Visualizing Birth through Pam England’s “Faith Based Birth”

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 7.11.20 PM


Faith-Based Birth (detail, top panel)
Copyright 2004 (retouched in 2014), Pam England, All Rights Reserved.

Pam England’s beautiful work, “Faith-Based Birth” comprises three panels, the bottom of which I show above.  All three panels are treated in historical fashion.  The top two (entire painting below) show the way faith surrounding the topic of birth has transformed in our culture, from one related to a spirituality of the female form to our present day faith in medical intervention.  I focus on the bottom panel, in which the event of birth is depicted as celebratory and spiritual. Pam describes this aspect in her writing about the panel,

Birth customs reflect whatever a culture has faith in at the time. The lower third of this painting depicts buried matriarchal spirituality and culture. The Great Mother, ensconced in a pomegranate (a symbol of fertility) represents ancient knowing and compassion. She hears the cries of birthing women even as she is calling to all women—including women who have medical and surgical births. She is holding a large bowl, collecting the tears, amniotic fluid, and blood of birthing women. Buried in the earth and our collective memory are the primordial images of Inanna (Sumer), Venus of Willendorf (France), Mother and child (Peru), Sheela-na-gig (Celtic England/Ireland). the Mexican moon goddess Tiazolteotle, and the Great Mother of Çatal Hûjûk (Turkey).

Those interested in using art for the purpose of visualizing birth can utilize this panel.  Focusing on all of the powerful birth figures mentioned above, the pregnant viewer does not feel isolated as she prepares for her own experiences of labor and birth, instead sensing a connection to the tradition of birth and to the many women who have given birth before her.  This connection to others calms the mind as one prepares for birth.

Pam England, MA, CNM, is a home birth midwife, mother, writer and artist. She has written and presented prolifically on the topic of birth, as well as on how spirituality and art are often part of birth as a rite of passage.  Pam may be contacted through her website, Birthing from Within, named after her foundational book of the same name.




Faith-Based Birth (entire painting)
Copyright 2004 (retouched in 2014), Pam England, All Rights Reserved.

Pam’s writing on the other two panels of the painting describe the way faith about birth has changed in our culture:

The center panel shows the Inquisition (1400-1700), when untold thousands of women, including midwives, and healers were tortured, burned alive, or drowned by men of the Church. To survive, women made a tacit agreement to be silent and compliant. Centuries later, having never grieved the first war on women, we are still living this unconscious agreement in birth.

The upper third of the painting portrays what the dominant western culture has faith in now: Medical-surgical birth and separation of the baby from its mother. The tiles falling off the wall suggest that this trend is not sustainable and will eventually crumble