Bruna Barella is part of the Ecovillage Arca Verde (Green Ark), since 2005, and in this time she became a mother and midwife. In their rural community, 11 women have gone into labor and 10 babies have been born. Countless female, personal, family and community rebirths have been witnessed at the ecovillage. They consider childbirth to be a natural miracle, a spiritual event that promotes deep healing on all levels. Translated by Cristina Mattos from CASA Brazil.
My son was born at home by water birth, with the help of a midwife. I felt that I was offered a great rite of passage. But I could not give birth to him in my own home because I could not find anyone who was able to accompany me. I went to my mother-in-law´s home in a larger city, to give birth to Miguel who was born 10 days after the estimated date.
When Miguel was 4 months old, we and a group of people decided to buy land closer to a small town, 10km down a dirt road, to relocate our Ecovillage. There was a pregnant couple within this new group who were willing to have their baby in the ecovillage. We called the same midwife who had accompanied me and she agreed to assist, especially because we were closer to her home.
This birth ended up being the first I had ever witnessed. My body was often absolutely filled with delight and totally connected with the process – I was overwhelmed by great emotion and cried a lot. Knowing a soul was arriving on earth was astounding. To feel its presence was amazing, leaving me with feelings of immense gratitude.
The midwife looked at me and said, “I always cry when I feel they are coming.” Everything happened very simply, carefully, and flexibly: there were few words and an abundance of love. All residents were involved, bringing food, warm water, washed clothes, praying, and trusting. We were all in a state of grace for many days.
A few months later another couple decided to have children there, but preferred to have a “unassisted childbirth”. I had already done a course of doulas (birth assistance), and accompanied them in pregnancy and labor with presence and care. I watched again in awe at the birth of this family. The baby’s father, with the baby in his hands, looked at me and asked, “What do we do now?”
My skills as a doula were useful, as we had learned to create our own way to tie and cut the umbilical cord, using a strand of boiled crafts thread and sewing scissors, assist with cleaning and empowering a woman with teas, and medicinal foods, with patience, good humor, and respect.
For the third birth in the community, we called a different midwife who got sick on the day and could not come. A course was going on and the ecovillage was full. Those who were not directly involved in the birth continued working throughout the course. People who passed by Ark on those days, said that they felt the energy that surrounded us.
Witnessing a birth, (just as witnessing death), is such close contact with the Source of Life that makes everything else, the everyday problems of life, seem less significant.
After these experiences, I felt that I needed to do more courses to acquire more tools and knowledge. I met other women working with natural births, and I joined a school of midwifery. The main teacher, who lived just five miles away, actually appeared by chance in our community and called me to study with her. Couples who conceived in the Ark had already experienced, or witnessed, natural births and chose to give natural birth in their homes.
The word spread and more pregnant women seeking a place to give birth contacted the community. We began to try and create a way to enable these temporary and special cases where women would come to give birth in our ecovillage. Of the many issues that arose, we also wondered if it was materially feasible to devote so much energy to enable this idea.
We had to reject some families because we did not have the accommodation, comfort, or privacy for more than two families at the same time. We also received a lot of help from family members of the babies who were born at Arca Verde; they are our eternal friends.
In the case that we had to relocate the birth process to the hospital in the nearby city, it was done very calmly. The doctors already knew of our practices around conception. Unfortunately, today it is much less common than it was a few decades ago to give birth at home in rural areas. In time, the office of civil registrations noticed the uniqueness of the children’s names that were registered by our community members. The Guardianship Council is also aware of several parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children.
With more training I began to serve in other communities, and I always take some friends from Arca Verde with me; people with experience of, either, giving or having witnessed a birth. Other women are also growing more interested in specialising in the art of serving as midwives and doulas.
Today, I feel I can carry this wisdom anywhere in the world to meet any delivery, which reduces the need for the couples to come to Arca Verde to give birth. However, the seed is certainly rooted in the culture of Green Ark. It is a place where babies are born in a healthy way, one that embraces the strength and nature of women in natural birth, hoping that their stories inspire confidence in couples who seek this path!