Zen in the Art of Giving Birth
Letters from Women
Dear Mr. Leboyer,
In June 1998 my first child, Maximilian-Raphael, came into the world, eight weeks after I met you and attended your seminar, learning the Tai Chi Chuan exercises and singing the notes to the sound of the tambũrã.
After the birth of my son, I wrote to you to thank you. I told you that in the last weeks before giving birth, I had the courage to look my fear in the face, right in the eyes, and lo and behold, this fear was no longer there. After that, there was only an ocean of life and love.
Right before the new millennium, I felt the desire for a second child. I became pregnant soon afterward. Since I was so confident, my pregnancy went by brilliantly, without the least fear. I trusted in my own body and myself.
Three months before the birth I once again began the Tai Chi: the inner work that was my preparation for giving birth.
Of course the child would be born at home. Only the father, a midwife, and a very close friend of mine would be present.
Two weeks before the birth, I had a feeling of great closeness with the baby. It was as if I could feel it pushing downward, coming closer and closer to earth.
On Sunday I had contractions all day long, so I got the room ready for the birth. But the midwife--an old, very wise woman--said to me: “No, it’s not time yet. I’ll come back again in two days.”
As I meditated on this, it seemed to me that the child was telling me it still wanted to wait awhile. And indeed, the contractions began again two days later. I took a nice warm bath with lavender added to it. As I lay in the water, several fairly loud tones began to come out of me. I had been in the tub less than half an hour when I sensed that I absolutely had to get out of the water. I felt a powerful energy. But I could tell that this energy wasn’t able to leave my body, as it ought to. I paced up and down the room so that the energy could circulate in me. And all at once there came a strong tone and the energy left my body, through my feet.
An even larger and more intense wave came over me, and I had to breathe in new air and start the tone again. Then I turned my attention to the child and asked for a breather. Now I had to rest; I needed silence. I lay down. Ah, what a deep, prolonged rest. It felt as if those waves would never roll over me again. The midwife looked at me and said: “The first stage of the birth is over. Now your cervix is open.” A long, long resting pause followed.
Then new contractions came over me, but they were much less strong. Suddenly the amniotic sac burst. I quickly sat on a birthing chair, but immediately knew it wasn’t right for me. And then I found myself involuntarily on all fours! This was perfect, just how it was meant to be. All at once I felt as if the baby was quickly “rounding the last bend.” The midwife was warning me: “Slowly! Slowly!” but how could I listen to her? I couldn’t hear anything anymore. With the last wave, the child was born.
I embraced him and covered him with both hands to keep him warm, to protect him, to soothe him, to take any fear away from him. We waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing before we cut it. And at that same exact moment, the child took in a deep breath, without fear and without the least pain. I held him to my breast, and together we took a nice warm bath. Then he fell asleep.
Julian is his name, and now he is three months old. What a wonderful child! He smiles and smiles and smiles. In fact, he shines with total joy, he radiates calm and happiness.
What a letter, what a magnificent report!
Here, all the mistakes women normally make when giving birth are avoided and replaced by exactly the right steps:
1. Don’t lie in bed once the contractions have set in. But instead, you should walk up and down, pace around a lot, and not just in any old way. You should not wear shoes, not even slippers or socks, but instead walk with bare feet. This way, a message is transferred through your feet. All the meridians of acupuncture start in your feet. And you should be sure to connect walking and breathing harmonically with each other: take a step, then breathe out with a tone!
2. Once the contractions have reached a certain strength, the woman can stop walking. She should sit upright, but without stiffening. And then, listening to the sound of the tambũrã, she should move with the tones.
How should she sit? In half-lotus position, on a firm cushion or Japanese style with her heels against her buttocks. Or she can simply sit on a chair, better yet a simple stool, so that she won’t lean back.
3. Between the two stages of birth, everything should be quiet. No tambũrã. Nothing. Complete, absolute quiet.
4. How should she bear down? Never again in the way it still is so often done on the infamous birthing table, where the woman lies on her back and is therefore in no position to bear down, leaving her helpless like a tortoise or a beetle flipped over on its back. So, on all fours!
5. The tambũrã should be playing throughout the first stage. The woman will bring forth her own tones as an echo of this tone.