Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Baobab – the Tree of New Life?

I recently visited the Eden Project in Cornwall – where I sampled my first ever Baobab Smoothie – it was actually delicious and very refreshing. I had been drawn towards the stand because of the link to my work as a Natal Hypnotherapy Practitioner. The symbolism of the Baobab Tree cannot have escaped anyone who has read Maggie Howell’s book, Effective Birth Preparation, or attended a Natural Pain Relief Workshop. Often referred to as the Tree of Life, for me the Baobab Tree is actually the Tree of New Life. As Ray Mears explains in this video clip the women of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania give birth within the hollow of the Baobab Tree, some believing that if this tradition stops that ‘the Hadza tribe itself will die away’. It is from there the new lives within the tribe begin…

So why would a woman wish to give birth inside a tree? Take a moment just to have a think…

It offers the basic needs for a labouring woman – safety, protection, privacy and warmth. Stripping away everything else those are all the majority of women need. Those women, and their supporters, who prepare for labour and birth using Natal Hypnotherapy will be encouraged to find ways to create their very own Baobab Tree. What will help them find the privacy they need? The safety and protection from being disturbed? How can they ensure comfort and warmth?

Now I am not suggesting that every woman should rush off to give birth inside a tree in Tanzania (or indeed in the Eden Project Biome!) Equally there will be women who, for a wealth of reasons, are happy to birth in brightly lit rooms, filled with medical equipment and surrounded by people they have only just met. That may be their preference and I am not suggesting that is wrong for them.

On the other hand for many women a different option offers them what they are searching for. It may be that birthing at home will do this best – an environment they can set up to suit themselves and somewhere that they feel completely at ease. Alternatively a birth centre (either stand-alone or alongside a consultant-led unit) will be what they would choose. And for other women their local maternity unit would be their choice.

Each of these options do not preclude the creation of a Baobab Tree environment – whether labour is straightforward or more complex, vaginal or by caesarean, women can still be supported to feel all those basic needs are being met. So wherever women are birthing please remember to dim the lights, use blankets or shawls for warmth and privacy, maybe use a birthing pool and, very importantly, work confidently with staff to build a mutually supportive and trusting relationship. It doesn’t matter where or how a woman gives birth – if she feels safe, supported, calm and confident her experience will be better and, as a consequence, her postnatal well-being and emotional health will be greater.

Read Alex’s birth story which tells how she created her own safe space during labour.

How will you create your own personal Baobab Tree?