Using cetaceans as doulas poses risks for animals and humans alike, experts say.
by David Kirby
Cute as they may be, are these really the faces that you want to greet your newborn baby? (Photo: Wild Horizon / Getty Images)
A North Carolina couple’s decision to fly to Hawaii so they can experience a “dolphin-assisted birth” has made worldwide headlines and earned them almost universal scorn by scientists, the press, and the public. It’s a bad idea for the dolphins, most people agree, and a dangerous proposition for a woman about to give birth. It might even be illegal.
Last month, Adam Barringer, 29, and his wife Heather, 27, traveled to Pahoa, on the Island of Hawaii, to prepare for the birth of their first child, which, they hope, will take place in the ocean surrounded by a pod of “healing” dolphins.
The idea of “dolphin-assisted birth” is not new, but only now seems to be on the media’s radar. It is championed by a group in Hawaii called The Sirius Institute.
At the institute, the Barringers will spend time in the sea trying to bond with a dolphin pod which would then be available to “attend” the underwater birth of their child, when the time comes. “It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another,” Heather Barringer told the Charlotte Observer, which first reported the story.
According to Sirius’s website, dolphin-assisted births were studied in the Black Sea 20 years ago. “Some of the reported occurrences include a mother and a baby playing with the dolphins within 45 minutes of the birth.” And, another dolphin was seen “escorting a newborn human baby to the surface for its first breath.” Hawaiians, the site adds, “performed underwater births with dolphins as late as 1937 and still privately maintain this practice.”
The volcanic coast of Hawaii, with its protected coves, is ideal for “establishing water birth with dolphins and the human-dolphin habitats where we can live and learn from each other,” the institute says. “This area can also be the first embassy for the Cetacean Commonwealth,” whatever that means. It is likely part of the institute’s mission is to “dolphinize” the planet.
“Dolphinization is the raising of the consciousness of humans to the level of the dolphins and to integrate the Cetacea (dolphins and whales) into the cultures of the Earth,” the website says. “When this is achieved, we will have a planet with two major sentient species in harmony and cooperation. We and the Cetacea have been, and can become again ... Co-species.”
The problem is nobody asked the Cetacea if they wanted to be “co-species” with us.