Positive Images of Birth and Motherhood

Positive images of birth and motherhood are so very important for everyone to see. Here in this post you see some very old images of sheela na gigs (the women depicted showing how the vulva opens for birth) Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and ancient depictions of birth  and breastfeeding in Egypt and Africa. Notice how in the 4 birthing scenes the supporting people are all very obviously women, except the medicine man in the African scene.  Going back to our earliest cultures, birth has been territory of women. Women would choose who would attend their births (if anyone) and birth was largely a joyous social event. In Africa when a baby would born, the would village would let out a celebratory undulating cry that was heard only for birthing women and successful warriors. The mother would wear a sash around her waist or cover her body in red clay to show that she was tending to a little one and that she had joined the mothers of the tribe. To them motherhood was something to proud of. Pregnant women and mothers were held in high esteem and treated with great respect. The majority of them were also very well tended during the postpartum period. They would partake in such traditions such as fire-rest, or mother roasting, the woman’s family would serve her warm nutritious soups and teas, they would tend to the other children and the cleaning until she was ready to resume her responsibilities. There were very few cultures where there was no help and recognition for a new mother, and even then she would be allowed to rest and sit by the fire for a time. In indigenous cultures the postpartum period was a time of close family, and joy over the new addition to the tribe, much different than the isolation and overwhelm that many of today’s new mothers face. Imagine how different our birth culture in the United States could be if our young women and new mothers were exposed to peaceful, un-medicated birth images, and they knew that they would be surrounded with love and support in their postpartum time. What if we did away with the media we have now, which is allowed to show a Cesarean procedure without any editing, but blurs out a woman’s vulva as it stretches to give birth? Children in these traditional cultures grew up seeing these sheela na gigs, and other art, and knew that their bodies could safely stretch to give birth. They knew they would be met with positive recognition upon entering motherhood. Birth in those times was not surrounded with the fear and pain we see on television when one of our favorite characters is in the throws of labor and writhing in pain. Our mothers and young women are so afraid of labor and birth that many would rather choose an elective cesarean so that their bodies are not “ruined” than to give birth vaginally. It is about time we change our current culture surrounding birth and motherhood to what our fore-mothers experienced. The way it had always been, and the way it was meant to be!


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