What is the essence of birth? Does it even make sense to ask such a question? Is it simply different for every woman and every baby birthing together? Or is t mainly the mother? Or is it mainly the baby?
It’s certainly true that for some women, giving birth is an almighty cosmic spiritual connection with the universe.
At the moment, I think it’s about connection. Patience. Trust. Nature. Respect. Intuition. Allowing. Opening. Responding to the needs of the body and mind in each moment, as they arise.
As a birth attendant, I find it necessary to think and feel about how to facilitate that connection between a mother, her child, and the universe. And sometimes it’s really hard, especially when I haven’t connected with myself. With my inner voice of knowing. With my feet on the earth.
Sometimes I need to take time out and nurture myself. To recharge my batteries. I think all birth attendants and practioners need to do this. Sometimes what we do is lonely work, and we need to take time to remember why we do it. To feel the joy again, to express the grief. To allow things to move.
A group of birth workers I’ve been part of have just spent a week doing just that – connecting with ourselves and each other and the essence of birth. We sat, listened, stretched, toned, did yoga, swam in the river, ate and feasted, sang and danced, cried and laughed, slept and dreamed. We learned about herbs, our own fertility, using rebozos, supporting women, supporting men. We listened, we listened, and we listened some more. Some gave hair cuts. We looked after each other’s children. We fell in love. I pranced about with a model pelvis on my head compering the cabaret of wonders, which included a rather fantastic role play of the birth story book The Princess and the Poo.
We did one particular exercise which I want to share with you, brought to us by a lay midwife called Vanessa Brooks, who works in Spain with the groundbreaking Da A Luz group of midwives, doulas, practitioners and birth educators. The exercise itself called the Essence of Birth, which was also the name of our six day gathering.
This is how it goes:
Make a comfy space for someone to lie down on the floor, and surround it with cushions and nice things to sit on. Maybe a blanket too.
Have nearby some small stones or gems, or anything lovely that will feel calm and still when carefuly placed on someone’s body. It also helps to have a watch or clock.
One person lies in the middle, surrounded by everyone else who’s sitting down. Carefully place the lovely objects on points of their body which will feel good – we often use the spot between the eyebrows, the centre of the breast bone, the solar plexus and the centre of the pelvis.
Someone has their eye on the time, while everyone lays their hands on the person in the middle (who perhaps is covered in a blanket by this point) and simply does whatever works for them to connect with the person they’re touching. Some people close their eyes, others don’t. Some visualise, some simply look at the person lying down and thinks about how great they are, some people imagine channelling the energy of the earth or the universe. Some people massage and stroke the person. Whatever feels right and works for you…
After an agreed amount of time (three minutes works quite well) the timekeeper gently lets everyone know it’s time to respectfully take their hands away. (Actually, it’s not always hands. I quite often end up resting my head on people).
And there you go. On many levels it’s so simple. On other levels it’s so difficult. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. It’s restful and nourishing. It can make people glow.
If you have any lovely ways you use to connect with yourself, your colleagues, the women you work with, please leave a comment and let me know (to leave a comment, hover your mouse above the number to the far right of the title at the top of this post).
Another way we explored for connecting with ourselves and each other is through dancing – something women have always done together. Think about belly dancing – originally a dance that women did together. And absolutely fantastic for women’s health. Or the sacred dancing that Hawaiian women do together, introduced to me by the full on and fantastic Traditional CPM midwife from Hawai’i Clare Loprinzi, who runs a distance midwifery training course and is part of the great organisation Motherhealth International.
Although not of Hawaiian heritage herself, Clare dances the traditional Hawaiian and native women’s dance, and when she was teaching a course in Newcastle she had us all up and dancing every 30 minutes. What a way to teach..
At the gathering of women I was part of this week, we danced a variety of dances. We danced Samba Reggae, a devotional dance to the AfroBrazilian birth deity Oshum, and we danced around to the fab take-off of the Beyonce song ‘All the Single Ladies’, the video for which you’ll find a few posts down.
And we also just danced about, happy as Larry. My particular favourite tune that week was this…
Now imagine, if every woman giving birth had that confidence in her body. A new anthem for pregnant women everywhere? Not just pregnant women – all women.
All together now…!