Woman's Own, 23 September 1990
Every mum wants her baby's birth to be special. But few would go as far as Sarah Evans, whose dream was to give birth with dolphins as midwives!
Sarah Evans reached out, gently stroking the dolphin's side. Her labour pangs subsided as she breathed deeply, relaxing in the warm waters of the Red Sea.
Despite opposition from the Israeli authorities, Sarah had decided to go ahead and give birth with the dolphins to 'help' her. And although she had reservations about the lack of hospital facilities available if anything went wrong, within three hours she was holding a healthy baby son.
Sarah had flown out to the Israeli resort of Eliat specifically to give birth with dolphins in the Red Sea. She was one of six pregnant women and a team of doctores, therapists and masseurs who flew to Eliat after months of preparation by London obstetrician Dr Gowri Motha. The idea was for the dolphins to act as aquatic 'midwives', helping the women to have a tranquil labour.
But the Israeli authorities were not impressed by the idea of the controversial births. Concerned for the safety of the women and their babies, they banned the scheme after health inspectors ruled it could expose mothers and babies to infections.
But Sarah was absolutely determined to go ahead, and ignored the ruling. In the end, she was the only one in the group to experience giving birth in the Red Sea.
When she went into labour at midnight, 31-year old Sarah trekked from her hotel room to the beach and the Dolphin Reef sanctuary, where she gave birth to baby Samuel in a heated, glass-bottomed pool. As she hoped, the Reef's six dolphins – Hindu, Cindy, Shi, Dicky Dana and Domino – came to investigate.
Sarah, who used Dr Motha's technique of self-hypnosis during her three-hour labour, was able to touch one of them as it circled around her. Husband Jonathan, a 30-year old recruitment agency owner, was there to cut the umbillical cord as Samuel came into world at 3am.
Dr Motha, 43, has spent 20 years researching childbirth, and believes that dolphins can help a woman deliver with almost no pain by passing an underwater sonar messages of support. And Sarah agrees: "Giving birth in the Red Sea with the dolphins was the most wonderful experience of my life," she says. "I was in complete control of the situation and didn't feel under any pressure to perform, as you do in a hospital with the doctors and nurses milling about."It happened so quickly, and I wasn't in any pain. The dolphins came close – but not too close. It felt like they wanted their presence to be known, but didn't want to be too intrusive," she says.
Just 30 minutes after the birth, Sarah walked up the sandy beach with her new-born son, and by 4am she was celebrating with champagne back at the hotel!
Sarah, who also has a three-year old son Joshua, says she has no regrets about her unusual labour, even though it meant sneaking out in the night to avoid the authorities.Now back at home in East Sussex, she says she and baby Samuel are fighting fit. "My only reservation was that while I was in labour I didn't have the option of hospital facilities if I needed them," she says.Dolphins are said to be able to sense if a woman is pregnant – before she may know herself in some cases – and if there are any pregnant women in the water, they often pay them particular attention.
The other five women who went to Eilat say swimming with the dolphins in the weeks leading up to giving birth was and experience they'll never forget. And Sarah describes how, when she was out swimming in the sea in the weeks before the birth, she'd feel Samuel kicking whenever the dolphins came near and she could touch them.
Dr Motha, who's comitted to encouraging women to opt for natural births and self-hypnosis techniques during labour, hailed the project as a great success. "The fact that one woman gave birth in the sea with dolphins made the trip worthwhile," she said.
"Women feel safe when they're in the water with dolphins. These wonderful mammals understand joy at a very deep level. Swimming with them enables a prospective mother to be in touch with joy, which is the true essence to birth."Hospitals tend to turn the birth of a child into an organised, sanitised affaire over which the professionals, rather than mothers have control."
Woman's Own, 23 September 1990