Elephants in the wild have midwives who surround them in a circle during their labor, protecting the pregnant mother and swaying along with the laboring elephant. The elephant midwives may care for the pregnant elephants throughout their long gestation of 21-22 months, in labor, and through infancy.
In labor, the elephant midwives may stroke the mother and make sounds along with the laboring elephant. Within the circle of birth, the midwives protect the laboring elephant and assist the newborn to be released from the amniotic sac, stand up, and take its first steps. The baby elephant can stand on its own within fifteen minutes of birth.
John Robbins tells the story of a mother elephant in labor at a zoo in his book “Reclaiming Our Health”. The pregnant and laboring elephant was isolated in her own cage, and was becoming increasingly distressed and aggravated. The zoo keepers called a European zoo that had experience with elephant births. When they relayed the bizarre and dangerous behavior of the isolated laboring elephant thrashing about the Europeans were appalled. They demanded to know where the other female elephants were to help with the mother elephants delivery. Elephants need female elephant midwives to give birth calmly and safely.
The Americans immediately complied with the Europeans’ instructions. As soon as they were allowed into the area with the birthing mother, the other female elephants rushed to her and began to assist her, stroking her with their trunks, calming her with their presence, and helping her to complete her labor. After the newborn elephant emerged, the midwives cleaned the baby and took care of her while the mother rested.
The wisdom of the elephant midwives, demonstrates the power of the midwives supporting women in childbirth, to protect the birthing mother from unnecessary disturbances, isolation, and fear. No wonder so many women are fearful and distressed birthing in hospitals today when alone and labor is interrupted with numerous nurses, technicians, and doctors. The loving care of one’s personal and trusted circle of birth is the most powerful support in instinctive birth for all mammals.