Consider for a moment what a baby goes through on its way into
the world. What a difficult thing it is to be born, being squeezed
and molded and then drawing a first breath! Probably the most
risky and harrowing journey of our lives, it is in fact, our first
physical experience. Up to that point, we were warmly and safely
encased in water. All our needs were met as we floated
weightlessly, listening to the steady rhythm of our mother's
heart. When the moment of birth came, all that changed. We had to
breathe immediately or we would die; we had to cry out for food
and comfort; we had to hold our own against the unfamiliar force
of gravity. Coming into this world, we were immediately
challenged, and our first impressions of it were of the fight and
struggle to survive.
|Consider what it's like to be so new and bewildered. All your
experiences to date are of being warm and cared for. Imagine the
shock of the cold air. It is at this moment that a new baby
breathes, taking its first searing breath as its lungs expand and
air rushes in. Imagine how that must feel. From the cocoon of the
womb, we squeezed down the birth canal, and the first thing we are
met with is cold air.
it's like to be so new and bewildered.
|Our next experience is of bright lights. New eyes
that have only seen the rosy glow of the sun through the pregnant
mother's belly, now open and are blinded by lights. Then there is
the noise, the loud, unmuffled, snapping of orders, the issuing of
commands; even the happy noises of rejoicing are piercing to the
new baby's ears.
Confronted with these realities, babies screw their eyes shut
and, opening their mouths to exhale their first breath, they wail.
So much fear and pain is heard in that first cry. It is the sound
of anguish, the sound our hearts make when everything that we have
loved and known has been taken from us. Babies feel this way at
birth and they cry out for what they have lost - the warmth and
security of the womb and the closeness of their mother. They cry
because they are bewildered and scared and because they have no
other way of letting us know that they do not understand or like
what is happening to them. Nothing touches or melts the heart more
Yet how is their plaintive cry met? Once born, they are whisked
away, carried to a hard metal scale, wrapped in a cotton blanket
(surely an unfamiliar sensation for them) and laid there to be
weighed. Silver nitrate is dropped into their eyes to
"burn" off the film that covers them, a film that,
having protected the eyes from infection in the womb, is now
considered a risk factor for infection. Their limbs are checked,
stretched for their ability to move. Finally, the babies are
"cleaned up" and eventually returned to their mothers.
Hearing her soothing, familiar voice, feeling the touch of her
skin, nonetheless the first impression has been made and the baby
soon settles into a suspicious watchfulness.
There is a saying in India, "What is made in the cradle,
goes to the cremation ground." We take with us every
experience of our lives and carry them as the backdrop against
which we view what happens today.
|We take with us
every experience of our lives.
||What happens in those first few moments after birth
are important. They are moments when amazing things happen. A
fetus becomes a person. A woman becomes a mother. And in a
phenomenon called bonding, the new mother and the new baby fall in
love with each other for life. These moments can never be remade.
If they are interrupted, they are lost forever.
|Instead of this chaotic entry, imagine how much
better it would be if all babies were born into an environment
suited to their innocence and newness, like a room filled with
soft lights and music, the same sort of room in which they were
made. What if after being born, they were allowed to lay quietly
in their mother's arms, bare skin against bare skin, heart beat to
heart beat, slowly awakening to this new world? We could do this
for our newborns, could give this gift of consideration and thus
create a generation of souls who never had to know the anguish of
There is a book called Birth Without Violence by Frederick
Leboyer. In the first week I was pregnant, I read it and fell in
love with its concepts. I was awed and inspired by the care given
to newborns, as reported by Leboyer. I fell in love with the
babies, their peaceful, dark eyes gazing serenely at me. This book
introduced me to what I already knew: babies are miracles. They
are tiny celestial beings who have somehow decided to exist within
bodies and in whom, if you look deep enough, you can see the
secrets of the universe. They deserve the kindest, gentlest entry
into this world we can provide.
Waterbirth has expanded Leboyer's concepts. In a traditional
natural birth, coming down the birth canal into the waiting world,
a child will meet cold air. Coming out into warm water, a child
feels only familiarity. Safe and secure, he does not breathe
because he has come from water into water and he finds that the
world he has entered is not so different from the world he has
left behind. When brought up to the surface, his face meets the
air and he breathes at last. Nestled in his mother's arms, he
feels the security of her skin, and hears the soothing hum of her
voice as she speaks words of wonder and love. He awakens gently in
this kind of environment. He opens and unfolds.
I watched this phenomenon with my first baby's birth. He was so
quiet and wide-eyed; you could feel his curiosity as he looked
around. That moment to me was like no other. I felt as though I
were looking into the midnight sky, his little eyes were that
vast. I couldn't imagine sacrificing that moment for anything,
short of something needed to maintain the baby's life. It was too
moving, precious, and wonderful.
This is the benefit of waterbirth for a baby - a kind, loving,
and gentle entry into this world.
|Excerpted with permission of the author from Choosing Waterbirth: Reclaiming the Sacred Power of Birth.
Lakshmi Bertram resides in Yogaville, VA with
her husband and six children, all of whom were born in water. She is a
Certified Pre-natal Yoga Teacher and Personal Trainer and acted as the model
for the Integral Yoga for Pregnancy DVD. She would love to hear from
you and may be reached at lakshmibertram (at) gmail (dot) com. Visit