HEALING THE EARTH BY HEALING BIRTH
“The Farmer and the Obstetrician”
by Michel Odent
Review by Lakshmi Landa
childbirth should become the main preoccupation of anyone interested in
the future of humanity…. If we wish to have one.
these modern times, when the limits to the domination of nature have
become obvious, we must invent new strategies for survival. What must be the basis of these strategies?
Respect for Mother Earth
Mastering the energies of love
do we achieve this shift in consciousness?
By making possible the advent of another variety of human beings,
beings with the capacity to fully love – to love in such way as to
unify humanity and to fully respect our source of life.
Michel Odent, an obstetrician since the 1950’s tells us in The
Farmer and the Obstetrician that in spite of the many known changes
we need to make to stop the deterioration of life and the planet, our
top priority should be not to transform farming, to improve medical
technology, or to moderate the emission of greenhouse gases; it should
be to transform childbirth.
We can heal the earth by healing birth.
If the planet is to sustain human life, we need another variety
of Homo sapiens, human beings who have the capacity to love in its true
and full sense – each other and the source of all life.
This is not a utopian concept but an evolutionary step in the
Scientification of Love is the name of a chapter in this book and
also of another book by Michel Odent.1
Since 1968 when it was discovered that maternal hormones
could create motherly behavior when injected into non-pregnant rats,
there has been an explosion of research and knowledge about pregnancy
and birth. Odent explains very carefully and clearly in this small book
that we now have scientific data that suggests answers as to how the
capacity to love develops. “The date converge to give great importance
to early experiences, particularly to a short critical period
immediately after birth.” He
also tells us, according to ethnological studies (comparisons of
cultures around the world), “The way babies are born is the critical
link of the chain of early experiences that is routinely disturbed.”
is also the link of the chain on which it is possible to act” says
Odent as he proceeds to walk us through how this developed, where we are
now, and where to go from here.
societies, yes ALL, ritually disturb the first contact between mother
and baby. Since the basic
strategy for survival has been to dominate nature and to dominate other
human groups for many millennia, it was an evolutionary advantage to
develop the potential for aggression rather than love.
times have changed. These
beliefs and rituals “are losing their evolutionary advantages.“ We
are at a place in history now that requires a unification of the
planetary village (i.e. the capacity to love) in order to stop
can see how prenatal and birthing practices affect the capacity to love
in individuals, families and communities.
“When researchers explore the background of people who have
expressed some sort of impaired capacity to love - either love of
oneself or love of others - they always detect risk factors at birth.”
Examples are given in violent/criminal behavior, suicide tendencies,
drug addiction, anorexia, and autism with relating risk factors are
resuscitation being birth, mechanical deliveries (forceps, vacuum),
painkiller and labor inducing drugs, and general birth complications as
well as the emotional state of the mother during pregnancy.
described is a little explored human characteristic – the
short-sightedness of technological man.
We must ask for the sake of the survival of the planet: Why do we
continue to pollute the soil, air, water and people despite predictions
of long term consequences? Why
is there such an enormous discrepancy between the capacity to find
solutions to problems through clever, sophisticated and powerful
techniques and an inability to think (or to care about) long term
effects? Examples are given
in farming, manufacturing and childbirth practices. It is not a lack of
knowledge but rather a short-sightedness of technological man. Where
does this dangerous trait come from?
It is because we are products of the system.
The general population has a “deep-rooted lack of interest in
the future of our planet and a lack of compassion for the unconceived
generations” -- an impaired capacity to love.
describes in detail some of the modern antenatal care services commonly
practiced that negatively effect the mother’s emotional state,
potentially affecting the baby in the areas of behavior, sociability,
aggressiveness – again, the capacity to love.
For example, during pregnancy, high blood pressure and the
condition called gestational diabetes are frequently discussed not as
normal but as risks and problems offering plenty of opportunity to
induce stress to mother and baby! He calls this the “Nocebo” effect
putting the pregnant woman in a doubtful, negative emotional state and
raising levels of hormones, such as cortisol, that influence the
development of the baby. There are ample long-term studies showing
correlations between the stress of mother during pregnancy and the
incapacity to love of her child.
use of modern interventions has hidden consequences. For example, the common practices of inducing labor and
planned C-sections, where labor is not given a chance to start or flow
naturally, means: “for the first time in the history of humanity most
women have babies without releasing a flow of hormones of love (oxytocin)
and that the future of our civilization is at stake”.
Regarding the routine use of painkilling drugs, one consequence
is, according to a series of studies in Sweden and in the USA, that the
risks of becoming drug addicted are increased among those whose mothers
had used certain pain-killers when she gave birth. This startling
information is not meant to induce blame or guilt in those who have been
involved in these practices, rather to wake us all up to consider the
effects of the industrialization of childbirth.
Hour after Birth
said, the first contact between mother and baby is routinely disturbed
by all societies. While we
have come a long way from the ether cone where women were made
unconscious at the moment of birth left to wake up hours later to find
their baby waiting in the nursery, it is still common in hospitals to
conduct routine medical checks and procedures on the baby, before it
meets mother thus disturbing the complex hormonal balance of both mother
and baby potentially affecting delivery of the placenta, breastfeeding,
bonding, and the feeling of security in their new role and relationship.
theme of health also runs throughout this book interconnected with
farming and birthing. Odent
describes “intra-uterine pollution” saying we all have in our body
hundreds of man-made synthetic substances, mostly polychlorinated
chemicals, which would not have been there 50 years ago because they did
not exist at that time. He refers to studies documented by the Primal
Health Research data bank2 linking
adult, adolescent and childhood health with the womb experience.
Studies indicate that intra-uterine pollution has multiple
long-term consequences affecting neurological and intellectual
development of babies. Previously
unknown, epidemic levels of dis-ease now exist from infertility to tooth
decay to cancer.
FUTURE OF FARMING AND CHILDBIRTH
Odent takes us through a brief history of farming in the 20th
century from widespread enthusiasm towards chemicals and other modern
practices to devastating consequences on health of farmers, consumers,
land, animals, and bees, he points out parallels between industrialized
farming and industrialized childbirth.
He tells how the problems of agriculture are now widely known and
accepted, and changes are being made, but with childbirth, we are at the
first 5 chapters discuss modern farming, with the dominance of nature at
the forefront and how several disasters finally raised awareness to a
level of motivating action. Odent
says: “The process of
industrialization tends to overpower and even to ignore the laws of
nature until the fateful day when spectacular disasters occur.”
Carrying the analogy to childbirth, we are in a position now to
foresee many problems and impending disasters on the horizon but have
not reached the level of mass awareness necessary to take action and
reverse the trend.
tells us it is not too late. This
book ends with a glimpse of a positive future.
Biodynamic, a term used for a method of non-industrialized
agriculture, is chosen by Odent as the best term for post-industrialized
childbirth because it implies an attitude of understanding the
physiological processes. Biodynamic
birthing would include a radical shift away from culturally or medically
controlled childbirth. He
outlines a vision of birthing with new roles for doulas, birthing
centers, midwives, obstetricians, antenatal care and, of course,
pregnant women, and gives examples of countries where there are the best
possible statistics of healthy, uncomplicated births.
can prepare for and hasten the arrival of the turning point and look
forward to a new kind of human being that will care for others and the
Michel (2002) The Farmer and the Obstetrician, Free Association Books
Limited, 57 Warren Street, London W1T 5NR
Lakshmi Landa of the School of Life, Bethesda, MD
Instructor and Manager of Spiritual Food for the New Millennium
(Biodynamic CSA and Mail Order Service)
book addresses many of the questions and suspicions I have had as a
parent, a childbirth educator and as one who is actively interested in
the future of humanity with respect to prenatal, birth and postnatal
conditions and their influence on not only the person being born but the
family, community and the world. It
puts scientific and sociological evidence together with common sense to
unveil bold, naked truths without shame or blame.
It tells how the process of human birth shapes the world in which
we live. Michel Odent gives
a WAKE UP CALL to ALL, to anyone willing to listen.