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Birth Without Violence

by Frederick Leboyer

Part One


"To be born is to suffer."

"Do you think babies like being born?"
"What do you mean, like to be born?"
"Exactly what I said. Do you think children are
happy to come into this world?"
"Happy? But a newborn baby doesn't feel anything.
So it's neither happy nor unhappy."
"How do you know that?"
"Well, it's obvious. Everyone knows that."
"That's not much of a reason, is it?"
"I suppose you're right. But all the same, they
don't really see or hear properly, do they?"
"And that makes you think they don't feel anything either?"
"Of course, they don't."
"Then why do they cry so bitterly?"
"Well, that's to expand their lungs, isn't it?"
"Expand their lungs! That hardly explains it.
My goodness, don't tell me you've never heard a
newborn baby cry!"
"Yes, of course I have. But that doesn't necessarily mean
he's suffering."
"Do you think he's expressing his pleasure, his delight at
being with us?"
"I don't think it's either of those things. I
told you, babies don't feel anything."
"And what makes you so sure? If I may ask once more.
"Well, for a start, they're so small. I mean, at
that age ...
"How can an intelligent person like you say that!
As if size had anything to do with it. Small!
As for age, have you forgotten that, the younger you
are, the more intensely you feel? Young children
suffer agonies about things that seem quite trivial
to us because they feel a thousand times more than
we do. This is the blessing and at the same time
the curse of their heightened sensitivity."
"Well, you could be right. But, all the same, it's
still hard to understand that they can feel, I mean
there is no real consciousness at that stage, is there?"
"Consciousness? You mean they have no soul?"
"No, no. I don't mean a soul. I don't know anything
about the soul."
"But, consciousness? You know about consciousness?
Wonderful! At last I have found someone who can
explain this great mystery to me. My friend, I am
on my knees. Tell me, please tell me. What is
"Well . . . actually . . . well, you see,
well . . . consciousness . . ."


Let's not continue this discussion.
Arguing is refusing to see things as they are.
Things, that is to say, facts.
The simple fact is that as soon as a child is
born he starts to cry and how bitterly.
And although this is very strange, it is the one
thing that delights everyone there.
"How beautifully my child cries!"
exclaims the happy mother, thrilled and amazed that
something so little can make so much noise.
Does this crying simply mean that all the reflexes
are normal and that the machine works?
So man is nothing but a machine?
Or could the cries be trying to express some pain,
some terrible sorrow.
If the baby is crying with such intensity doesn't it
mean that he's suffering terribly?
Could childbirth be as distressing for the child as
for the mother?
And if so, does anyone care?
It doesn't seem so, judging by the way we treat
the new arrival.

Alas, it seems a deeply rooted idea that "it"
doesn't see anything, "it" doesn't hear anything.
How, then, could "it" feel anything like sorrow
or pain?
The answer is simple:
"it" cries, "it" screams,
in short,
is an object.

And what if, by any chance,
is already
a person?


The newborn baby ... a person?
Now, really.
Medical books will tell you quite the opposite.
Books ...
How often does the scientific truth of one day become
the lie of the next.
So how do we know what is what?
Looking at the facts,
that is to say, asking the person concerned, the
child, might give us the answer.
The trouble is that a newborn baby can't speak.
And yet when you think of all the noise they make,
it's hard to say they cannot express themselves.
If a Chinese man breaks his leg, although you may not
speak a word of Chinese, you can understand his
screaming perfectly.
And when it comes to screaming, who in the world
can scream like a newborn baby?

And if you won't take my word for it,
see for yourself


What else is there to say?
The tragic forehead, the screaming mouth, these
closed eyes, clenched eyebrows, these desperate,
pleading, outstretched hands, these feet,
furiously kicking, the legs curled up to protect
the tender stomach, this flesh which is nothing but
a mass of spasms, jolts.
How could you say that a baby doesn't speak when
with his whole being he's protesting:
"Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Leave me
And at the same time begging:
"Help me! Somebody please help me!"

Has there ever been such despair in one voice?
This child is in agony.
But nobody even hears it.
Isn't that extraordinary?


"Do you mean to say that ... the reason this baby is
crying so bitterly ... do you think he's trying to
tell us . . ."
"Your mind will use any trick in order to block out
what it really means to be born.
Looking at the pictures we've seen, people might say:
'But that's not a normal birth. This baby is being
tortured by sadists!'
Just ordinary people like you and me.
And if you don't believe me,
just look. Just see."


The Holy Family.
In its modern version, that is.
A child has just been born. The mother and father
look on delightedly. Even the young obstetrician
smiles. The same look of wonder and happiness
lights up all their faces.
Everyone is radiant with happiness.
Everyone except the child.
The child?
You hadn't even noticed the child, had you?

Oh no! This can't be true!
This mask of indescribable agony, these hands
clutching, clinging onto this head, like someone
struck by lightning, shattered, who at any moment
is going to fall to the ground, like a mortally
wounded soldier.

This . . . a birth?
It's a murder.

And in the midst of all this suffering,
the parents . . . in rapture!

But it can't be true!
No! It can't be true!
And yet, it is true.
Yes, this is birth

for the child.


Isn't it amazing how blind we can be?
Let us try to understand why.
Actually it is simple.
Take the young doctor; what is he smiling about?
The happy child?
Not exactly.
"His" delivery has been a success. Mother and baby
are doing well, so this man is pleased.
Pleased with himself' that is to say.
And the mother?
Blissfully happy as she smiles at her baby.
Maybe she's smiling because it's over.
She's done it!
She's very relieved, and more than anything, she's
Proud of herself most probably.
The father?
This man who has more than likely never done very much
out of the ordinary, has managed to produce (or so he
is thinking!) a son and heir!
A small heir who's going to carry on the accomplishments
of his parents!
Of course he's proud!

In fact, you could say everyone is delighted.
All delighted with themselves,
except ...
the child.


Isn't it a tragedy?
We should be crying tears of shame, crying for our own
The same blindness that made us think women had to
suffer simply because we didn't know any better.
Happily we no longer believe in the old saying:
"In pain shall ye give birth."
Isn't it time to do for the child what we've been
trying to do for the mother?


But what can be done for this poor child?
Are we to look to the amazing advances in modern
technology for the answer?
No. Quite the contrary.
It was only when we asked what caused a woman to suffer
when she gives birth that we began to see it was
her FEAR that made her fight and tighten up, lock
herself into the vicious circle:
the more pain, the more fear,
the more fear, the more pain.
With the same simple approach let's try and
understand what makes the child suffer.

To Part Two

This book is obtainable from bookshops. ISBN 0 7493 0642 4. Publisher Cedar

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