Friday, July 9, 2010

"Let them to this and not fear"

I always love reading about traditions of childbirth in various cultures. I have yet to see anything in a natural childbirth book about birth in the traditional South Pacific. My Mother-In-Law is a Tahitian native (now a naturalized American citizen). She had seven natural childbirths before trying the epidural with her last two to see what all the fuss about epidural was about. She was my doula for my daughter's birth. I decided to do some searching on the internet about childbirth in Tahiti, and I found this beautiful passage from the book The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander.
When asked about childbirth in his country, Bligh answered as well as he was able, and enquired in turn how this was done in Tahiti. Queen Iddeeah replied by mimicking a woman in labour, squatting comfortably to her heels between the protective arms of a male attendant who stroked her belly. Iddeeah was vastly amused on learning of the difficulties of Pretanee's women. 'Let them to this and not fear,' she told Bligh, who appears to have been persuaded by this tender pantomime.
I love Queen Iddeeah was "vastly amused" learning how difficult Western women had made childbirth. It appears that she demonstrated a "supported upright position with light touch massage," but all she knew was that this is the technique women on the islands found most comfortable and efficient for birthing. They didn't need a randomized controlled trial of upright verses lying positions or a book on anatomy of the uterus to know about this, they just knew it.

I can't completely know what she meant by "Let them to this and not fear," perhaps that the Tahitian method of birthing would help women not fear birth or that if they used this method and were not afraid, their births would go better. Either way, I agree with her.

This is the first mention I've come across of traditional cultures involving men in the birth process. Most other stories feature women birthing with other women or alone. Even in Western culture, birth was the domain of women until doctors came on the scene. Apparently this was not the case in Tahiti.

Perhaps part of why my husband was good at supporting me during my births is that it's in his blood?


  1. That's beautiful! My husband isn't the helpful type during labor- his job is to stay conscious- but I do think the idea of not fearing plays a HUGE role.

  2. Popping in from nogoblogher! What a lovely story. I also wanted my mom to help with the birth, but baby came too fast and furious, and my mom missed it by 2 minutes.

    Nice post -- looking forward to reading more!