Mom-to-Be Planning Dolphin-Assisted Birth
How many of us can say that our birth plan includes creatures of the sea? Well for one couple, their dolphin-inspired dream is about to become a reality
Does your plan for the perfect birth include wild animals? It does for North Carolina mom-to-be Heather Barringer, 27, who has traveled to Hawaii in order to fulfill her dream of giving birth in the ocean surrounded by a pod of wild dolphins.
“It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another,” Barringer explains to the Charlotte Observer about her unusual choice of birth venue.
She and husband Adam, 29, left in May for Hawaii’s Puna coast and will spend the next two months (Barringer is due in July) working with the Sirius Institute, a group that facilitates dolphin-assisted births as part of its mission to “dolphinize” the planet. In preparation for the big day, “we will be swimming with the dolphins, and become part of their pod, and then hopefully give birth with them around us,” says Barringer.
Water births—ok, so in a tub at home and not in the open ocean—are growing in popularity… but why dolphins? The idea to welcome their first child into the world in the company of dolphins comes from the book, The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, in which “dolphin-assisted midwifery” is described as the ultimate in peaceful, spiritual birth.
“It’s total relaxation for the mother,” says Adam. “Dolphins are very intelligent and healing, which in turn, calms mother and baby for the whole process,” adds Heather.
The website for the Sirius Institute lists other benefits of a dolphin-assisted birth, too: “Children born in the water with the dolphins develop six months faster over their first six months, have perhaps 150 grams more brain weight and are ambidextrous.” The institute says it receives three to four inquiries about dolphin-assisted births each week.
However, what do biologists have to say about dolphin-assisted midwifery?
Worst. Birth. Idea. Ever.
“Because of their friendly disposition and common occurrence in aquariums, we tend to think of dolphins as trustworthy, loving creatures. But let’s get real for a minute here… they’re wild animals, and are known to do some pretty terrible things,” writes evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox in a blog post for Discover magazine.
She explains: “Not only do dolphins kill other animals, they kill baby dolphins using the same brutal tactics. No matter how cute they might appear, dolphins are not cuddly companions; they are real, large, ocean predators with a track record for violence—even when it comes to humans.”
When asked whether or not they would ever have a dolphin-assisted birth, most moms echo this sentiment.
“A child was just attacked at Sea World last year. Think about it, if a dolphin in a tame place like Sea World can go after a little kid, what could happen in the wild? I am a big proponent of natural birth, but this is just too extreme,” says mom Megan Brown of Burlington, Vermont. (The incident she’s referring to involved an 8-year-old child)
Another mom, Julie Argus from Syracuse, New York, shares her firsthand experience. “I swam with dolphins once on vacation. It is overwhelming and scary when they swarm. [Luckily,] we had dive experts with us who knew how to get us out fast. I hate to be ‘judgy mom,’ but all of this sounds way too risky.”
To their credit, the Barringers do have a contingency plan. If needed, Heather will give birth instead on a community farm in Akaka Falls, about 35 miles from the ocean site. She will be assisted by a human midwife.
Still, for Heather, it’s all the about the dolphins. “Having that connection with the pod of dolphins anytime—even if the birth doesn’t happen in the water—still brings peace, comfort and strength to the mother and baby during labor.”
And the couple’s response to their critics?
“This is our birth and our choice, and we’re not just going natural, we’re going super-natural!”
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