Get Up, Stand Up: Stand up for your Birth! Are you wondering what a Bob Marley song has to do with childbirth? Women around the world have labored and birthed standing up, often dancing their baby into the world with a birthing pole or stick, for centuries. Birthing poles, ropes, and stools are just some of the tools that have been used throughout the ages to provide support for standing and squatting positions. These tools help us to feel grounded in our body, our sensuality, and as a means of using gravity to birth our babies.
What a crazy idea it was to “put women down” in childbirth (on our backs in supine position). Science supports that both upright positions and a woman pushing to her own rhythm create the easiest, gentlest and safest birth for mother and baby. So Bob Marley’s song gets us standing up, dancing, and yes Standing up for our Rights! Don’t let anyone put you down!
Sometimes we hear of women performing a light-hearted IV (intravenous) pole dance in labor and delivery. Other women bury a pole in the ground outside, deep enough so it is stable. When a pole is not available, women can use a rebozo by having one’s partner hold-up one end, from the top like a pole, while pulling down on the other thus creating a cord-like tension. Many women are fortunate to live near a birth facility with a pole or ladder available in the birthing room, as seen in the IMBCI Feldbach photo in Birth Rooms that Make my Heart Sing.
I so enjoy my time in Austria with Angelika Rodler of Doulas in Austria in her Red Tent as we share our passion for women reclaiming birth traditions that science now supports. We sing, dance, move and connect to the power birth holds in each of our lives. Here you see Angelika as she prepares a tool and space to help Birth Doulas in training and women experience what it is like to feel safe and sensual with the support of a birthing pole. In the photo, Angelika is supported by the beautiful pole she created. She created it similar to how one would make a walking stick, some made with a rubber base or solid grip to the earth/floor.
During labor and birth the mother holds the pole firmly while pulling down. For support standing, Angelika’s feet are planted securely on the ground, with feet shoulder length apart, as she pulls down. The pole has worked very well to support the laboring woman squatting or standing when positioned correctly.
My own great-grandmother told me she leaned over the kitchen sink to squat/dangle to give birth to 8 children at home. It is this image of a little, old, Italian woman hanging over the kitchen sink (which she made sound so effortless) that gave me the confidence to birth upright and not allow anyone to put me down!
In addition to providing physical support, the pole can provide a space to feel sensual by planting one’s feet to the ground, feeling the base beneath, and letting oneself go, gently swaying your hips side-to-side. We can feel pleasure as we move, squat, and dance with the support of the birthing pole, helping us feel safe and sexual.
Please share with me how you used a birthing pole, rope, ladder or other tool that let you sway, dance and use gravity to give birth.