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Birth Without Violence

by Frederick Leboyer

Part Three
The answer is in the question


We were wondering about how best to prepare the
Now we can see it's not the child who needs
to be prepared.
It is ourselves.
It is our eyes that need to open,
our blindness that has to stop.
If we used just a little intelligence,
how simple things could be.


In short, everything begins in paradox.
The child was in prison,
and as soon as he's free,
he yells!
This, they say, often happens to prisoners.
We open the cell doors,
and the freedom makes the prisoners disoriented,
goes to their heads!
In fact, they begin to behave as if they missed
their cells, their jail, and would prefer to be locked up
And unconsciously they do everything they
can to find themselves once more safely behind bars!
In the same way, seeing the newborn baby panic-stricken
by his freedom, you feel like saying:
"Why are you crying?
You are absolutely miserable when you should be
Try and understand what's happened,
so you can enjoy your new freedom!
See how you can stretch yourself'
play and move around!
What are you crying about?"

At that point everything seems to be in a state of
complete confusion, almost impossible to repair.
And yet it is all very simple.
As we shall see.

To communicate we must speak to the child in a language
he can understand, one which doesn't rely on words
and yet may be understood by anyone.
Speak ... the language of love ... to a newborn!
Why, yes, of course!
How else do lovers communicate?
They don't say anything, they simply touch.
Because they are modest and shy, they shun the
prefer darkness, night.
In obscurity, in silence, they
reach for each other, wrapping their arms around
each other, they re-create the old prison,
in which they feel safe, protected
from the world outside.
Their hands speak,
and it is their bodies that understand.

So this is the way to talk to the newborn:
in silence and darkness,
with gentle but loving hands,
that reassure and move slowly,
and in time with his breathing.

But let us go step by step,
sense by sense as it were.


Let us begin with sight.
Like lovers, let's turn down the lights.
Who could make love under a spotlight?
Therefore let's keep only the least light - a candle
for instance - for the sake of the doctor's vision.
How peaceful, how calming this half light is,
and so much in keeping with the mother's own inner


Now hearing.
Nothing could be simpler; all we have to do is
remain silent.
Perhaps it's not as easy as it sounds at first.
The mind is so noisy.
It is not always easy to stay silent in the company
of others.
One has a tendency to think of something and feel impelled
to say it.
Yet it is only if we pay attention to the other,
and to our own depths, that we will experience that
something beyond words.
But silence is not something that comes spontaneously
to us, rather we must search for this and call it up
from deep within us.
In fact, the first women who experienced
silence in childbirth found it so new that they were
disturbed, even frightened.

As the end of labour is approaching, there should be
very few words spoken in the room.
In the quiet you can feel that you are coming
very close to something of gravity.
The silence will be like the hush that settles over the room
of someone who is dying.
Perhaps it is the same threshold we cross,
whether coming or going.

Such an almost tangible silence has a most powerful
effect on the child, although how or why cannot
be explained.
Yet it dispels the panic,
holds back the fear that was waiting to
surge up within the child.
Of course, at times it is necessary to say something,
to give an instruction.
This must be whispered, almost
When we first attempted this,
our hushed voices took women so completely by
surprise, that they were overtaken
by panic. In this intense
silence all the mothers could hear . . . was that
they couldn't hear anything!
The children responded spontaneously to
this tranquillity.

But the mothers' eyes, as they darted from one
face to another, begging for an answer,
told of the women's surprise.
Unable to hold back, they burst out:
"Why isn't my baby crying?"
It was agonising.
It was astounding. It was heartbreaking.
"Why isn't my baby crying?"
It was like the cry of an inconsolable child whose toy was
not what he had been hoping for.

We had not thought it necessary to tell the
mothers beforehand that their babies probably would
not cry.
And because this silence seemed so pleasing to us,
it had never occurred to us that it might frighten
the mothers.
"My child isn't alive!" would wail the despairing
It was ludicrous.
"Your child is fine!" we would whisper.
The whispering made things worse.
"What are you whispering about? Is my baby dead?

Oh, no! My baby is dead!"
Dead! Even as the child was wriggling and moving
on her belly.
"Stop!" we would say. "Dead people don't move!
Can't you feel your child moving; can't you sense
how happy he is?"
But our words went unheard.

All this made us realise that we should have
explained to the mother what was going to
happen. A silent happy newborn is so
new and unexpected, it goes completely
against accepted ideas.

So we tried, although a bit late, to explain
the silence: that it was maintained out of
respect for the child, out of concern for his ears,
that we were quiet because we didn't want to frighten
him with our loud voices. We tried to explain to the
mothers that it is no more necessary for her child to
be born suffering and screaming, than it is that
she go through hell in order to give birth.
Our explanations came too late. Their eyes remained
full of doubt, of regret!


This education, this initiation into silence is
just as necessary for all those who
attend the woman when she's giving birth: the
obstetrician, the midwife, the nurses.
People tend to speak loudly in delivery rooms,
often shouting their words of encouragement:
"Come on, push! Push!"
Which is a complete mistake.
Intended as encouragement, these loud exhortations
are instead most disturbing
for the mother.
For a woman in labour is in
what might be called an altered state of
consciousness, and hypersensitive to
the slightest noise or movement around her.


Darkness, or almost, and . . . silence.
A profound peace settles in the room.
You can feel the respect which naturally
attends the arrival of a baby.
One doesn't shout in a church.
One spontaneously lowers one s voice.
If there is such a thing as a sanctified place, surely
it is the room the child is about to enter.

Subdued light, silence . . . what else is needed?
Or rather, the sense that one should slow down
and thereby enter into another rhythm; the profound
rhythm of life,
to which the mother has spontaneously become attuned,
and which is also the tempo of the child.

Unless you have re-created this incredible languor
in your own body, it is impossible to understand
birth. Impossible to meet the newborn on his terms.
In order to reach this deep understanding, to arrive at
a place where you can meet the child, you have to, as it
were, step out of time.
Step out of our time.
Meaning our strong, familiar sense
of how time is flowing, of the apparent speed, with which
for us, it seems to flow.
Our sense of time, and the time sense of the
newborn baby are practically irreconcilable.
The one is a state of near stasis,
the other state, ours, is often a frenzied restlessness,
close to madness.
Besides, we adults are never "here."
We are always somewhere else.

In the past, in our memories.
In the future, in our plans.
We're always looking back, at what is gone,
or ahead, at what is yet to happen.
Never focusing on "here and now!"
Yet if we have any hope of rediscovering the newborn
we must step outside of our own furiously running time.
Which seems impossible.
How can we step out of time?
How can we escape its fast and furious flow?
The only way is by trying to be fully with the present
Yes, to be here and now, as if there were no yesterday, no
To allow any thought that the moment
will end, that another appointment awaits,
is enough to break the spell.
As usual, everything is very simple.
And apparently impossible.
How can we reconcile the irreconcilable?
How can finite combine with infinite?
It can only happen if we open completely to the other,
which means completely forgetting oneself


Now the stage is set.
The lights are dimmed.
The curtain may rise.
The child can make his entrance.
At last he is here.


Head first, and then his shoulders, one after the
Either all this happens naturally, or some help is
needed at this critical moment.
As soon as the head is out the child wants to draw breath,
which is impossible for him because his chest is still
imprisoned in his mother's body.
If the shoulders are stuck, his progress
comes to a halt, and help is needed quickly,
because anguish is building up furiously in
the child.
How can we help?
By sliding a finger under the child's armpit we can help
the rotation of his body and liberate the little prisoner.
Then, holding him under both arms we hoist him
out, as if pulling him from a well, and put him
straight onto his mother's belly.
Most important of all, we never, never, at any time
touch his head.

He's lying on his mother's belly.
And where better to receive the child, this
belly. It is the exact shape to receive
the baby. When he was within, it was rounded and convex,
it has now become hollow, and waits like a nest to cradle
the child.
Soft and supple, it moves with
the rhythm of the mother's breathing,
and the living warmth of her body makes it
the perfect place for the newborn to be.
Finally, and this is most important, because the
baby remains so near to her, the umbilical cord can remain


Cutting the cord the moment a baby has emerged from his
mother's womb is an act of extreme cruelty, and harms
the baby to an extent that is hard to believe.
Leaving it intact, however, so long as it
continues to beat, transforms the whole birth experience.
For one thing, it forces the obstetrician to be
patient, and leads him, as well as the mother, to respect
the rhythm, the sense of time ordained by the child.
Besides, leaving the cord intact allows the
natural physiological changes to take place within the
child's body at their own pace.

We have already described the way air suddenly rushing
into the baby's lungs has the same effect on him
as a burn. But there is more.
Before his birth, the child lived in oneness.
For him there was no difference between
the world and himself' because inside and outside were
one. He knew nothing of polarities. He didn't
know about being cold, for example, because cold
cannot exist without heat. The body temperature of
the mother and the baby are exactly the same. How
then could he appreciate any contrast?

So you might say that before birth, there was neither
inside nor outside, any more than there was hot or
As he enters this world, the newborn baby encounters
for the first time a kingdom of opposites in which
everything is either good or bad, pleasant or
unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable, wet or dry.
What is the gate through which he enters this kingdom
of opposites?
Not through his senses, that comes much later,
but through breathing.
When he takes his first breath, he crosses a threshold,
a border.

He breathes in, and from this action is born its
opposite: he breathes out.
And then in turn ...

Thus he is launched irrevocably into the eternal
cycle, the never-ending oscillation, the very principle
of our world, in which everything comes back to this
breath, this pulsation.
He is in the world where everything, for always,
is born of its own opposite:
day from night, summer from winter,
riches from poverty, strength from weakness,
never ending,
without beginning.


To breathe is to become one with the world outside,
to tune to the music of the spheres.
Its function is to make the blood take in oxygen,
and get rid of wastes, mostly carbon dioxide.
But in this simple exchange, two worlds come
near each other, try to mix and touch: the world
of outside and the world of inside.
Two worlds, separated, try to reunite:
the interior world of the organism, the little "I,"
and the exterior world, the vast universe.

It is in the lungs where they meet - the blood
mounting from one's own depths, the air
coming from above.
The blood and air rush to conjoin, anxious
to mix and mingle.
Of course they can't, separated as they are by
the barrier of the alveol membrane.
Both sigh for this lost oneness.

The blood arrives in the lungs, depleted of its
oxygen, its strength spent, dark with waste: the carbon
dioxide which makes it old.
Here it is going to rid itself of its old age, gain its
energy, rejuvenate.
Transformed by this visit to the fountain of youth, it
departs, alive, red and rich!
It returns to the depths where it gives forth its riches.
Once more lets itself be filled with
wastes, and then returns to the lungs. Thus the cycle
continues indefinitely.
As for the heart, it keeps pumping, pushing the blood,
sending it, rich and red towards the thirsty tissues of
the organism, and sending it back when it has
become old and worn-out, for renewal to
the lungs.

How does all this happen in the fetus,
where the lungs are not yet working? The blood of
the fetus, just like ours, needs to be renewed.
The placenta fulfils this role.
Among other things it does, it takes the place
of the lungs.
The blood comes and goes through the umbilical cord,
which contains three conduits, a vein and two arteries,
covered by a sheath.
So, the blood of the fetus renews itself' not
by contact with air, but in the placenta by contact with
the blood of the mother, which in her lungs ... and so on.

The mother, in effect, breathes for the baby, just as
she eats for him, carries him, protects him, sleeps and
dreams .
Yes. The child is completely dependent
before his birth.
But then what happens?
A total upheaval: The blood, that until then flowed
through the cord, suddenly rushes into the lungs!
The child abandons the old route, he leaves the way of
the mother.
In the act of drawing breath, of oxygenating his own blood
with his own lungs, the child becomes himself' in effect
saying, "Woman, what do we have in common?
I no longer need an intermediary between myself and the

Of course it is only a first step, for all the rest he
still relies totally on his mother.
But it's a step in the right direction.
With his first breath, the child sets forth on the road to
independence, to autonomy, to freedom.
But practically speaking much depends on the way
this transition takes place.
Whether this transition is made slowly, progressively, or
brutally, in panic and terror, can make the difference
between a gentle birth
...or a tragedy.


If the changeover comes abruptly it will leave a mark
for the rest of life. Any future change will always be
perceived as threatening.
Of course, the child must not, at all costs, be deprived
of oxygen, not even for one moment.
Here there is no quarrel with medical science
which agrees perfectly with nature's plan.
Nature provides oxygen for the
child through two sources:
the cord continues to beat, even as the lungs begin to
The two systems work together, one taking over from the
other, like a relay. The first, the cord, continues
to oxygenate the child until the new system, the lungs,
have taken over completely.

Although the child is out of the womb, he remains dependent
on his mother through the umbilical cord, which continues to
beat strongly for several minutes, four or five,
sometimes even longer.
Oxygenated through the cord, and thus protected from
anoxia, the child can, without shock or danger, settle
down to breathing without being rushed, in his own


What should we do during these critical few minutes
of the transition of the blood from the old route through
the placenta to the newly working lungs?
We must understand that Nature herself doesn't take
sudden leaps and has her own pace. She has left
this time, these few minutes, so that this change over from
one world to another can be made with ease.
She has made it so that the baby is oxygenated from two
sources for several minutes as, at the same time, an orifice
in the heart closes, and the baby is then safely on his
For a few minutes the baby straddles two worlds, as it
were. Then slowly, slowly he can cross the threshold from
one to the other peacefully and easily, and with all safety,
as long as we don't rush in, interfere,
and can manage to quell our old reflexes, our nervousness,
born, in fact, out of the anxiety of our own birth.
The effect on the well-being of the child will be

We are all so quick to blame Nature, when actually
she's so full of love and wisdom, and it is only we
who are too blind to see.

Whether the cord is cut abruptly or allowed to stop
beating of its own accord completely changes,
even determines the way in which a child perceives his entry
into the world, and, consequently, the way he will react
to the continuous change which is life. You might say
that his perception of this moment will colour the rest
of his life

If we cut the cord immediately, we create a situation
which is the opposite of the one nature intended.
By clamping the cord before the lungs are fully operative
we deprive the child's brain of oxygen.
The organism cannot but react violently to our aggression,
and then a whole system of stress comes into play.
Not only will we have done something absurd and
uncalled for, but we will have set up what Pavlov called a
conditioned reflex which will recur
throughout life.
What have we linked together?
Life and breath,
breath and the fear of impending death.

What geniuses we are!


You might then ask how is it that even when the
transition has been allowed to take place in its own
time the child may still give a cry or two?
The answer is simple.
The thoracic cage, now that nothing is compressing it,
suddenly expands, thus creating a void.
The air rushes in and it burns.
Naturally the child tries furiously to expel the air.
This is the first cry.
Then, often, everything stops.
The child pauses, as if dumbfounded by his own suffering.
It can happen that he might repeat the cry two or three
times before this pause.
Then when this pause comes, it is we who
panic. And usually ... a slap on the bottom
follows. But now that we know better and can control
our impulses, our fears, and trusting the strong beat of
the cord, we can keep our hands to ourselves.
Soon we will see ...
breathing beginning again of its own accord.
Hesitant at first, timid, careful, it will still pause from
time to time, marking little breaks.
The child, oxygenated as he is by the cord, is pacing himself
and taking in only as much of the burning element
as he can put up with, then pausing, only to start again.
As he gets used to it, he begins to breathe more deeply.


Soon he learns to enjoy what, in the beginning, was so
very painful. Very soon, his breathing, which was
at first so hesitant and doubtful, becomes joyous.
In all, the child has given only one or two cries.
All we hear now is a deeply peaceful breathing,
punctuated by short cries, exclamations of surprise,
or even sighs of pleasure.
Mixed with this breath are the sounds the baby
is making with his lips, his nose, his throat.
A language all its own.
And never, never, those screams of terror,
those wails of despair, those hysterical shrieks.
Maybe a child has to give one or two cries when he's
being born,
but must they be cries of anguish?
Because the child is pleased with this new experience,
tasting it in all its newness, he can easily forget the
world he has left behind.
No regrets, not a backward glance.
Coming into life is like waking from a long and pleasurable
sleep, and not from a nightmare.
When the present is so delightful, why cling to the past?

Now that the cord has stopped beating, we can cut it.
Not a sound, no crying, no cause for alarm, not even a
tremor; it has simply become obsolete, and so can be
An old bond has been left behind.
We have not wrenched the child from his mother,
they have simply parted, and will go their separate ways.
Why would the young traveller yearn for the past
when his voyage ends so happily and he has found the other
bank, so tranquilly, so surely?

How intelligent, what a blessing such a birth is.
Because we left the cord beating it is as if
his mother had accompanied him across the border, and led
him gently into this formidable and forbidding world.
Just as later, when he learns to walk, she will be there
offering him her hand to hold.

An open hand that the child can grasp and let go of as
he takes his first tentative steps.
What a poor mother it would be who suddenly
withdrew her hand the moment her child began to trust his
own strength.


Learn to respect this sacred moment of birth,
as fragile, as fleeting, as elusive as dawn.
The child is there, hesitant, tentative,
unsure which way he's about to go.
He stands between two worlds.

For heaven's sake don't touch him,
don't push him,
unless you want him to fall.
Let him wait until he feels
the time is right.

Have you ever watched a bird take flight?
As he's still walking, he's heavy, awkward,
his wings drag, and then suddenly
he's flying,
graceful, elegant and free.
He was the son of earth,
now he's the child of the skies.

Can you say when he left one kingdom for the other?
It is so subtle, the eye can hardly catch it.
As subtle as stepping in,
or out, of time,
to be born,
or to die.

What of the tide,
which imperceptibly,
irresistibly rises,
only to fall.
At what moment did it turn?
Is your ear sharp enough to hear the ocean breathe?

Yes, this birth,
this wave parted from wave,
born from the sea
without ever leaving her.
Don't ever touch it with your rough hands.
You understand nothing of its mysteries.
But the child,
the drop from this ocean,

A wave pushes him towards the shore,
another pulls him back,
only to push him higher still.
One more,
and he's out of the flood.
He's parted from water,
and come to the land.
He's frightened, terrified.
Let him be.
Just wait.
This child is awakening
for the very first time.

This is his first dawn.
Allow him its grandeur, its majesty.
Don't even stir until he leaves behind
the night and its kingdom of dreams.


The rest, you might say, is detail.
Once breathing is well-established, everything is
All has either succeeded or failed.
But details, as always, are not without importance.
For example, in what way should we put the baby on
his mother's belly?
Should we lie him on his side, on his stomach,
or flat on his back?
Never flat on his back.
That would cause the spinal column, which has been
curved for so long, to straighten all at once.
It would suddenly let loose all the dormant energy
locked in there and the shock would be too much. It
would be like an explosion.
Let the child unfold his back when he feels ready
Don't forget that each child comes equipped with
his own character, his own temperament, his own pace.

There are some, who are no sooner born, than they lift their
heads proudly, draw themselves up, and stretch out
their arms as if to say:
"I'm here!"
These are the strong ones, who settle into their
new kingdom as if they were kings.
Their spines straighten with the force of a
tightly strung bow releasing its arrow.
But sometimes, the very same children will then
withdraw, pull back, frightened by their own
audacity, their own bravery.
There are others, who start off curled up in a little
ball, and only open up little by little, making
their discoveries cautiously.
Because we cannot anticipate what's to come, the best
thing to do is to put the child flat on his belly,
with his arms and legs tucked under him.
This is a familiar posture, the one that
best allows the abdomen to breathe freely and
the baby to work his way, at his own speed, towards
the final unbending.

Then, because the child is on his front,
we can keep an eye on his back, and see how he is
In fact, the bending of the spine, of the back, and
the beginning of breathing are all one.
We can watch how breathing takes over the
whole of the baby's body. Not only the chest but
also the belly, and especially the sides.

Very soon the baby is nothing but breath,
which passes like a wave from the top of his head
to the small of his back.
This wave is like the shadow of the contractions
which, like waves themselves, pushed the baby to
the shore.
At the same time it is like watching a tree
start to grow.
Out comes an arm, usually the right, stretching
like the branch of a tree.
Then the other. Both seem surprised that nothing
stops them any more, that space can be so limitless,
so vast.
It's like watching branches grow out of the power of
the breath. The breath is to the child as the sap is to the
Now the legs.
One after the other, like roots which will one day
stabilise this tree. But not yet. For
the time being they are still very tentative, for
they have had to fight their way out of the
enchanted cave.
In order to allay their panic, all that is needed
is to offer them some limit: an open hand the baby's
feet can meet, offering gentle resistance but
able to be pushed away.

Otherwise, the baby will feel completely
So, little by little, everything settles down,
or rather, everything comes together harmoniously.
Soon, just as if he is waking from his first sleep,
the baby stretches out with a complete sense of his own
Since, while all this has been happening, the
cord has stopped beating, we are now ready for the
next step. But let us go slowly, pausing often.


Haven't we come a long, long way?
We are out of the water, we have touched dry land.
We've left behind the ever-moving, changing, treacherous
kingdom of the fishes.
Now it is the earth that carries us.
Earth which is steady, tranquil, sound and true.
Earth we can trust.
For the very first time, nothing moves.
What a surprise.
But since there is a price for everything, we now know
for the first time how it feels to be heavy.
We'll have to crawl.
And yet the skies are there, above our heads.
It is their light, their divine light that gave us
the courage to emerge.
And they will give us the courage to stand and walk.

What a long, long road, this path from mineral
to man.
The path each must tread again when he's
come to taste the joy that is life.

What else are we doing when we pray?
Nothing but returning to the source,
the source of all life,
as if going through the whole adventure again.
Wanting to pay homage to Earth, our mother,
we kneel.
With folded arms and a humble heart
we bow to the ground.
Our forehead touching the dust we say
I obey
for I know that, in your wisdom and love
you know better.
There we remain, folded up, empty,
as empty of that precious breath as the child
not yet born who hasn't yet tasted that pleasure of life.
Having paid our respects, expressed our gratitude
to the one who carries us,
to whom we owe everything,
into whose womb we will return at the end of our days,
we arise.

Like a bow
that has let go its arrow,
how vibrant we feel
when, unfolding, we let the air and its joy
fill us full -
as vibrant as we were the day we tasted
our very first dawn.

This, in truth, is prayer.
Since to pray is to be born anew
to the fullness of life.

But then, can one pray in a hurry?
Can it be rushed?
As with the child who's just arrived,
who's joined us,
can't we grant him
a moment of time?


A few words about the hands which will hold the newborn
These hands are the first thing that the child will encounter.
The language they speak is the primal language, the
language of touch.
This is how mother and child were communicating.
It was through the child's back that he
received her messages.
Now that he's born, naked and disoriented,
the way we touch him is crucial.
Most of the time, the hands
of the doctors, the midwives, and the nurses are not gentle
Simply because they have not realised what it means to
the child.
Because these hands are so unaware, and move much too
quickly, they terrify the child.
Let them be gentle but firm.

Most of all, let them move very, very slowly.
Everything we do for the newborn baby is too rushed, too
hurried for one who is only just entering time.
At this moment, what the child needs is to be massaged,
just as newborn animals need to be licked by their
mothers - the act without which they
often die.

It is most important that the hands that will massage
the baby's back can rediscover the rhythm he knows,
the rhythm of the contractions, the rhythm that moves
with the outward breath.
What the child wants to feel again is not the wild fury,
the storm of labour, but the embracing waves that told him
of his mother's love.
Our hands should travel along his back,
one following the other,
like wave after wave
breaking onto the seashore.
The rhythm of dancers, of lovers.
Love ... and the child!
Yet what is it lovers are looking for,
if not to heal the rift,
return to the primal sea,
rediscover its infinite pulse.
A return to paradise,
a pilgrimage back to the source.


So much for rhythm, for movement.
But there is something else that can be transmitted through
hands, even hands that are not moving.
The child is still so sensitive that he will know by
the feel of the hands resting on him, whether he is
loved or refused, accepted or simply being carelessly
Under caring hands, the child opens up and lets go.
Whereas, under stiff mechanical hands, he feels
he's being clutched by claws, and of course
he closes up, withdraws in panic, as if to escape to
within himself for protection.


Naturally, it's the mother's hands that should hold
the child.
But often she's still overcome by her own
emotions, her own fears, which she's hardly had
time to leave behind.
Her hands are not yet steady and sure.
If someone else, such as a loving midwife, is
there, calm, and able to transmit her inner peace,
her hands would be better in the beginning, until the
mother has had time to catch her breath.
It's not that we want to take the child away from his
mother, but the intensity of what she's just lived
through can still be affecting her so strongly that it
overwhelms the child.
In these crucial moments, the child needs peace,
quiet and calm.

Often mothers don't know how to touch their babies.
Or maybe they just don't dare.
Some deep inhibition seems to hold them back, stop
Possibly because the child has just come from a part
of the body we don't want to, don't dare to mention.
Perhaps it's our education that makes us step back, as
if this part of us does not exist, or at the
very least, is not something we talk about.
So the mother finds herself in a troubling,
conflict-filled situation, torn between her natural urge,
and her inhibitions, product of her repressive


Now let's come back to the child.
The fullness of his breath tells us that all is well.
The cord has been cut.
It is as if centuries have passed and yet it has only
actually been a matter of a few minutes.
What comes next?
However blissful this time has been for mother and
baby, it must come to an end.
The child cannot stay on his mother's belly all his life.

Just as the child had to depart from the womb, now he
will have to leave his mother's body.
To meet with what?
This first step in life cannot be but terrifying.
How can we ease it and pacify this terror?
In the same way that giving a new toy to a child makes it
easier for him to part with the one he's been playing with,
so we must find a way to make him enjoy his first
moment of separation and thus gladly accept that he's on his
Of course we're not going to put him on
ice-cold weighing scales, and even the softest towel
cannot compare with his mother's body.
What could be the answer?
This is where he has come from, and what he's known
all his life. It's gentle, it's familiar.
It is this very familiarity that in the end
will completely calm him. It will be like
meeting an old friend when one is far from home.
This feeling of something familiar saves the child
who is lost in an overwhelming world of new sensations.
A bath has been prepared in a small tub, filled with
water at body temperature, or slightly higher since
it's going to cool down quickly.
With the permission of the mother, who must be willing,
we take the child,
and slowly, slowly we ease him into the water, feet
first of course.
A sensitive eye can catch how intense the experience is
for the child.
As soon as he finds himself back in water, he becomes
weightless again.
Water has, as it were, once again taken the load of
his body.
His joy and feeling of relief are hard to describe.
We have nearly accomplished a miracle, we have turned
this first separation, which is always loaded with
anguish, and which shadows us all our life, into a joy.
One can feel any remaining tensions in the baby
melt away, vanish under our hands.

And as these tensions melt away,
and what is left of his fear disappears, and
the child feels so safe, he even dares to open his
No words can describe the depths of this first look.
It is as if he is asking one and all the questions of man
in that single moment.
Then it becomes so clear that life does not start now, at
this point, but that the child was aware long before
he came to us, and has merely crossed a threshold.
In disagreement with all classical psychology, anyone
who has witnessed such a birth cannot but
"But this child is looking!....
Whether he "sees" in the way we do is another
Maybe we have to accept that there are many ways of
seeing, of knowing.


Completely free from fear, and his first surprise over,
he begins to explore his kingdom.
His head turns to the left, to the right, as if
enjoying its new freedom.
Out comes one hand from under the water, it opens and
reaches towards the sky.
Then the other.
His hands move in such harmony you'd think you were
a ballet.
They meet, clasp, and part,
moving with all the grace of an underwater plant.
As for the legs, a little hesitant at first, soon they too
begin to stretch and play.
And here it is important to say that the feet of the
baby should always be able to find the edge of the bath,
to find a limit, as it were. Otherwise, if they meet
with nothing, the child will experience the same panic as
a swimmer out of his depth.

Because his first experience has been so
rich and so pleasant, this baby will always be an
Life, for him, will always be a challenge, which he
will meet with confidence and courage, and an eagerness
to try and taste everything new that
might cross his path.
Is not the constant newness of life, its continual
change and variety, the thing we find
most difficult?


Now that fear has subsided, and been left behind once
and for all, let us try to be free of the past and
its fascination.
Let's try to take the step out of the sea,
to land,
and meet with the earth.

Fourth step.
Fourth station of this Calvary which is birth,
where there is neither sin or punishment.
It is truly an odyssey,
and the hero, the newborn,
has accomplished something so difficult.

So little by little we begin to take the child out
of the water.
If he doesn't like this idea, and protests,
because once again he's feeling all his own weight,
we don't force him, but lower him back in again,
only to try to take him out a moment later.
Once again he protests,
goes back to the water,
and comes out again,
and what at first seemed unpleasant,
now becomes a game.
This game we play with him,
lifting him out and lowering him back in the water,
is a way of playing with weight and weightlessness.
Isn't it true that no matter the culture,
children all over the world love to
which makes them, in turn, heavy as a stone, and light as
a bird?

Eventually we lift him out completely,
dry him gently, and swaddle him in something warm,
letting him experience for the first time this feeling that
nothing is moving.
Another new and extraordinary feeling for him.

Remember that all those months he spent inside his
mother, everything was moving, whether his mother
was walking or simply breathing quietly in her


But now, for the first time ...
and how strange .
nothing is moving at all!
This is the majesty of Earth.
For all those children who have been rushed into the
world, who haven't been led gently from water to land,
from movement to stillness, with so much love,
intelligence and patience, waking up on their own will
always frighten them.
This immobility will always terrify them.
But for the child whose birth has been such a blessing,
these fears will not exist.
He'll be free forever from nightmares and guilt.


How impressive it is to watch this child open
his eyes wide, begin to feel his way around,
explore all that surrounds him.
All with no panic, no tears.
On the contrary, with a seriousness, a gravity
that's hard to believe.
Yes, this child is truly like a wise man, an old soul,
because whatever he does, it is with complete

But also it seems as if something is emanating
from this child.
He seems to radiate a peace, a serenity, that he's
brought from somewhere far beyond.
The words of Lao Tzu come to mind:

"One who possesses virtue in abundance, the Holy one,
is like a newborn babe."

But what is this "virtue"?
It has nothing to do with morality, being virtuous.
"Virtus" in Latin means courage, vitality, virility.
What Japan and China call Chi,
and India Shakti.
It is the secret, silent power of a Zen Master,
a true Master of Martial Arts,
or a saint.

For one who is sensitive enough to feel it,
sense it,
it is this "virtue,"
this grace,
this Chi, this Shakti
that silently flows,
shines like a blessing
from the newborn.

To Part Four | Part One

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