There was much love in the room. I felt the presence of my mother’s spirit, or so it seemed to me – almost as intensely as it had been just after she died.’ Jane, in labour
In our modern culture, we don’t seem to have much experience of honouring individual beliefs and the sacred aspect of birth. Despite being exposed to a melting pot of ideas, and vast amounts of information, we oft en shy from expressing our own beliefs or involving ourselves in the spiritual lives of others.
Yet everyone has their unique way of interpreting their birth experiences, and finding faith and courage when the going gets tough. Beliefs and faith may be based on particular religions or philosophies. Some mothers create personal rituals to strengthen their resolve and find strength. Others try to just keep everything ‘normal’, or use humour as a way of coping and keeping things light. Some give vent to their feelings by swearing and cursing, or take drugs in order to express or escape their feelings. There is no one ‘right way’ or one truth. As long as it helps. If it is not working, then at some point there will be a level of internal agitation or suffering, stimulating a questioning of beliefs and a willingness to explore other helpful options. There might also be disillusionment and distress, especially when belief systems and faith are shattered through unexpected circumstances and trauma.
Being aware of a mother’s belief system and what sustains her through big life events can help us blend accordingly and encourage her strength in ways that usually help her. If we notice she is struggling emotionally and spiritually, we can also assist her to recognise what may be an ineffective or inappropriate belief system. A delicate approach is called for. We need to be aware not to superimpose, or dominate with our own beliefs. There may be times when we cannot help but judge the efficacy of a mother’s beliefs, but we need to honour what works for her.
Here are some questions to ask the mother or yourself:
However varied our beliefs and expressions of faith may be, there is a universal appreciation of the wonder and mystery of creation. This is the sacred aspect of birth. All over the world cultural traditions continue to honour its significance. They express hope for each precious new life, marvel at this recurring miracle of nature, and acknowledge the profound meaning and beauty that each baby brings into relationships and the world.
And within their sacred birthing space, wherever and however that is, the mother and child together test their faith. They literally surrender each other in order to reconnect. They open to the greater whole and their ongoing purpose in life. As birthworkers we are invited to share in this ultimate act of love between a mother and child. And despite the many practical considerations around birth there must always be time and opportunity, however brief, to honour and support their courageous efforts.