Birthing From Within
by Pam England, CNM and Rob Horowitz, PhD

This fantastic collection of stories, experiences, birth art, practical information, drawings and inspiration was written and compiled by a midwife/childbirth educator and her psychologist husband.

Pam England’s goal in her childbirth education classes is to “offer guidance through the emotional, spiritual, psychic and social mists that shroud birthing from within.” Her philosophy of childbirth education is self-discovery rather than the assimilation of obstetric information, and assisting women and couples to discover and validate their true knowledge rather than directing a stream of information at them. The substantial obstetric information found throughout this book is incorporated in a nonauthoritative way, and the book is infused with the mindfulness and Zen influence from England’s training and interest in Zen Buddhist philosophy.

Birth art is used throughout the book. England shares the visualizations/exercises she uses in her classes as well as some of her students’ actual drawings and stories. By exploring their fantasy of birth through art, parents can come to visualize what being IN their birth will be like and how they need to prepare. This is distinct from what a health professional often teaches about what to expect AT birth. This distinction is the foundation of this innovative book and approach to childbirth education. “Just as a shaman cannot give a patient a healing vision, there are some kinds of learning a childbirth teacher cannot give a mother.”

Included is an informative chapter on homebirth as well as a chapter on “How to Give Birth if you Need a Cesarean” and “The Compassionate Use of Drugs and Epidurals.” She sends a clear message that to give birth in awareness is to “be open to each moment and to do whatever needs to be done, wholeheartedly.”

Fathers and birth companions are needed not as labor coaches but as bringers of reassurance, protection and love, according to the author. Cutout reminder cards can help the birth companion remember pain coping techniques and labor support methods, and learn how to gather information and make informed consent about medical care. The book concludes with a practical and helpful section on babyproofing a marriage.

I recommend this book highly for parents as well as birth professionals. It encourages women to be powerful in birth, offers a wealth of resources and exercises, and can help couples move through their birth journeys with awareness, power and insight.

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