Thursday, March 20, 2008

a spiritual birth

Our doula is going to be out of town on business for a couple of days around my due date, so she's given us a list of potential backups whom she likes and trusts — just in case the baby decides to be born on time. I called a few of them this morning, and one of them — an older woman who just became a grandmother — has been making me think about a component of this upcoming birth that I hadn't really considered in very much detail.

In addition to having a very calm presence over the phone, she also seemed very spiritual, so I asked her about that. She told me about how she is very much in tune with a sense of a larger presence in the room when a woman is giving birth, and she has had a few clients who incorporated religious rituals in their labor. One Jewish woman used a menorah as a focal point during her contractions. A Catholic mother said the Hail Mary through hers, timing each contraction by how many Hail Marys it took. Another Catholic woman had written a series of affirmations that she read, or that the doula read to her when things got intense — things like, "I am a wonderful mother," and "God's grace is flowing through me." Those phrases really struck a chord with me, and so did the doula's suggestion to incorporate spiritual elements through other senses — scents, music, images, etc. (The "smells and bells," as we Catholics like to say of our sensory rituals.)

I've been thinking a lot about how to create a calm, homelike setting during this birth, and I think I also will try to incorporate a spiritual atmosphere in that. Maybe it will help alleviate some of the stress I feel around being in a hospital again, surrounded by machines and protocols. I have been thinking in particular about music that touches my soul, remembering especially how certain hymns and pieces of sacred music brought me such comfort when I was facing my cancer surgery. I am going to go take a look through my CD collection and pull a few favorites that I think might take me to a more spiritual, prayerful space while I am laboring. I'm not sure I want anything too rousing this time around — I'm imagining something calm and intimate that can help transport me to a different place. Maybe this one by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which my friend Liz introduced me to years ago. (Any other suggestions, musical friends and sisters?)

I recently wrote a column about one of my favorite images of God — a comforting pair of hands, cupped together, in which I rest and feel completely cared for — and how carrying that image has become important to me lately as I prepare to have this baby. I wonder if there is a way to incorporate that image into some kind of mantra or focal point as I labor, as well. Anyway, I am feeling more ready now, and more confident that my body will be able to do what it needs to do. I hope I can hold on to this feeling for the next couple of weeks, or however long it takes for this little one to show his face — let's hope he's a little more prompt than Daniel was!


mo*reezy said...

oooh, do what you can to find "I Lift Up Mine Eyes" by John Rutter. It is SO gorgeous.

Ahuva Batya said...

These are beautiful ideas, Em. I think it's a perfect reflection of your thoughtful personality that you have these kinds of spiritual images/sounds/thoughts during the birth. It will make it even more special, I'm sure. I don't have any hymn suggestion, I'm sorry!

liz said...

Such a cool post. I have several ideas in mind - I'll make you a mix CD this weekend! (Or do you prefer the old-fashioned mix tape?) :)

Anonymous said...

Em, are you going to Easter Vigil? I'm playing at the one in Hood River, and the responsorial following reading #5 is SO GORGEOUS! It's a simple melody, but in the key of E, which is considered an aesthetically beautiful key. Anyway, if you go to Vigil and they sing the same thing, then think of it when you give birth. The words are from Isaiah, "You shall draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation."

Emilie said...

Liz, that's so nice of you! You certainly don't have to mix me any music ... but if you do, it would have to be a CD. :)