An expecting couple from North Carolina is in Hawaii preparing for the birth of their baby by interacting and bonding with a pod of dolphins. Adam and Heather Barringer are planning a dolphin-assisted birth in July.
Yes, that's right, a dolphin-assisted birth.
The couple's first child, Bodhi, will be delivered underwater and with dolphins at The Sirius Institute, described as "a research consortium with the purpose of 'dolphinizing' the planet."
According to the Charlotte Observer, the couple will spend time in the water, hoping that a dolphin pod will bond with them and their baby in prenatal and postnatal swims.
"It's about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another," Heather told the Observer.
"Having that connection with the pod of dolphins anytime—even if the birth doesn't happen in the water—still brings peace, comfort, and strength to the mother and baby during labor.
"Dolphins are very intelligent and healing, which in turn calms mother and baby for the whole process."
As the advantages of underwater birth became clear, and the therapeutic value of dolphins was demonstrated, the concept of humans birthing underwater with dolphins developed. Since birthing in water is beneficial, and dolphins are able to heal or improve a wide range of medical conditions, it is reasonable to suppose that their presence at water births could be beneficial.
Some 20 years ago, after developing and confirming the benefits of water birth, Igor Tscharkofsy began to birth human babies in the Black Sea with the dolphins. Some of the reported occurrences include a mother and a baby playing with the dolphins within 45 minutes of the birth, another instance of a free dolphin escorting a newborn human baby to the surface for its first breath. According to Igor Smirnoff, their research director, water babies develop six months faster over their first two years and development of walking, talking etc. occur earlier. According to Elena Tonetti, who managed the Black Sea birth project for several years, the children are also ambidextrous.
Of course, not everyone is buying the concept. Discover writer Christie Wilcox called it "possibly the worst idea ever."
According to Medical Daily, dolphin-assisted therapy has been around for 25 years. It questions the science behind the therapy and dolphin-assisted births.
Most scientists immediately invalidate DAT as a therapy, not only because of a lack of empirical support but also because of the fact that most people do not encounter dolphins in their daily lives. To attribute therapeutic change solely to DAT, variables such as swimming in the water, being somewhere warmer, traveling and living some place new while receiving therapy need to be controlled so that these factors do not confound the results of the research.
Similarly, to make any claim that a dolphin-assisted birth is beneficial to mother and child, a researcher would need to unravel the many factors involved in order to tease out the potential effects of the presence of dolphins. From a scientist’s point of view, the potential impact of each element of water birth would need to be looked in to as would the potential comfort an animal might bring.
Whether the birthing actually occurs underwater with dolphins or not—preparations are arranged if it doesn't happen—Heather has the emphasis in the right place, telling the Observer, "Showing him or her all the love possible is what matters."
UPDATE: FOX Carolina contacted Sirius Institute, which reported that the Barringers had left Hawaii and returned to North Carolina. "A staff member said the couple had chosen a pre-birth dolphin assistance rather than the full dolphin-assisted water delivery," FOX reported.