[Giving Birth: Frederick Leboyer 1]

An interview with Dr. Frederick Leboyer, author of the book Birth without Violence, for the documentary Giving Birth: Four Portraits.

00:00Copy video clip URL Set-up. 

00:43Copy video clip URL Filmmaker John Reilly introduces and asks his first question, asking. Dr. Frederick Leboyer to describe the set-up for the births that he supervises. Leboyer describes the need to treat the newborn like a guest, and to be attentive to the sharpness of their senses by making the environment as calm and welcoming as possible. 

03:16Copy video clip URL Reilly asks Leboyer to focus on the specifics of light, of water, and of temperature in his birthing techniques. Leboyer describes methods of minimizing the newborn’s trauma. “To be touched for the first time, to be handled for the first time, is so strange and new that it cannot but create fear. And actually what is making births traumatic is not so much physical suffering as it is fear, nothing but fear. And this fear is going on with us all through life…. So I’ve been trying to do away with this fear from the very beginning.” 

06:17Copy video clip URL Set-up for a new camera shot.

07:02Copy video clip URL Leboyer discusses the lasting trauma of birth for a child, and the need to minimize the shock of birth. Thinking of the newborn as a person, and the persistence of that initial traumatic memory throughout life.

08:47Copy video clip URL Remembering one’s own birth. “I do not mean to say that I believe in soul, spirit or anything, no. I’m only … taking into account facts. And facts are there that all that takes place at birth is there in the memory and can be brought back to the memory, either by drugs or by hypnotic techniques or by some techniques and you know that now in America you’ve got many people that have started ‘re-birthing techniques’ as they call them, either people putting in touch with warm water, which brings deep relaxation, or there are various techniques where you can not remember your birth but actually re-experience it. And certainly you can give details which at times your parents will testify for and they will say ‘But how can you know that?!’ … So these are facts.” Mentions of the LSD as a psychiatric tool for remembering one’s own birth. 

11:13Copy video clip URL In the delivery room, the newborn typically not thought of as a person “Because he can’t talk, he cannot say, ‘But you are torturing me!’ He is saying so, actually. He is screaming. If such screaming would come from next door you would say, ‘But what’s happening? They are killing someone! We must go and help!’ But there is a newborn and for some very complex reasons, which is the fact that simply this memory is in each and every one of us but fantastically repressed – it’s unbearable, it is the last thing we want to face. So we look at this newborn and we say, ‘It screams,’ meaning to say there’s no feeling. Because if you would open to this suffering it would trigger again your own suffering, and you would start screaming.” 

12:26Copy video clip URL Leboyer’s history. He’s practiced this method for 8 or 9 years, and has birthed about 1000 babies this way. Those children, he claims, are substantially different, in that they seem to have no problem with feeding or with sleep and that they are “unusually lively… unusually awake and alert.” “It seems that most of the time they’ve got no sickness.” 

14:36Copy video clip URL Follow-up studies suggest that all the children Leboyer has birthed are ambidextrous up to age 3. “We already know that they are unusually clever with their hands and with both their hands. Clever, I am told, and creative.” Discussion of the unusually high IQ of these children, though he never expected to “produce geniuses.” 

15:29Copy video clip URL Filmmaker Julie Gustafson asks Leboyer whether the parents that come to him are in some way exceptional. Leboyer claims that most of the parents he worked with were workers, many of them immigrants, and that most had never heard of him. 

17:19Copy video clip URL Reilly asks about parallels about parallels to his birthing methods in other societies. Leboyer discusses “traditional societies” that prioritize births with no light and silence. The mother spending time alone with the child, sometimes in complete darkness. 

19:19Copy video clip URL The importance of eye contact between mother and child. 

20:01  Discussion of water birth. The pain and trauma of “parting with the mother” during conventional births being so severe as to cause problems throughout one’s life, so trying to make that first parting as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Wanting to give the newborn a familiar sensation to pacify their fear and minimize the differences from the womb. 



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