I discovered Jeannine Parvati Baker's book, Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth, during my first pregnancy. It gave me the confidence to commit to a natural birth, and helped me tune in to my true instincts and desires for that day.
Jeannine, who sadly died in 2005, was a yogini, a mother, and a midwife. The book includes all of the amazing birth stories of her own six children, including the suspenseful birth of her twins, when she walked out of the hospital in the middle of labor. It also includes her guide for a prenatal yoga practice. The photographs, too, are beautiful and inspiring - snapshots of a joyous "hippie" life.
Jeannine was a true radical, and her opinions are extreme. She advocates for unassisted, free birth. While I had a (natural) hospital birth the first time, and a midwife-attended home birth the second time, I find the essence of her opinions and statements impossible to argue with. She speaks the truth. She says birth is inextricably entwined with sexuality, spirituality, and the self.
Jeannine has also written a great deal about what she calls "Conscious Conception." She encourages both parents to prepare for and knowingly enter into the conception of a child, listening to their hearts, minds, their sexual beings, and their unborn children. She encourages us to see the link between conception and birth, and says, "We give birth as we conceive."
Here's Jeannine on mothering:
"Mothering needn't be a duty. It is a preference and a pleasure if these few things are kept in mind and soul: be not afraid to touch, naked body to naked body, to sleep with your baby, to nurse very often and orgasmically, to feel your own pain, anger, and frustrations and express them as purely as your baby will."
Jeannine on turning within for knowledge:
"I have no fear of birth. That's a gift as well as an earned trust.... How did I know the deliveries would be graced? The same way I knew I was pregnant so early on. The brain-heart knows. And once the monkey-mind quiets down enough, all the information we need is right here, within."
Jeannine on freebirth and its connection to conception:
"If birth is a natural expression of sexuality, why hire a paid paranoid 'just in case?' In the words of Artemis, 'Birth is as safe as life gets.' We have now experienced the fullest expression of our sexuality and spirituality at once in freebirth and realize that if we needed no one present at the conception, we need no one present at the outcome of that loving ceremony, the birth."
On birth and peace:
"When shared in trust with our families, birth can bring an eternal bond between the mother and her loved ones. The more each mother reclaims her natural birthright the greater chance we will receive peace on our planet."
This book is full of gifts. I hope you have a chance to read it and treasure it as much as I do!
All photos from Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth
P.S. (From Leigh): Jen and her family live here in NYC and are dear friends of ours. When I was first getting to know Jen she did not have a blog, and I thought, this lady really needs to write a blog! She is a walking wealth of information regarding birth, food, breastfeeding, art, and parenting. Fortunately for me and anyone with an interest in these topics, Jen recently started sharing her insights on Real Art, Real Food. She's only sixteen posts in, but already I'm hooked. Check it out, and you will be too!