She labored in the water, feeling her body becoming lighter as her abdomen tightened in another contraction. Her partner looked at her saying, “Are you okay?” with a thumbs up to encourage her. She smiled back at him looking relaxed in the water. But inside she felt huge. Her mind was whirling as she felt the power connecting her to all the women who have given birth before her. She was not alone. This power was sustaining her through strong, hard, contractions. She thought to herself, “If they could do it, so can I.”
Birth is sacred. What can be more sacred than the formless taking form through the human body. This is something we may often forget, getting preoccupied with all the other concerns in birth. For those attending births, the process may become routine and lose the wonder and awe of what has just happened.
Experience of the Body – Birth is an integrated experience of the mind, body, and spirit. We know it is an experience of the body because we can see the body, feel the body, and hear the body. We see the abdomen growing a woman as her fetus approaches full gestation. A pregnant woman can feel her baby kicking inside. These are tangible experiences.
Experience of the mind – Birth is an experience of the mind, and even though we can’t see the mind, we believe it exists because of all the thoughts and emotions that surface during pregnancy, labor, and birth.
Experience of the spirit – When it comes to the spirit, there is more ambiguity because the spirit means different things to different people. But the energy driving the passage of a soul taking birth must come from somewhere, and this remains one of the mysteries of life.
I believe love and spirit are synonymous with each other and that they cannot be separated. Love is in spirit and spirit is in love. From the time of conception to the end of our lives, the body serves as an instrument of the spirit. The more the body can be viewed as a vehicle through which the spirit works, the more smooth the process of birth is likely to be. At birth, a part of the body has now become separate from it and a baby is born with his own personality, inclinations, and tendencies. This process can be likened to a flower. The flower can be viewed as a vehicle for the fragrance so that it can be expressed. This fragrance brings us joy. In the same way, the body can be seen as a vehicle for the spirit bringing joy. The sweet fragrance could not be enjoyed if it weren’t for the flower. The spirit could not be enjoyed if it weren’t for the existence of the body. Just as fragrance is in the flower, so the spirit is in the body. Both the flower and the body are material and can be seen. Both the fragrance and the spirit are nonmaterial and cannot be seen.
When a woman in labor views her body as a “vehicle” through which the spirit can flow, she is more likely to surrender to the forces of labor, welcoming contractions as they become stronger and more intense. She feels more confident and has less fear. She is more in touch with her instinctive nature and follows its guidance. Focusing on the awe and wonder in the power of such birth-forces can bring a woman inner strength that will serve her well as she progresses into the unknown of labor.
“Birthing in the spirit is the birthing of our ancestors. Before birth in the western world became mechanized and dehumanized, women and men honored the sacred ability of women to create and bring forth life. Birthing in the spirit is reconnecting with those natural, primal beginnings. More than just relaxing and letting go, birthing in the spirit is moving through the portal of birth to the transcendent place that birthing takes women; the place of connectedness to every being and to the earth. It is feeling life itself pulsing through your veins with the simultaneous power of a volcano and the peaceful silence of snowfall. It is losing yourself entirely and only then knowing the core of who you really are. Birthing in the spirit is what women do when we are honored, cared for compassionately, and deeply trusting of our bodies’ ancient wisdom moving us to that sacred space. Birthing in the spirit is the ritual of motherhood; it is through the intensity of the experience of birth that women find the power and the compassion to give all of themselves, and then to give more, to their babies. It is in that place that we become mothers.” Jacque Shannon-McNulty