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!