By Jeanne Ohm, DC
When my siblings and I were born, it was the status quo for moms to be knocked out under general anesthesia for birth. They labored alone, restricted to crib-like beds, and as the stage of transition approached, they were put under, missing the entire experience of birth. Fathers were not allowed near; they were in the hospital waiting room, pacing and chain-smoking cigarettes.
The day I was born, my mother was laying flagstones in the front yard. She wanted to get those flagstones set…some sort of final nesting project, I suppose, and with me being her third child, the early stages of labor slipped into the later stages without her paying much mind. When she finally realized she was progressing rapidly, she looked at my father and firmly said, “We’d better leave right now.” Thus began the mad 45-minute drive to the hospital with her exclaiming, “Oh, oh… he’s coming!” (My mother wanted a boy.)
They arrived at the hospital, where nurses rushed my mother into a room and hoisted her onto a bed. They managed to get her “pedal pusher” pants off and I came out almost immediately, her bobby socks and sneakers still on her feet. Somehow, even then, I defied the status quo and averted the ill effects of their operative modes of delivery.
Growing up, I knew nothing about birth. I simply never saw one in person and neither television nor schools would dare show footage of one. Because of this, birth came with a fear of the unknown. With this fear came the assumption that hospitals were the place to give birth. If a birth happened at home, people thought it an awful accident and the woman and baby “lucky” to have made it through alive.
“ Life is the primary focus of chiropractic. It is through the expression of life as health that spirit can be expressed through matter via soul. Where soul is intelligent life, life is intelligent action.” —D.D. Palmer
Fast-forward to me at age 19, when I fractured my spine in two places. Tom and I were living together at the time, supporting our way through college. After a year of orthopedic treatment with minimal improvement I wound up going to a chiropractor. We were so fortunate to start with a chiropractor who shared with us the real purpose behind the adjustments. Yes, he explained, we work on the spine, but our purpose is not the treatment of bad backs. We work on the spine, adjusting misaligned vertebrae, to take pressure off of the vital nervous system. This allows the central nervous system to facilitate communication with the entire body— with every system, cell and organ. This maximizes our body’s innate wisdom to express itself as it is designed to.
My back got better, but so did the normal function of many systems of my body, and that really impressed me. My asthma went away, my lifelong allergies to animals alleviated, my frequent headaches stopped, and my menstrual cycle regulated. I watched my body heal, regenerate and express more life.
Tom and I decided to go to chiropractic school, and chose a school that adhered to the original, core premise of chiropractic: Life expresses intelligence. Our attitudes began to change. The blind reverence for technological healthcare fell away. We started deducing from a new life principle and began to understand that life is more intelligent than we will ever know. More than anything else, this profound and rational principle established confidence in us as we approached the next stages of our lives. When we conceived we were still in college, and with this newfound confidence, we chose to have a home birth.
At that time and in that location there were no home birth midwives available. Thanks to Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery I found the support I needed to have our first child unassisted. Spiritual Midwifery confirmed the principle: Life is intelligent. It offered numerous birth stories that strengthened our resolve that the intelligence of the body knew how to do what is normal and natural for it to do. It showed us that the strength for birth comes from within us and the more we respect and trust in the process, the more strength we have.
Birth for me was intense. I had pain I’d never felt before in my life. I reached the threshold that midwives talk about, where one must let go and give into the process. In accord with my personality at the time, I continued to instead hold on tightly to my illusion of control. Tom’s steadfast confidence in the body’s intelligence offered me a soothing strength. He brought me inward to find the courage founded on the rationale that “Of course my body can do this; women are designed to give birth.”
With the peace and humility of letting go, we had all six of our children at home. Each birth was different and reflected the emotional state of my being at that particular time of my life. Each and every birth brought me into the embrace of my higher knowing. Trust in life itself entered into my heart and the hearts of everyone present.
Birth is a rite of passage, both an honor and an awakening. It affects us on all levels of our being. I am sincerely grateful for the courage I found to birth as I did. I know that resonating with the chiropractic principle in a practical way laid the path before me. Having my understanding validated by Ina May’s wisdom, embracing the reassurance from Tom, and letting go to trust my inner being—for this I am forever thankful.
Dr. Ohm is an instructor, author, and innovator. Her passion is: training DC’s with specific techniques for care in pregnancy, birth & infancy, forming national alliances for chiropractors with like-minded perinatal practitioners, empowering mothers to make informed choices, and offering pertinent patient educational materials.