This blog post has been a long time coming. Perhaps when the intensity of a situation is so strong, some time has to pass before you can express your experience clearly in words.
I am a birthkeeper, meaning I hold the sacredness of this rite of passage near and dear to my heart and I do what I can to bring light to the world of childbirth. When the #1 word that comes to mind when women think of birth is “pain,” (way ahead of “baby” btw) there is plenty of light needed.
The past six months I have spent a lot of time in the presence of the opposite rite of passage, death. The experience of watching a beloved family member get sick, fade and pass before our eyes in a matter of months was heartbreaking on so many levels.
The birthkeeper in me also found it completely fascinating. Why? Because despite the intense sorrow there were many moments that were so profound, so full of love, so real and palpable that the sensation of grief in my body was tinged with something else.
It’s a feeling that I hesitate to call ecstasy because the context is so very different from how I usually talk about ecstasy.
Or is it?
Birth and death are the most pivotal rites of passages that we live as human beings here on this planet, both wrapped in the mysterious essence of our condition. Where do we come from and where do we go?
I have come to realize that I am a naturalist. I trust deeply in the design of Mother Nature- her beauty, her cleverness, her remarkable often miraculous ways.
But this week, navigating the chaotic supermarkets and gas lines in anticipation of the blizzard here on the east coast, I was reminded of how Mother Nature can also inspire great fear.
It is this fear that has gripped our birthing, both here in the US and worldwide. Fear of the unknowable, the uncontrollable.
Imagine if we lived each day as if we were anticipating a crippling blizzard… imagine how that would feel- the tension, the panic, the stress. Imagine how differently we would operate-
I got to witness Hurricane Sandy up front and close. Out my living room window, I watched as some of the most massive trees on our property got uprooted and thundered to the ground. Trees that had been standing for hundreds of years, with circumferences of 3 or 4 feet, as solid as they make them. It was a humbling and terrifying spectacle.
I heard a teacher once share that fear of birth (and fear of women in general) is directly related to our fear of nature. This idea emerged in my mind as I contemplated Sandy. Yes, nature in its fury can definitely be terrifying, but usually it isn’t. On a day to day basis, nature is beautiful, glorious, and life affirming. Since we moved here into our little neck of the woods, I have soaked in stunning sunrises and reveled in autumn’s vibrant paintbrush. I have felt the energy of the trees, surround me, sustain me, and ground me. And yet, in the aftermath of the hurricane, I couldn’t help wondering if moving here wasn’t a mistake. The city seemed so much safer, more stable, as if Sandy had barely hit. But my body wholly resisted that thought with the knowledge of what I would be giving up- all the joy and pleasure that I experience everyday in living in the beauty of the natural world.
Recently, I was telling a friend about Ecstatic birth and I noticed that she had a dubious look on her face.
When I questioned her she asked- “So, you’re trying to teach women that they can ENJOY childbirth?”
Yes. I nodded, smiling. She shook her head condescendingly. “Well, that’s an oxymoron.”
Her reaction is totally understandable, given our cultural messages around birth, the endless TV shows depicting a birthing woman as a shrieking object waiting to be rescued by the doctor or drugs. Given the medicalization of birth, women are more likely to be trading birth war stories, than sharing tales of birth as a pleasurable empowering experience.
I’m totally thrilled to announce that things are changing.
Looking back on the last year, I realize my overarching theme emerged in full force with the Ecstatic Birth Body Series: “The more I melt into my body, the harder it is to deny my personal truths.”
And woah… we really saw how deep body connection can be an INTENSE journey. For some participants, the Body Series was a beautiful awakening into a conscious relationship with their bodies and inner wisdom. For others (and for me personally) – it was like looking the sun in the eye- blinding, terrifying, and always stunning.
It can be really tough to look that inner wisdom in the eye, especially when you’ve been using the full force of your rationality to passionately deny Deny DENY! Why would you ever want to deny a deep truth?