Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage

Weaving ancient wisdom with modern knowledge

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It’s time for a childbirth revolution. The modern approach to maternity care fails women, families and care providers with outdated practices that centre the needs of institutions rather than individuals. In this book, Rachel Reed weaves history, science and research with the experiences of women and care providers to create a holistic, evidence-based framework for understanding birth. Reclaiming childbirth as a rite of passage requires us to recognise that mothers own the power and expertise when it comes to birthing their babies. Whether you are a parent, care provider or educator, this book will transform how you think and feel about childbirth.


Part One: The Weft

  1. Herstory: an overview of the herstory of childbirth from early humans to the emergence of modern maternity systems.
  2. The legacy: how the legacy of herstory continues to influence the modern cultural landscape of childbirth.
  3. Blood mysteries: an exploration of women’s bodily rites of passage and how they are interrelated with the childbirth experience.
  4. Childbirth as a rite of passage: key elements of childbirth as a rite of passage and the role of care providers (setting the scene for Part Two).

Part Two: The Weave

  1. Preparation: pregnancy and cultivating self-trust for birth
  2. Separation: early labour and releasing the external world
  3. Liminality: labour, betwixt and between, and transition
  4. Emergence: birthing the baby and witnessing body wisdom
  5. Integration: birthing the placenta and mother-baby enchantment
  6. Medical birth rites: how to centre the woman when her childbirth rite of passage includes medical intervention.

Tour of the Book


The Practising Midwife Journal
Anna-Marie Madeley

This book 100% lives up to the hype around it.

There were some real lightbulb moments in reading this and vocal exclamations of “yes!” throughout and I know I’m not alone. Not since I first read Ina May Gaskins ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ have I read something that has resonated so deeply with me as a midwife, as a woman. I cannot recommend this book enough - for all... 

An absolute must have in any childbirth related curriculum or in any healthcare library.

Midwifery Matters Journal
Lia Brigante

I enjoyed every chapter of this book; it has reinforced my midwifery knowledge and intuition. It has reminded me of the midwife's role in bridging ancient wisdom and evidence-based practice to
transform birth and early motherhood into the most
positive and self-affirming experience...

Virtual Book Launch


The Story of the Book


Dr Hannah Dahlen
Professor of Midwifery, Western Sydney University

I have always loved the way Rachel Reed thinks and this book is an extension of her thinking. Three hundred years ago Rachel would have been the wise woman of the village and 300 years later she is calling to that village of women, where childbirth always has and always will sit at the throbbing heart.

Rhea Dempsey
Childbirth educator, birth attendant, counsellor and author

I love so much about the wisdom shared in this book. In particular, I love that Rachel uses as her central narrative a beautiful and detailed description of the normal undisturbed physiology of birth. She describes the birth-dance shared between mother and baby, including the hormones, instinctive body processes, brain changes, sensations and feeling states.

Billie Harrigan
Founder and director of Birth Trauma Ontario, perinatal consultant, traditional birth attendant

This is the book about childbirth that needed to be written. While modern medicine has helped countless people, our current technocratic approach to birth is leaving a trail of traumatised mothers around the world. Fortunately, Rachel Reed has expertly drawn from history, culture, science, and from women themselves, to provide us with practical solutions for this crisis by reclaiming our rites of passage that mark our transition into motherhood. This is a must-read for all parents and professionals.

Dr Clare Davison
Private practice midwife and midwifery academic

Reclaiming childbirth as a rite of passage is essential reading for all women, midwives, doctors and birth workers. In fact, anyone who is planning on being around women during birth needs to read this book! Dr Reed leads us through herstory with the story of Eve, weaving ancient wisdom and current research in such a divine way that makes reading this book an absolute pleasure.

Jane Hardwicke Collings
Founder of the School of Shamanic Womancraft, teacher of the Women’s Mysteries

This book weaves together ancient knowledge, herstory, science, customs, politics and the ancient art of midwifery, all of which combine to create the understory or – as Rachel aptly names it the waft and weft, that the weaving, or the experience of birthing in the modern world, happens within. Rachel weaves this all together so we can see what’s going on in birth today and invites the reader to awaken to the situation. She then puts forth a call to action to all to participate in reclaiming childbirth as a rite of passage into motherhood for all women, no matter what. And her book offers all the evidence required to support this reclamation.

Jenny Blyth
Independent birth worker, birth educator and bodyworker, film-maker and author 

Brilliant! Rachel has deftly woven a rich fabric of ‘ancient wisdom and modern knowledge’. It is durable, it is wearable and, in usual Rachel Reed style, refuses to conform. With sound logic, she confronts and challenges us to rethink and reject erroneous assumptions and behaviours around care-providing by exploring their origins, and why we acquiesce and cling to them.