My personal history around the sexuality of labor and birth

Midwife Karen Ehrlich making footprints for a newborn baby.I have been a homebirth midwife for almost 40 years. From the days when I first began to study birth and continuing through to the present, I have always recognized that this seminal time in the lives of families and of the human race is a long and juicy sexual event. It deserves the same kind of sensitivity that we hope for in the best of sex.

I began teaching the sexuality of the pregnancy-birth-postpartum sphere sometime in the early 1980s. No matter where I talked of this linkage (except with other midwives, virtually all of whom perceived the same unifying factor), people couldn’t wrap their minds around thinking of childbirth as sexual.

I first spoke in a college class on Human Sexuality in about 1985, and the instructor of that class was dumbfounded. Despite having been immersed for many years and on a day to day basis in this potent realm of human existence, it had never crossed his mind that childbirth is an act of sex. He wanted me to return to his class so he could film my talk, but the logistics never got worked out and it never happened.

So I began to write a book about my deeply held belief in the sexual oneness of the whole period of childbearing. Fifteen years later, after some renewed months of laboring on that much-delayed opus, I decided that I would capitalize on all the work it was taking to write a book by making it into a thesis so I could get a master’s degree out of my efforts. (A shout out to Goddard College, a wonderful and progressive school dedicated to self-designed, distance learning programs that speak of who we are.)

Midwife Karen Ehrlich speaking at a conferenceThe thing is, by the time I struggled to submission of my thesis it was completed. Done. It had a form of its own. I found it beyond difficult to reform my thesis back into a book. Between being distractible and a first-class procrastinator who has more than enough to do that is interesting and compelling, it is now more than ten years since I finished my master’s degree. My mythical book is no more than an inch closer to being a reality.

In the years between completing my thesis and today, awareness is growing of the physical and psychological and emotional and hormonal and neurological and spiritual interconnection of all the days from when a woman first conceives new life through to that new life having its own fully separated life. I think such growing awareness is a good thing, because I am convinced that we must resexualize childbirth in order to have the best chance of improving the health of mothers and babies in our country and beyond.

Meanwhile, there are aspects of this linkage that are still not yet recognized. I have been frustrated with myself long enough for not having produced a unified book that covers the whole genealogy of being with child that is sex. This information deserves to reach a broader audience.

Thanks to a couple whom I midwived in 2012, both webmasters, who offered to help me with a website that they thought I ought to have, you have here all the chapters of Life is a Sexually Transmitted Condition: The Sexuality of Pregnancy and Birth. Perhaps, now that I have gotten the middle section of this thread out into the ethers, I will get around to giving you more information about the sexuality of pregnancy (not just the sexuality of getting pregnant) and the sexuality of living with the product of an act of sex.

This document is currently available only here online. If you are interested in a CD-ROM or a paper copy, please contact me.