Liberty in Midwifery and Birth

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Birthkit, Issue 48, Winter 2005.
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Jill Cohen's childrenJan [Tritten] and I were discussing our upcoming conference in March, titled “Liberty in Midwifery and Birth” (March 23–27, 2006, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). I realized that I did not fully understand the meaning of liberty, so I looked it up in the dictionary. I was amazed at the correlations between the meaning of liberty and the needs of birthing women. I was astounded by the relation of liberty to midwifery and of how midwives assert the rights of birthing women.

Looking closely, we can see what liberty involves:

  1. Liberty is the quality or state of being free. It is the power to do as one pleases, or freedom from physical constraint. These literal meanings remind me of the birthing woman who, in the throes of labor, discards her clothes and abandons herself to the power of her contractions. She is in a pure state of freedom, unencumbered by restriction or boundaries.
  2. Liberty means permission, especially to go freely within specified limits. Does this not describe birth? Our bodies and those of our babies interact dynamically; some of the effects of pregnancy are beyond our control. While we have no control over Mother Nature we do have the freedom to let nature take its course without intervention when all is well. This is the beauty of natural birth.
  3. Finally, liberty is an action going beyond normal limits. While birth is normal, women reach far beyond their normal limits to bring forth their children. It is high time that women are given the credit due for their noble efforts.

All these meanings represent a basic and spiritual right to bring forth life with honor and dignity. Liberty is the basis of human rights! I never really had put that together before. Despite all the political turmoil our world is facing today, we have an underlying optimism that in the world of birth liberty exists and holds the promise of freedom from unwanted restrictions.

The birthing world of today exudes intervention, restriction and control. It is so important for us to reach back to our roots and remember that birth is best approached with freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hope you will consider this in your life, your midwifery practice and your heart. Liberty is at the root of what is good and right. Our conference in March will be greatly influenced by these concepts. I think it will prove to be one of our most dynamic and innovative conferences ever!

Toward better birth,
Associate Editor Jill Cohen

About Author: Jill Cohen

Jill Cohen lives in Mill City, Oregon, with two of her four children. After 20 years as a lay midwife she returned to school to become an RN. She is currently working in a small rural hospital as a primary OB nurse. She was the associate editor of Midwifery Today magazine from 1990 to 2007. View all posts by

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