Childbirth and relationship with children as inner pathways toward sustainability

Debora T. Stenta

Connecting to the first period of human life, from conception through pregnancy, childbirth, primal care, and all the way to parenting and growing up with children, invites a deep exploration of our wilderness and a step towards the evolution of an ecological society.

“The solution of the conflict between mankind and planet Earth depends on the way Homo evolves. Homo Superpredator must eventually be overtaken by Homo Ecologicus, characterised by a propensity to unite and establish a global awareness, and also by an ability to develop a fundamental respect for Mother Earth. Finally the most urgent problems Humanity has to face are all related to different aspects of the capacity to love. The period surrounding birth appears as the critical link in the chain of events on which it is possible to effectively act. It is also the critical link that all known societies have routinely disturbed”. (Source: Odent, 1979)

The converging crises of our time all arise from a common root that we might call Separation. Taking many forms – the human/nature split, the disintegration of community, the division of reality into material and spiritual realms – Separation is woven into every aspect of our civilization. It is also unsustainable: it generates great and growing crises that are propelling us into a new era, an Age of Reunion.
Charles Eisenstein (Source: Eisenstein, 2011)


It all began in the Swiss hospital where I was vacuum extracted from my mother. The story is long, and it goes through a lot of deep healing processes…

I used to be a city girl with an academic education. As a child, I was told the widespread narrative about childbirth that we all know; it is risky, painful, dangerous. I saw it as the Big Separation, as many people particularly thinkers, consider it: a metaphor of how life is supposed to be hard and challenging from the very beginning.  The same applied to the so-called “education” that even I myself was conducting – I had introjected the usual ideas about children needing to be directed, obey, disturb adults’ lives as little as possible.

All this, until I eventually gave birth with my own forces. This event was a rebirth for me, a real shamanic journey that completely transformed my life. After this initiation, I started seeing birth as the Big Reunion, a possibility for humans to restore our integrity.

While growing up with children, I could observe what my birth experience had already taught me, and I just could not help but naturally flow with the process as it was spontaneously unfolding.

I could witness that children are born untamed. They come into the world with the same illiterate wisdom that belongs to wild animals.

I could observe that our bodies are mammalian. They react, feel, move according to primal instincts and needs.

I could witness that children are born untamed. They come into the world with the same illiterate wisdom that belongs to wild animals. Have you ever observed a deer, a buzzard, a snake in the wild? They are fiercely beautiful creatures without knowing it, naturally endowed with a sense of self-protection of their freedom, agile and strong, demure and open-minded, in total harmony with the unfolding of their existence.

Just like children.

Just like all of us when we came into the world, vibrating and working according to the original instructions.

I got inspired by children to heal the part of myself that had lost connection with the wilderness. I started carrying on my own “spiritual“ practice of being in relationships with young humans both personally and professionally.

What were and still are the most useful key factors to me? Observation, silence and listening, avoiding suggestions and solutions when I’m not asked for them, creating an atmosphere where people feel safe to express themselves, and trusting.

I got inspired by children to heal the part of myself that had lost connection with the wilderness.

I observe women who give birth and children who are born. That is a moment when we are the nearest to our mammalian state; birthing mammals need to feel protected and safe, they look for hidden and intimate places, they shy away from unknown looks, loud noises, excessive light, and they would never ever allow other beings to approach their newborns for quite some time.

The hormonal cocktail that is produced during labour and birth has the same composition of the one released when we make love. They are two consequent steps of our reproductive life that require similar conditions for intimacy, protection, privacy and surrender.

Michel Odent describes Homo superpredator as affected by a form of weakened ecological instinct that can be considered as an alteration of the capacity to love. So the fundamental question is “How do we develop our capacity to love?”. (Source: Odent, 2002)

The way we are welcomed into this world; the way a mother is supported to develop instinct to love her baby, the way adults can make children feel unconditionally right, valuable, worthy… These ways are shaping the whole loving capability of humans, thus their wellness and health throughout their entire life, with virtuous consequences for the wellness and health of our Planet.

1. Which actions and choices can enhance your capacity to love?

2. What do you know about your own birth and what are the key elements of its narrative? How does it make you feel?

3. Have you tried to truly meet a child as if she or he were the most respectful guest visiting your home? If not, try.

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Innovative approaches in learning for Sustainability
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