I recently interviewed Emilee Saldaya, the mama-to-be behind Free Birth Society, an underground tribe of women dedicated to exercising complete authority in their pregnancy and childbirth experiences.
Here's what Saldaya has to say:
Q 1. What is a free birth?
A. Free Birth is really just birth; birth as it's been for forever until quite recently. But since we are currently living in a society in which childbirth has been co-opted by the patriarchy and birth has become monopolized by the medical model, we have to call natural birth "Free Birth." It's like having to call food organic because the default food available is actually not natural at all.
Free Birth means choosing not to opt into the medical model of obstetrics and to instead be your own authority, allowing labor to spontaneously unfold at home. It also means that the woman is choosing to not hire a medical professional to manage her pregnancy and birth, and instead takes full responsibility for her experience. She does her own prenatal care and assembles a team of her choosing to support her in her birth at home.
Related: Recent Research Confirms that Homebirth is Safe, Costs Less
Women, like all mammals, have always "free birthed" as medical assistance is relatively new. Sadly, while the medical model increases safety for a small percentage, it may harm the vast majority of healthy mothers and babies with its unnecessary disruptions, interventions, and lack of trust in the normal physiological process of mammalian birth.
Undisturbed birth is almost unheard of these days, with about half of American women being artificially induced for non-medical reasons and one-third of women ending their birth experience with surgery. Even during an un-medicated birth (without an epidural or narcotics) women are still routinely restricted to a bed, administered IV fluids that dilute their birthing hormones, given episiotomies, and are separated from their infant for some period of time after birth.
There is no such thing as a truly natural or unhindered birth in a hospital setting - simply being in a non-home environment and having to interact with, or be observed by individuals we are not in intimate relationship with, disrupts the hormonal blueprint for an optimal, physiological birth. It's imperative that we remember this, and keep striving for better and more normal births.
Q 2. Have you heard any misconceptions about free birth?
A. The main misconception about Free Birth - which is sometimes called Unassisted Birth - is the idea that women who make this choice are irresponsible and careless on account of opting out of the medical paradigm. In fact, Free Birth is about women taking full responsibility for our experiences, and re-wilding herself into a deep relationship of trust and autonomy, allowing the physiological and biological sequence of natural mammalian labor to unfold, undisturbed.
Q 3. What advice do you have for a woman preparing for her first free birth?
A: Choose your team carefully and be very intentional about those with whom you share your choice to free birth. Establish healthy boundaries with anyone who is unsupportive. Prepare or don't prepare as much as feels intuitive. Debrief and process previous births as much as possible and address any fears you or your partner may have about your upcoming birth and postpartum. Do not let anyone attend your birth who are afraid or unsupportive, even if it's your partner.
One of the coolest parts of managing your own prenatal care is you get to decide what, if any, tests and technology you want to use. Does an ultrasound feel good or does it feel best to forego technology that is known to cause objective harm to developing cells? Does blood work feel intuitive? Do you want to track your weight and blood pressure, or maybe not? What diet works best to you? Do you like the idea of a midwife palpating your belly to feel baby's position?
Related: Utah Home Birth Rate Double National Average
You get to be in charge and pick and choose what feels right to you and for your baby, it's the essence of individualized care! This is the journey of taking accountability for yourself and owning your own decisions.
Q 4. What resources are there for women planning a free birth?
The Free Birth Society: I offer private sessions via Skype to prepare parents for Free Birth. I also have the "Free Birth" podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud that shares personal narratives of women consciously birthing in power away from the medical model, all around the world. Please join our mailing list to stay informed of upcoming free birth preparation and birth worker support courses!
BauHauseWife.com: Yolande Clark has a Free Birth book coming out, so be sure to like her Facebook page as well.
Indie Birth: This website is a great resource and has a podcast called "Taking Back Birth" on iTunes that covers the wide range of topics for birthing outside the system.
The Matrona: Specifically read "The Holistic Stages of Birth" It's incredible and easy to digest.
- Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley
- Gentle Birth Gentle Mother by Sarah J Buckley, MD
- The Power of Women by Sister MorningStar
- Birth by Tina Cassidy
- Pushed by Jennifer Block
The Free Birth Society
Radical Independent Birth Workers
About Emilee Saldaya:
"Emilee has been a Birth Keeper for 13 years. She has run her own for profit doula business for over a decade, been a home birth midwife assistant, and leads private consulting in birth education. She founded and runs a non profit in Los Angeles that provides free birth doulas to low income women and teens, as well as free abortion and bereavement doulas to women experiencing pregnancy and fetal loss. Having attended hundreds of births in every environment imaginable, Emilee became quite intimate with the many ways in which the medical model of care is failing the vast majority of women and children. Emilee began the Free Birth podcast early this year that shares personal narratives of women birthing in power away from the oppressive medical model that has monopolized childbirth in the past century. She began networking the thousands of underground women around the world through a private Facebook group who are also making these autonomous birthing choices. She currently has just moved to Maui, Hawaii from California with her wonderful husband where she is settling in to welcome her first baby."