I’d like to share with you my story of FreeBirthing with my good friend Mary-Jane.
Yes, I smoked Ganga at the very end of my pregnancy, through labour, and during the first 2-3 weeks post-partum. I had not smoked anything at all through the rest of my pregnancy, and had not been a habitual smoker for many years.
Here is my experience…….
During my late teens and 20s, I smoked Ganga regularly and habitually. For me it was emotional and mental anaesthetic to numb the pain caused by very violent and traumatic experiences I had from age 17-21. During my 20s I also started learning about healing, and as my healing journey progressed, I relied less and less upon my good friend Mary-Jane, until by my 30s I no longer smoked it regularly. Very occasionally I would be given some in trade or exchange for some healing I had done for someone. And it would sit in a special box for the time when I might really need it. When my father died, for example, I had some that I’d kept for about 6 months or so, and it got me through the emotional rollercoaster of grief for the first few weeks.
By this time, in my mid 30s, I had done a lot of ceremonial shamanic work, and realised Ganga’s nature as a teacher plant, as opposed to it being a ‘drug’. I believe and have experienced that it has a myriad of uses, but I think primarily, its functions are as a relaxant, as a pain reliever, and as a catalyst for changing states of consciousness and awareness.
Of course, the level of these effects will depend on how much you take, the method of delivery, as well as the type of plant/preparation you can access.
I have never smoked skunk. It is generally laced with chemicals and grown hydroponically and in an indoor and artificial environment. It has also been modified and bred to concentrate the THC (psycho-active compound) levels. This is why so many people lose the plot when they smoke too much skunk.
My favourite smoke is good old fashioned African BushWeed. Grown in the Earth, it keeps you grounded on your journey. It has been grown outside, with real Sun caressing its leaves, the Wind whispering through it and the Rain quenching its thirst. It has been elementally and naturally grown. Not battery farmed like most of the weed in this country (UK). And it doesn’t blow your head off.
When I decided that I wanted to use Ganga for labour, it was as if I was calling on an old friend that I hadn’t seen for a while, to help me with this most awesome event. I initially only thought about its pain relieving properties, but it actually gave me so much more than that.
I sourced some nice weed a few months in advance, and bought some American Spirit Tobacco to smoke it with. This Tobacco doesn’t have any chemicals added to it and they are not used in its growing. It is used ceremonially in prayer pipes in Native American ceremony and ritual. For Native Americans, Tobacco is a sacred plant that is used in many ways, including smoking it, primarily to send prayers to Great Spirit. It is the plant ally which creates and facilitates a strong channel of communication between the As Above and the So Below.
The way it is used recreationally in the West, is seen as a sacrilege to the power and true purpose of this teacher plant. It has been abused and tainted. This is why it makes people sick in the modern world. There are Shamen in the Amazon called Tabaqueros, who use and smoke their own grown Tobacco for ceremonial and healing purposes. It is MUCH higher in nicotine than our commercially grown and packaged Tobacco. They never get lung cancer.
The way we are taught (programmed) to see these plants is as ‘drugs’ and commodities, that are sanctioned or not, but are fundamentally pathological. From a holistic, herbal and shamanic perspective, these plants are wise teachers, who are sentient and conscious, and who are there to help us through spiritual, healing and initiatory experiences, if called upon respectfully and honoured as sacred. So this is how I approached my ‘use of Ganga’ for my Birth journey.
I sat in meditation with the Weed and Tobacco I had acquired, and I asked them to help me in my Birth, in whatever way they deemed appropriate.
Initially, I had only intended to smoke it during my labour, to help ease the pain of the contractions. I had also read that Cannabis is an oxytocic herb, and so it therefore promotes the release of this Love hormone, which as we all know, is essential to the Birthing process. This told me that Ganga had been intelligently designed specifically for use during Birth, by The Creator.
As my due date drew closer, I started having real trouble getting to sleep, partly because I was nervous and excited, partly because I was physically uncomfortable in my fully pregnant body. So about a week before I was due to give Birth, I smoked a very small amount to try and help me to get off to sleep.
My risk assessment reasoning was that by now, my Baby was well and truly built. Any adverse effects would be comparatively minimal compared to if it was during the earlier stages of pregnancy. But something strange and unexpected happened. Because I hadn’t smoked it for a long time, the psycho-active effects of it came on very strongly. Instead of getting me off to sleep, it instead took me into a very deep and contemplative state.
I had just had a Blessingway Ceremony – a celebration and Rite of Passage into Motherhood – and had a table full of gifts, candles, herbs and flowers, affirmations, pictures and words of love and support, strength and sisterhood. I sat up throughout the night arranging all these tokens of Sisterhood Magic into an alter. I read all the words that had been pasted into a book for me. I created a Sacred Landscape of Birth. My Birthing Alter. This took me all night, and in this altered state of consciousness, was my first step into the deep, primal Labyrinth of Birth. I experienced a profound sense of calm and trust in this journey I was embarking upon. That is one of the gifts that Mary-Jane brought me. She connected me to my ancient female instincts and primal knowledge. She chilled me right out and helped me to weave this magic that had been gifted to me by my sisters, into a strong and powerful web. A web that connected me to all Birthing women since always, for always, who make this Rite of Passage, and come out the other side empowered and wise, as Mothers. Ganga helped me to access a state of consciousness that prepared me on the deepest emotional, mental, spiritual and mystical levels. And that is what I needed.
So as the week leading up to my due date progressed, I continued to smoke a small joint late at night, when my partner had gone to bed, and I was still awake. Continuing my personal journey of preparation. Sitting with myself in the dark quiet hours. Looking deep into my own soul. Connecting to my unborn child. I did quite a lot of birth art, expressing my desires as well as my general state of being. Art to represent and call my helpers and allies of Nature and Spirit. The Crystals and the Plants, the Animals and my Ancestors. My cat Inka would sit next to me being the constant reassuring companion that he is. Purring with approval, at my pictures, my simple presence, and my profound processing.
So Ganga facilitated an incredibly deep and profound preparation process that I really had not anticipated.
Before I had started smoking it, I had been scared. I will not beat around the bush and pretend that I was 100% full of confidence. Cos I wasn’t! I felt like I was about to do a parachute jump out of an aeroplane. Having planned to freebirth, I felt like I had packed my own parachute. In my preparation, I had folded, packed, unpacked, checked and re-checked that parachute many times. I trusted myself to pack it well more than I trusted anyone else. But I still didn’t know if it was actually going to open when I jumped out of the plane. That is how I felt leading up to my due date. By the time my due date arrived, I had been smoking a little bit of Ganga each night for about a week, and my foreboding nerves had gone. Replaced instead with a deep sense of peace and trust in the process. My own demons of fear had been exorcised. That is what Ganga did for me. Combined with the ritualised and sacred preparation process I had been going through.
But this is off the back of having had a long relationship with Mary-Jane. I know her and she knows me. We are old friends. And in those weeks, I was also testing out my ‘dosages’ . Seeing just how strong this Weed was. I really did not want to get into the midst of labour, and then find myself spinning out on a massive trip, cos I had underestimated the strength of it. It gave me a time of getting re-acquainted with her, and for my body to build up a little bit of tolerance so that I didn’t get too wasted during labour. I wanted the Ganga to relax me, to ease any pain, and to help me get into a deeply primal state of consciousness. I did not want to find myself out of control, wasted, tripping out too hard, or having a white-out. That was absolutely not the aim of the game. But the reality is that this could easily happen to someone who has not met Mary-Jane before. Or even if you haven’t smoked in a while, or tried that particular batch of weed. It is also much more likely that you will experience these more intense and detrimental effects if Ganga is ingested, taken as a concentrated oil, or smoked in a bong or pipe. When used in excess, the psycho-active effect is enhanced, and the likelihood of a bad trip increases massively. This would NOT be a good place to be in mid-labour. So smoking it in a joint with tobacco is a much better way to use it, because it gives you much more control over your ‘dosage’.
I found I actually only smoked in the early part of labour anyway, as by the time I got to the stage of pushing, there was no way I could have held a joint, much less smoked it.
And then post-partum, I can only say that Ganga was a total life-saver. Again, I hadn’t intended to smoke it at all after birth. But then no-one told me how much my body was going to hurt AFTERWARDS! I honestly felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Everything hurt. And so in the following 2-3 weeks, I smoked it for pain relief purposes, but also as an emotional stabiliser, when my hormones were clearly all over the shop, and my emotions were fluctuating over the smallest little things. Again, she just chilled me out! When my nipples hurt so much that I dreaded the next feed, a little joint eased the pain, and helped my general resolve to carry on through the tough bits. When I felt like crying cos it seemed like I was drowning in a sea of dirty nappies, a little joint stilled the turbulent waters and gave me a reality check, helping me to put things into perspective!
I never smoked around my daughter, and always went outside.
In my overall risk assessment, I considered it to be a low risk to my daughter, before, during and after Birth. When I considered the orthodox medical pharmaceuticals used routinely in medically managed Birth, there simply was no comparison. I do not trust the safety to myself or to my child of ultrasound scans in utero, or other forms of anomaly testing. I do not believe any pharmaceutical drugs to be safe and risk free, be they used for induction, pain relief, third stage ‘management’, preventing post-partum haemorrhage, or vaccination. I trust nature, and I trust plants. I do not trust concentrated, selected and synthesised versions of those plants, as man thinks he can best Nature in strength, dosage and synergistic application. Man always goes over the top, in my opinion. Makes them too strong. Like the skunk. Now don’t get me wrong, brilliant for an emergency. A true emergency. But not used willy nilly, or even worse, routinely.
So that was how Mary-Jane supported me through Birth. She was my Plant Doula! The truth of the matter is I actually value the contribution she made to my journey far more before and after Birth, than for the actual Birth itself. And while it did help a bit for pain relief, during and after Birth, the majority of the benefits, I would say were emotional, psychological and spiritual.
These are also the areas, in my opinion, which we need to re-visit within the whole culture of Birth. Our mainstream birthing framework and perception needs re-evaluating. We need to remember that Birth is about much more than just the physical body and the labour experience. It is a deeply emotional experience that is heavily influenced by a Birthing Mother’s state of mind and emotional journey throughout her whole pregnancy, but increasing in intensity the closer she gets to the Birth itself. When Birth is good, it has the potential to be a profoundly spiritual experience, of deep magic steeped in ancient female mystery and knowledge, profoundly empowering and healing. We need to re-claim these aspects of Birth, for the health and sanity of Womankind as well as for our Children. Because when Birth goes badly, the wounds that are inflicted upon the heart, mind and soul are often deep and can have a lasting and damaging impact upon Mother, Baby and their Family relationships. This cannot be good for our society as a whole, and is unfortunately becoming increasingly prevalent.
A week after my daughter was born, we finally settled on her name.
We have named her Holly Elfin Malster Purdie.
Her initials are HEMP !!! 😉