Slow Birth: Ecologically Attuned Maternity Care
With Respect to the Balance of Nature

Over the past 10 years or so, the slow food movement has seen remarkable growth. Everyone speaks about slow food, the ecology of mother earth, where our sacred food comes from, how it’s been cultivated, even the soil composition. The food justice and sustainable food movement prides itself on preserving just food for all.  Growing up as a lover of natural sciences and plant systems and botany I was swept into this movement by osmosis, working with folks like Anna Lappe, (author of Diet for A Hot Planet) and Bryant Terry, (eco-chef and author of The Inspired Vegan) I was surrounded by giants in this space, and people that like me revered mother earth and her fruits. And since I’m in the birth business, and have always been curious about the birth continuum, it got me thinking about this concept applied to a new type of birthing model, one that is age old but getting lost in the fast paced world we live in. That concept is SLOW BIRTH.

Slow Birth references labor and maternal care practices that are respectful, empowering, that honor the inner ecology of the birthing woman, her sacred anatomy, her innate wild wisdom, and her attuned rhythms. Respecting that birth can and does take time. Like Slow Food, slow birth is about going back to the basics, celebrating what’s natural- that doesn’t mean without sophistication. It does however mean listening to the sophisticated rhythms of the body doesn’t always mean you need technological support. The body is highly complex and undergoes a host of processes to bring forth a new baby.

The time of birth can not be predicted and this phenomenon of uncertainty leaves medical practitioners uneasy and so many women have the experience of being encouraged to take medications like pitocin, (a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin) to “move things along”. With the haste to speed up their labor and the flippant use of drugs they alter the woman’s internal hormonal ecology and she can become disconnected to what is happening in her body, and start to mistrust. No one can govern the female body, but the woman who lives in that body. When practitioners take a position to modulate the normal course of a woman’s labor without good reason to do so, they perform an act against nature. The widespread use of pharmaceuticals during labor mirrors the abundant use of agro-chemicals in the farming of our foodstuffs which is an act against mother nature. Then there is the issue of unnecessary medical waste which is accumulated as a result of the technocratic birth model which mirrors the inorganic waste, chemical compounds, and natural resources wasted resulting from industrial farming methods.

Midwifery care is less expensive, less invasive, and midwives are generally more patient and respect the birth process and mother/baby dyad. Organic farming is less expensive, uses far less energy, and the produce tastes better. We have a lot to say about this when it comes to our food, but what about when it comes to our wombs? We have to work with women and their bodies, not against them. We have to work with mother nature’s rhythms, not against her.

In my labor support work as a birth coach or doula– Greek for “one who serves”, I strive to work with the mother and keep her in the hormonal flow, and in a rhythm with her body and her baby, we use breathing techniques, affirmation, visualization, sound, movement, essential oils, and therapeutic touch to help her labor comfortably. When a woman trusts her body and has proper support, she can have an empowering birth- no matter what the outcome. If we can come to embrace Slow Food as a movement that takes us back-to-the land with respect and honor for sustainable food, I’m asking for support of Slow Birth- taking us back to the womb, with respect and honor for the sacred process of birth.

Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow & author of forthcoming book, Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy

Twitter: @GlowMaven

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  • Elizabeth Gilhuly

    I like this concept! I am studying to be a childbirth educator myself and this is good material to pass along.

  • Becky Michelson

    Very well said!