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What's all the noise behind `Silent Birth'?


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Just when Tom Cruise was starting to look good again, we hear from the New York Daily News that Cruise's pregnant fiance, Katie Holmes, is supposed to sign on for a "silent birth," without screams or painkillers.

Ouch.

But is "Quit yellin', it's only childbirth," as the News headline so succinctly put it, the true position of the Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a member?

Not according to Greg LaClaire, vice president of the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles. Ideally, the mother is "as silent as humanly possible," LaClaire says, but this is an option, not a requirement, and the church recognizes that "absolute silence is not obtainable," LaClaire says.

Babies are supposed to be born in quiet surroundings because Scientologists believe that the words heard during painful or traumatic experiences can later trigger "irrational fears" and "unwanted emotions."

Similarly, painkillers are believed to make you more likely to absorb trauma and pain in an unhealthy way.

That said, LaClaire emphasizes that "all of this is done at the discretion of the mother and her doctor" and that, according to the teachings of Scientology, any damage done by noise during birth can be reversed.

How do all of those "options" and opportunities for maternal "discretion" work in real life?

The church declined to provide everyday Scientologists for the Chicago Tribune to interview about their birth experiences, with a spokeswoman saying by e-mail, "Religious practices are a very personal matter."

But an interview actress Kelly Preston gave to Redbook magazine in 2000 sheds some light on the practice.

Preston, who is married to fellow Scientologist John Travolta, told Redbook that she embraces silent birth as "just a peaceful, beautiful entry into this earth."

On the other hand, Preston acknowledged in the interview that she groaned during the successful home birth of her daughter Ella - a form of expression that Scientologists view as less harmful than actual speech.

And at least once during her 13-hour labor, she resorted to the spoken word as well.

"Throw me in the car! I want an epidural!" Preston recalled saying.

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(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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