Hayley Wuerfel, Australian Scientologist and mother of two, wrote the following guest post, giving some great insight on what having a quiet birth or “silent birth” is actually like, why she did it, and how she felt it helped her.
I remember sitting on my bed, with Taiesha’s cot next to me, and holding the sheets very tight as the contractions started. That was when the silence began; in those moments of pain. Then they’d pass, I’d breathe and be OK to speak again.
I was at home with our son, Tyler, whom I’d prepared as much as you can a two-year-old. He wanted to play, but when I held up my hand, he’d wait. He seemed to understand that meant ‘leave Mummy alone for a minute’. Silent birthing is something I’d learnt about early on as a Scientologist; I’d never imagined it any other way. The idea is not to use words in moments of pain because they can negatively affect you and your baby later in life.
We believe that anything said in that moment is stored in the reactive mind. If, later on, something stimulates that memory – you could be in the same place and someone says the same word or you smell the same smell – then, without you even realising it, your mind dramatises the past and it has an adverse effect in the present.
Of course, you can chat away to your bump during pregnancy – though if you were to hurt yourself at any point, you’d bite your tongue and wait for the pain to subside. And, during the birth, there’s nothing against you moaning, groaning or screaming. But it’s about keeping as calm as possible. You’re going through an extremely traumatic experience and adding all sorts of chaos is unnecessary. I cringe when I see birth scenes in movies and there are doctors coming and going and people shouting, ‘You can do it!’
I’ve been a Scientologist since I was 10. My parents discovered it in the ’90s, when my mother wasn’t well; she suffered from depression and had tried numerous things, such as meditation and fasting. Around that time, she met a lady who was a Scientologist and decided to check it out. She had some counselling and it changed her life. She was quickly back to being her wonderful, bubbly self. After that, Dad became interested, too, and so did my younger sister and I.
I met my husband, Dobsen, at the church in 1998. Even if he hadn’t been a Scientologist, I would have fallen madly in love with him – we’re two peas in a pod. He supported me in every aspect of the silent birth because it’s about what’s right for the woman and baby. That’s the type of guy he is.
During both my pregnancies, I told the midwives at my local hospital’s birth centre what I wanted; one of my friends had a silent birth there, so I knew they were fine with it. I let them know that if something didn’t need to be said to me, to say it outside the room.
With Tyler, I was in labour for five hours. I wish it had been that quick with my daughter, Taiesha. As soon as that first contraction passed, I called Dobsen, but the contractions were still sporadic. In the end, I had five days of pre-labour. By the fifth day, I couldn’t take it any more and the midwife told us to come in. If they’d had to induce me that would have been fine – medical safety comes first – but I was lucky enough not to need any drugs.
The window was open with natural light streaming in and it was all very calm. Dobsen and I lay there, holding hands. We’d brought in a pencil and paper to use to communicate, but we forgot all about them. Instead, I’d raise my hand to indicate silence or point at my back for a massage. But I didn’t hold back – if I needed to have a good roar, I did. At one point, I actually spoke. I said something like, ‘Too much’, and Dobsen nodded and massaged my back. There’s nothing held against me for speaking; it’s the nature of giving birth.
Still, I was aware that it was better not to talk. I’d been to the classes and I believed it would be best for my child and me, so that’s what I was prepared for.
I was having a water birth, and as soon as I was in the bath, I calmed down. As I pushed, I’d scream, then bury my head in the water and blow bubbles. It had been going on so long, I didn’t think I could do it. But one thing I know is that having someone shouting, ‘Push!’ wouldn’t have helped. I hate being told what to do. As soon as a contraction started and there was pain, I’d handle it. Then, once it eased, I’d start speaking again.
Then my husband told me in a low voice, just so I knew, ‘The head is out.’
Once Taiesha arrived, it was 10 minutes before we spoke. There’s a chance there’s still pain afterwards, so we’d decided to keep it quiet. Dobsen was next to me and we both had tears of joy. We looked at each other and everything we wanted to say was there in our eyes.
Taiesha had a bit of a cry, so I held her close and she calmed. There was no other commotion and we were able to enjoy that moment. It felt as if we were in a bubble of love.
I’ve heard some funny myths about Scientology. There’s one that says you shouldn’t talk to your child for the first seven days; another that says you should eat the placenta after birth. They’re just ideas dreamt up by someone, somewhere.
All my friends know I’m a Scientologist and some ask, ‘Why would you do that?’ but it’s so easy to explain, most of them understand. It’s about respecting other faiths. The religious discrimination in this world is disgusting. If someone wants to give birth with drums beating in the background because that’s their belief, they should.
Scientology is about treating every spiritual being with the same respect, including children. Talking on a child’s reality level is one of the concepts I’ve really taken on board. I try to speak to Tyler and Taiesha calmly and tell them exactly what’s going on. They need guidance, but they deserve to be treated with dignity. You wouldn’t like it if someone picked you up by the arm and didn’t tell you where they were taking you. You’d think, woah, let me go. Children don’t like it, either – they’ll scream and have a tantrum.
There’s no problem with communicating in our family, so the silent birth didn’t have a negative impact. Tyler is five now and really good at sports. Taiesha is three and bossy; she knows what she wants. When we’re in the park, I see children who are reluctant to talk to other kids; I don’t know if it’s related or not, but ours will walk up and start chatting, no hesitation. And if they hurt themselves,I’ll be silent while I cuddle them and wait until the crying stops so they can tell me about it. They learn from each other.
I hope they’ll be interested in Scientology when they’re older. Dobsen and I go to the church on our own courses, so the kids are familiar with it, but it’s not something they have to do. Scientology is there for them whenever they’re ready.