Free Birth Society | El Matador Beach Maternity Photos + Interview


malibu maternity photography with free birth society.

so grateful to meet Emilee, the creator of Free Birth Society, and her man Jonny. we cruised El Matador beach in Malibu on a beautiful fall day. I’m inspired by Emilee’s work and community, and wanted to do an interview to share with you guys!

malibu maternity photography at el matador beach.
what is free birth society? 

Free Birth Society is an underground community of women exercising their own authority in their pregnancy and childbirth experiences. Free Birth means choosing to not opt into the medical model of birth and to instead be your own captain, allowing labor to spontaneously unfold at home. It also means that the woman is choosing to not hire a medical professional to manage her pregnancy and birth experience, and instead takes full responsibility for her experience. She does her own prenatal care and assembles a team of her choosing to support her in her birth at home. Women have “free birthed” since the beginning of time as medical assistance is relatively new. Sadly, while the medical model increases safety for a small percentage, it harms the vast majority of healthy mothers and babies with its unnecessary disruptions, interventions, and lack of trust in the normal physiological process of mammalian birth. In a culture in which we are rapidly losing normal birth, Free Birth Society is a community of women adamantly devoted to preserving and protecting the sacredness and power of physiological birth. Undisturbed birth is almost unheard of these days, with about half of American women being artificially induced for non medical reasons and one third of women ending their birth experience with a cesarean delivery. Even in an unmedicated birth (without epidurals or narcotics) women are still routinely restricted to a bed, administered routine IV fluids that dilute their birthing hormones, given episiotomies, and are separated from their infant for some period of time after birth. There is no such thing as a truly natural birth in a hospital setting and it’s imperative that we remember that and keep striving for better and more normal births. Again, this has only gotten away from women in very recent times. Ultimately, women own birth and we are taking it back.

LA maternity photographymaternity photography in malibu, california.
what inspired you to create this community? 

I’ve been attending births for well over a decade and have come to understand the different birthing models quite intimately. I’ve attended hundreds of births at home with regulated midwives, births in hospital, and free births – births without a provider managing the birth experience. What I have learned is that our culture doesn’t trust women, and our culture doesn’t trust birth. Birth, in its very essence, is the most wild and powerful act a woman can do, and everything about medicalized birth is intended to shut that down and shut us up. For over a hundred years, we have been silenced, drugged, strapped down, lied to, cut, abused, violated and raped every which way through obstetrics. I’ve seen more birth rape and obstetrical violence to women and their babies than I care to remember. It’s not right, and we need to remember that it was just a few generations ago that our great grandmothers birthed at home, in the presence of other women. We have been fed a lie that birth is dangerous and that it needs to be managed by surgeons in white coats, but science, nature, and evidence would beg to differ. We have a rising maternal and infant mortality rate in America. The interventions are not helping our species – it is significantly harming, not to mention traumatizing, generations of women and children.

As I grew closer to conceiving my own child, I knew I had to find another way.  I had been given the dark gift of knowing what went on in the hospital systems and how giving away your agency and consent was just par for the course. It’s also worth mentioning that the limiting rules and regulations of licensed midwifery are extremely harmful to both the birthing process and women and children. It significantly limits our options and leaves far too many women out in the margins forced into the hands of obstetrics, the very model they were trying to avoid. We have a long list of non-evidence based mandates that licensed midwives agree to follow that cause serious disruption, stress, and trauma to the birthing process. Some quick examples would be: no twins at home, no breech presentation at home, no birthing at home prior to 37 weeks and after 42, mandated transfer to OB if the waters have been open for over 24 hours with no significant labor, etc, and it should be noted that ALL of these examples are variations of normal. The bottom line is, for as long as the paternalistic medical model gets to determine how and where women birth their children, we are in danger.

So, I discovered another way. I discovered a world beyond regulations and communities believing women needed to be saved from birth. I found a world beyond fear of the wild woman, I found free birth, and an underground global community of incredible women who are saying, “Yeah, no thanks, I got this.” and having perfectly safe, healthy, normal, undisturbed, physiological births at home in the company of their family. It has been an incredibly rich process of unlearning the cultural lies I’ve been fed and truly coming to understand and trust the protective nature of undisturbed birth.

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what does birth look like to you in 20 years?

Sadly I imagine it looking quite similar to how it looks today, with increasingly high and unnecessary incidents of surgery and forced attempts to begin labor artificially for no medical reason.  The majority of women will likely continue choosing an obstetrical model that steals their birth experiences away from them, because we have been so successfully indoctrinated with the lies that we cannot be trusted to do this on our own and that somehow a stranger in a hospital knows more about our bodies and our babies than we do. We will continue to have a minority of women resisting and opting into safer models of birth, protecting the significance of undisturbed birth in home.

My hope for our next generations is that we will continue sharing and amplifying the stories of women birthing in power. The world needs to hear them. The women who have been told they can’t do this need to hear these stories and know what is possible. My prayer for our future generations is that more and more girls and women will learn about their own fertility, learn about birth, and choose to have people in their life that are not incentivized to harm them. My hope is that all women will once again come to know what normal birth is, what a sisterhood of strong women can feel like, and that we move into a matriarchal society that honors and trusts women as soon as possible. :)

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aloha from cadencia photography
for more interviews with momma’s, check out my series: tropical moms.
want to book a LA maternity session? contact me here.
*currently floating between the los angeles, san francisco and hawaii — so please check availability.