Birth Mystery

“Women’s mysteries, the blood mysteries of the body, are not the same as the physical realities of menstruation, lactation, pregnancy, and menopause; for physiology to become mystery, a mystical affiliation must be made between a woman and the archetypal feminine. A woman must sense, know or imagine herself as Woman, as Goddess, as an embodiment of the feminine principle…Under patriarchy this connection has been suppressed; there are no words or rituals that celebrate the connection between a woman’s physiological initiations and spiritual meaning.”

–Jean Shinoda Bolen

“Birth, like love, is an energy and a process, happening within a relationship. Both unfold with their own timing, with a uniqueness that can never be anticipated, with a power that can never be controlled, but with an exquisite mystery to be appreciated.” –Elizabeth Noble

While the phrase “birth is a mystery” may sound illogical on the surface, since birth is a normal, physiological process experienced every day by thousands of women around the world, at an emotional and experiential level it rings very true. No matter how many children we birth or how much we know logically about birth, each birth unfolds in its own unique way with its own unique timing and its own unique lessons. Most births require the crossing of a threshold of some kind—possibly emotional, usually physical, often spiritual, perhaps all at once. In my reading of Nané Jordan’s thesis Birthdance, Earthdance as I collect my research and thoughts for my own dissertation, I particularly enjoyed this quote about the mystery of birth:

Birth really invites mystery into our lives if we can, or want to, receive that. Wound up into that mystery is personal and societal fear of death, which birth, as female shaman Vicki Noble has stand, stands at the doorway of. So much of medical birth practice is about diverting this mystery into knowable forms with time-tables, charts, clocks and interventions. Yet birth is older and wiser than our clocks and technological tricks. Every birth unfolds in its own way in its own time. Birth inherently asks a mystery of us, women in particular. This is a true gift of listening to it’s calling, allowing the mystery to be present and unfold in our lives as the new being emerges into our arms.

Jordan also lyrically describes her own journey deep into the heart of birth and the spiritual connection she found there:

…I was alone in myself with my baby. It was like the water guided me into a deepening trance of ‘open and give over mumma,’ by holding and relaxing me in her substance. I was a babe held in the womb of some Great Goddess, even as I held a babe in the waters of my own womb. And open I did. Instinctively mt hands were working with each sensation, palms up and open, hands out of the water and raised, like a salutation to the Goddess herself, ‘yes I feel your presence Mother as I am Mother now.” These actions were what came to me in the tub as I did what is known as ‘active labour.’ I would more describe it as a multidimensional dance of the universe, a meditation beyond meditations. I found myself hissssss-ing as each sensation built low down and then up along the sides of my womb. There was no mistaking this ssssssnake-like ssssssound that guided my body into birth, my palms stretching into an ancient salutation of forces greater than myself yet no bigger than myself…

I loved this depiction of forces greater than yet no bigger than myself. I experienced this moment in birth as well. It reminds of a quote from an unknown writer: The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you. As others have written, I met myself in childbirth. And, I liked her. I’ve continued to learn from, draw upon, and reflect upon these birth experiences throughout my life to date (my oldest child is now ten).

“Birth is one of the most profound teaching experiences life offers. It touches us in the depths of our souls, the most private recesses of who we are. It requires that we respond with more creative energy, more conviction, more trust, than almost anything else we do. Birth requires an intensity that is rarely demanded by other experiences…And through it, we can learn more about ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our relationship patterns, and our needs than through almost any other experience we will face in our life.” ~Nancy Wainer Cohen (Via: Peaceful Birth Project)

Have you met yourself in childbirth? What did you learn? How have you carried this forward into your own life?

Crossposted at Talk Birth.

About Priestess Molly

Molly is a priestess, writer, birth educator, and activist who lives with her husband and children in the midwest. She is a breastfeeding counselor, a professor of human services, and doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College. Molly and her husband co-create goddess jewelry and birth art at Brigid’s Grove: http://brigidsgrove.com and she blogs about theapoetics, ecopsychology, and the Goddess at http://goddesspriestess.com.


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