Childbirth Educators

“One could almost say that the root of all anguish is an unconscious memory of birth and its terrors”

~ Frederick Leboyer

We are now in the province of the Sun in Cancer, a sign which represents birth, incarnation and parenting.  Its ruling planet the Moon represents the Inner Child in our charts.  With the recent passing of Frederick Leboyer, a pioneer of natural birthing, I thought I would take a look at the way childbirth and awareness of the incoming child has evolved.

Cancer is not the only sign which is associated with birth: Scorpio represents the whole cycle of death and rebirth, and Leo represents creativity and children.

Frederick Leboyer (1918 – 2017)

“The father of non-traumatic births”, Frederick Leboyer, was an Obstetrician who published his seminal work “Pour une Naissance Sans Violence” in 1974.  Prior to his intervention, doctors thought nothing of what now seems barbaric: holding the newborn upside down and slapping its bottom (to stimulate its first breath).  He advocated low lighting to alleviate the shock of bright lighting, a calm and quiet atmosphere, a smooth transition from the watery womb, the importance of immediate bonding with the mother, and brought in the idea of water births (though he did not specifically recommend them; they are more associated with the slightly later work of Michel Odent).  He believed the less interference in birth the better.

With the Sun in Scorpio, 5 planets in Water signs, and Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Cancer (a new and positive outlook on birth), Leboyer’s birth chart seems tailor made for a pioneer in this field.  His Moon was sextile his North Node, implying a child-centred karmic mission.  His Mercury was square Uranus, controversial in communication and thinking outside the box, possibly a necessary quality for a groundbreaker – “Birth Without Violence” caused quite a stir.  Pluto was in the first decanate of Cancer when Leboyer was born, and so he ushered in a revolution in birth practice, followed by several others who had Pluto in Cancer.

His explorations came from his own experience of birth, when his mother was held down for his forceps delivery.  In his travels to India, he saw that poorer Indian women had better deliveries than those able to afford hospital treatment, and took note of the differences.  He also connected with his guru Swami Prajnanpad who taught that the memory of birth is held deep within the psyche.  Leboyer relived and resolved his own birth through dreams and nightmares.

His synastry with Prajnanpad was very exalted: their Venuses were exactly sextile, Swami’s Mars was trine Leboyer’s Neptune, Swami’s Jupiter was sextile Leboyer’s Mars, their Jupiters were conjunct, and Swami’s Saturn squared Leboyer’s Nodal Axis (a disciplined karmic bond).

Arthur Janov (born 1924)

Psychologist Arthur Janov was born 6 years after Leboyer, but published his famous work “The Primal Scream” four years before “Birth Without Violence”.  His Primal Therapy was focussed on reliving the trauma around birth, and was derived from the experience of: “an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor”.  The therapy consisted largely of expressing the repressed feelings of the birth trauma.  John Lennon took part both in individual and group sessions of this therapy, and its influence impacted on his songwriting, notably for the album “Plastic Ono Band”.  The lyrics for “Mother” include the plaintive lines:

“Mother, you had me but I never had you,

I wanted you, you didn’t want me”.

Janov is a Leo Sun opposite closely Mars in Aquarius (symbolic of the violence of birth).  He had Venus conjunct Pluto and the I.C. in Cancer (deep feelings and emotions in relation to birth and security) in the 3rd House of Screaming.  Mercury in the 5th House of Birth adds to the theme of vocalization of the experience.  Neptune conjuncts the North Node and the Sun in Leo in 4th House of the Beginnings of Life, increasing the role of sensitivity in this karmic mission.  The Moon squares the Nodal Axis, again depicting his life’s work, in the trauma of birth (as distinct from Leboyer’s more soothing Moon sextile the North Node).  Like Leboyer, he had a controversial link between Mercury and Uranus (the opposition).  Jupiter being unaspected, may have added to the negative angle of his work.  Chiron in Aries too depicts the term “Primal Therapy”.  Like Leboyer, his chart is tailor made for the work he came in for.  His North Node was trine closely Chiron, so therapy was his karmic mission.  In my opinion the book “The Feeling Child” is his best contribution to the understanding of the sensitivity of the newborn and primal pain.

Sheila Kitzinger (1929 – 2015)

Social Anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger the “high priestess of natural childbirth”, was born 5 years after Arthur Janov, but became involved in the cause of natural childbirth processes long before Leboyer and Janov published their famous books.  Here is another watery chart (4 planets in Water, like Janov), though we do not have a birth time.  She had 0 Air planets, relying very much on instinct and emotion for her processing of life’s experiences.  She had Mars and Pluto in the birth related sign of Cancer.  She had a pioneering and innovative chart, with Sun in Aries exactly conjunct Uranus, and the Sun square exactly Mars, and thought of herself as a social revolutionary:

“I don’t think you can prepare girls for growing up for the world in which we live today, a world which needs to be changed, by simply seeing yourself in the mother role. I wanted to have warrior children.”

Like Leboyer and Janov, she had an aspect of the Moon to her North Node, the child within linked with the karmic mission, in her case a conjunction.  With Venus exactly sextile Mars, she contributed an emphasis on the sensuality of birth, and a sense of pleasure (she herself had 5 happy births).  With Venus conjunct Jupiter, she loved people and was popular. Mars sextile exactly Chiron gave her a free flowing healing energy.  Her Jupiter conjunct Chiron was an aspect which can bring success in healing.

Her own mother’s work was involved in family planning, and she felt she was continuing her work (Moon conjunct North Node).  In 1958 she joined the advisory board of the Natural Childbirth Trust, founded two years earlier.  Like Leboyer, she was against the medicalization of childbirth, and additionally was particularly intent on the quality of the experience for the mother.  She advocated women drawing up their birth plans and promoted body awareness.  In 1962 she published her most notable book “The Experience of Childbirth”, and that was still 8 years before Janov’s book, and 12 years before Leboyer’s.  The book was tremendously influential, and among other practices it discouraged the routine use of episiotomies, and encouraged successful breastfeeding.

Michel Odent (born  1930)

Obstetrician Michel Odent is seen as a disciple of Leboyer, and we do not have a birth date for him, only a year.  1930 was the year Pluto was discovered, and it was then found in the sign of Cancer.  This reminds us that one of main significances of Pluto in Cancer is the reform and deeper understanding of birth practices.  He was born one year after Sheila Kitzinger.  Michel Odent was labelled in the Lancet as “one of the last real general surgeons”.

He was interested in the birth environment, and has been associated with the rise in popularity of the water birth, although he did not see it as a requisite, but as an alleviating factor for pain to some extent.  Nowadays, water births are readily available to women.  He was enthusiastic about breastfeeding immediately after birth.

His book “Birth Reborn” was published in 1984, ten years after Leboyer’s main work.

Thomas Verny (born 1936)

Psychiatrist Thomas Verny was born 6 years after Michel Odent, and was responsible for a further deepening and understanding of the developing foetus in his 1981 work (with John Kelly), “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child”.  He introduced new ideas into the mainstream which had not been seriously considered, such as playing music to the unborn child.  Again, we do not have a birth date for him, but he too came under the banner of Pluto in Cancer.  The work he undertook was painstakingly researched, and included examples of how babies and children responded to stimuli after birth which showed recognition of experiences in the womb.  Again, this was a very influential book.

Leonard Orr (born 1937)

“The father of the Rebirthing movement” Leonard Orr was born a year after Verny, and has Sun in Scorpio, like Leboyer, and 3 planets in Water.  He derived his work from remembering his birth experiences while spending hours in the bath, and his therapy took the ideas of Janov to a more constructive and positive level, based on a conscious breathing technique (Sun sextile exactly Jupiter) which enable the repressed memories of birth to surface.  Like Leboyer, he was much influenced by an Indian guru, in this case Babaji, and there was a very spiritual focus in his work (Jupiter trine Neptune).  His Sun sextile closely Neptune brings in a great element of sensitivity and spirituality.  His Moon was strangely unaspected, as was Uranus in his chart, and this may have been freeing psychologically.  Mercury sextile Mars describes his dynamic breathing technique, and Mercury trine Pluto again emphasizes breathing but in depth.  Chiron at 29 degrees Gemini, again puts the emphasis on breathwork.  Leonard Orr developed his work in the 1970s.

Wikipedia says Rebirthing was labelled a cult in 2006.  At some point it evolved into being called a breathwork movement, but I don’t think there was any element of brainwashing about it and found it very interesting and valuable myself.  It was a huge movement at one time with leading lights such as Sondra Ray, Bob Mandel, Phil Laut, Jim Leonard and Jim Morningstar.  One of my mandalas was used on the cover of “Breathe” magazine in 2007, and I still offer a form of Rebirthing in my therapeutic practice.

Like Primal Therapy, Rebirthing is designed to reveal memories of birth and bring insight into its effects on our lives and relationships, and thus to clear issues which are holding us back.

“Unconscious birth memories bar the way as a closed portal on the path back to bliss”

~ Fredric Lehrman

Ina May Gaskin (born 1940)

Midwife Ina May Gaskin “the mother of authentic midwifery” was born 3 years after Leonard Orr, and she is a Piscean born on a New Moon.  She represents the closing of the mission of Pluto in Cancer, as her Pluto is at 0 degrees Leo.  Her Chiron (Inner Healer) is in Cancer.  Like Sheila Kitzinger, she has 0 Air planets, and like Leonard Orr, she has 3 Water planets.  Like Sheila too, she has the Mars-Chiron sextile of free flowing healing energy.

Her book “Spiritual Midwifery” (1977) is a classic, and a must read for anyone pursuing natural childbirth.  Although she is the youngest of these childbirth educators, like so many of them her book was published in the 1970s.  She developed her work as a midwife living in a commune (“The Farm” in Tennessee), but her work and skills came to be appreciated by the wider community.  There is an emphasis on the relationship between the parents in her work, and family and friends are often in attendance.

“The men of The Farm community provided technological assistance and moral support to the midwives and birthing women, but they did not interfere with the ideas, the organization, the customs and ways, and culture that developed among the women.” ~ Ina May Gaskin

As with Leonard Orr’s work, there is quite an emphasis on the spiritual, and the role of intuition in the process of facilitating childbirth.

Carol Lorente wrote of her book:

“Considered a seminal work, it presented pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding from a fresh, natural and spiritual perspective, rather than the standard clinical viewpoint. In homebirth and midwifery circles, it made her a household name, and a widely respected teacher and writer.”


Nowadays, we are educated in the history of midwifery by the television programme “Call The Midwife”.  We are informed graphically about modern hospital practices in the programme “One Born Every Minute”.  We may even be seeing the future experience of birth, in that 5 year olds who were originally born in the programme and who now attend school, have been watching their own births which were recorded on the programme.  They have no need therefore for techniques to reclaim their memory of birth, and may deal with their birth trauma or experience much earlier.


“Pour Une Naissance Sans Violence” – Frederick Leboyer

“The Feeling Child” – Arthur Janov

“The Experience of Childbirth” – Sheila Kitzinger

“Birth Reborn” – Michel Odent

“The Secret Life of the Unborn Child” – Thomas Verny and John Kelly

“Birth and Relationships” – Sondra Ray and Bob Mandel

“Spiritual Midwifery” – Ina May Gaskin


On Sunday (25th) Jupiter squares Mars, an aspect which is safe in some hands, but not in others!  In a safe pair of hands, it can bring great enthusiasm allied with energy, even untrammelled joy or entry into the consciousness of other dimensions.  In rougher hands, it can bring up anger and a rough expression of emotions. Some would say it brings up the spectre of the Fire element, and I am hoping that after the Grenfell Tower in London, and the Portuguese forest fires, it has already seen its expression in that form.

Mars expresses a kinder and more manageable form of energy on Monday (26th) when it trines Neptune.  Perhaps you can take the energy and experiences of Sunday and transmute them into a more refined and gentler way of working.  In the office, you may have a slight hangover from the weekend, but your nervous system may be recalibrating and recuperating, and suddenly you may see your working practices differently and more sensitively.  Go gently, and you can work some magic.

Tuesday (27th) brings the first of a set of awkward aspects to Mercury, the ruler of Gemini and Virgo, this week.  Mercury squares Jupiter, and we can overstretch ourselves under this aspect, especially through mental activity or travel.  We might overestimate our mental resources for studying, or journeying.  Our communications may be unnecessarily verbose.  We can still be upbeat though, and our Explorer Archetype may be very much to the fore.  The motto for the day may well be ” ‘Tis better to travel hopefully than arrive”, or “The journey is the goal”.

Wednesday (28th) is the best day for Geminis and Virgos (at least early in the day), as their ruler Mercury trines Neptune, and it is one of the best aspects of the week generally.  It is a good aspect for channelling, spiritual inspiration for the mind, undertaking complicated journeys or studies, and if you are working with crafts creating magic with your hands.

In the early evening Mercury conjuncts Mars at 15 degrees Cancer, which for some may produce incisive writing or analytical action.  If the negative side of this aspect manifests, it can bring minor cuts and bruises or a war of words.  This conjunction brings out the Inner Critic, and the age old question of whether the pen is mightier than the sword.  Geminis, Virgos and Ariens may be especially involved in settling this matter.

Tread carefully, and try to be the detached observer for the second half of the week, for Mercury then goes on to form an opposition with Pluto on Friday (30th).  From Wednesday evening, your words are weighed heavily in importance, especially if you are trying to help resolve a dispute, literally every word counts.  In some ways, your choice of words may be unconscious, and if the consequences are not those intended, you cannot do much about that.  But if you bear in mind that right and good communication with positive intent is of the utmost importance during this period, you can set the tone and set an example in a group for instance.  A slip of the tongue, or of the pen, can cost.  Scorpios particularly need to keep their sting tucked in firmly if they are pursuing a path of harmlessness and non-violence.

Looking slightly ahead to Sunday (2nd July) we are heading to an opposition between Mars and Pluto (conflict), so it is really important to watch our words later this week.

The week in bullet points:

  • Sunday – enthusiasm
  • Monday – sensitive action
  • Tuesday – overstretched
  • Wednesday – mental inspiration; incisive words
  • Friday – the power of the word