In the series premiere of Sense8, Angelica "births" a Sensate Cluster.

Until that point in time, none of the members of the cluster had any knowledge of each others existence, nor had any of them had any unexplained "visions/hallucinations" of each other.

It stands to reason that Sensates cannot realize their connection until they are "birthed", but that leaves the question of how the earliest Sensates were able to realize their connections.

Do all Sensates need to be birthed, or is there another way for members of the cluster to originally connect?"

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nor had any of them had any unexplained "visions/hallucinations" of each other

Not of each other, maybe, but as a child, Will did have a connection with Sara Patrell. So there is some indication that it's possible for sensates to have some limited access to their abilities even without being attached to a cluster.

Since a connection can form between sensates of different clusters through eye contact, it's likely that the same could happen between sensates of the same cluster if they weren't "birthed" via the intervention of another sensate. It's just that the connection that they would end up forming would be much stronger than that between sensates of different clusters, possibly strong enough to force that awakening process.

So it's possible that this is how the earliest sensate clusters were able to form. In a world much smaller than ours, members of clusters would not have been as scattered (and the clusters themselves would likely have been smaller as well), and so it's not so unbelievable that they could have connected via eye contact, purely by chance at first.

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