesarean mothers?” Then, I would ask the cesarean mothers what meaning they took from this?

I imagine the “moment of silence” could be out of respect for a "loss." I imagine that, depending on which Story Gate of Return each mother is in, different meanings might be drawn by each woman; perhaps there is a time having one’s grief and loss of a desired birth witnessed in silence feels just right. But, not every cesarean mother is (still) in grief about her birth experience; some may feel they should be applauded too for having done their best or having survived their Ordeal. I have long ago completed my work with my cesarean birth and no longer carry any grief about it, so if I were standing in that room, the silence would seem to me to be a projection of someone else’s loss or grief, not my own.

And the applause for those who birth naturally, normally, or vaginally… I just don’t get it. If you/they are fortunate to birth normally, I can understand gratitude, but applause?  I could also stand with this group, but "I" do not want or deserve applause for the Gift I was given; the opportunity to birth normally humbled me. I am especially disturbed by the juxtaposition of applauding one group, the Victors?, while asking the other group (?Victims) to stand in silence… should their heads be hung low?

We have a confusing double standard. I am learning about birth in undeveloped, occupied, or oppressed countries. Women may have to wait in agony for hours, begging for relief, drugs, surgery, even death. But help does not always come quickly if it comes at all. Some women do not survive the wait, their Ordeal. If they are “rescued” by visiting western medicine teams, we all sigh a sigh of relief for modern medicine reaching them. They might even be applauded for surviving, however they did it, by their village, by us.

I am confused by my own projections and where I draw a line in the Sand. But, I sit in my confused mind and enquire who is thinking these thoughts? Who wants to grieve? Who wants to applaud? Who is the ‘I’ that decides who should get a moment of silence and who should get applauded?



  1. This is the precise judgement that I despise and the exact reason I am certain most women are not "One's who Know". They are so transfixed on their ability to "succeed" at "normal" birth that they miss the chance to stop focusing so much on the concept of birth vaginally and really immerse themselves in the Changes that could have happened during their Work had they been the ones to hang their heads in silence. The Ordeal is an Ordeal for us all and -no one- should be singled out for having "won" or "failed". She who has a Cesarean Birth has won. She has her baby. And she will continue winning throughout her life as she integrates her surgery and her Journey as a key component of her strength. Those who birth "normally", myself included, if anyone we should be the ones hanging our heads, humbled by a power so outside ourselves, humbled by the knowledge of those who attended our births and made us better, and humbled by Knowing. If one is so blind to go through her birth and come out the other side only to judge other Mothers, she must not have seen the face of the Great Mother during her labor,she must not have stared in the vast depths of the eyes of Birth, she wasn't looking, instead she found herself trapped by the mirror and herself. Anyone who has Seen and Knows where she was and what she touched during birth knows we are all so Holy at those moments and no one has the right to Judge us ever again. This idea of singling those out to be tarred and feathered for their successful Births infuriates me and inspires me to move forward creating this change in Birth culture.

    Thank you as always,
    Danielle Cooke

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