by Molly Khan
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my third child that I began to consider the more spiritual aspects of childbirth. It helped that around that time I was becoming more involved in and more serious about my Paganism, delving beyond High Day and Full Moon observances and creating a personal, daily practice. Pregnancy, and parenting my other two children, was a huge part of my life, and so it naturally figured largely in the deities I connected to and the practice I was developing.
Though I had a natural birth with my first two children, this pregnancy was the first time I had a midwife watching over my child and I. Her holistic model of care was a nourishment to my spirit, and one day she said something that changed the entire childbirth process for me.
“Just think of all the millions of women who have done this before you.”
Though my midwife is a Christian, her statement had an immediate impact on the Pagan part of me. As a practitioner of Indo-European Paganism, my ancestors are a very important part of my spiritual life. In Anglo-Saxon Paganism, we have the concept of the Idesa, a sort of matriarchal lineage of ancestors that stretches back and back to before recorded history; a huge group of ancestral mothers and grandmothers who watch over and protect their descendents. As I sat in my midwife’s office that day, I envisioned all of my Idesa in my same position: watching all the changes happening to their bodies, waiting for the moment when they would know the baby was coming, anxious and excited to go through the test of strength that would end with a sweet babe in their arms. Back and back, to time immemorial, women have had this same experience; and though it is of course different for every woman who goes through it, there is a unifying spirit in the thought that it has been done so many many times before.
When I came to the hospital the morning my son was born, pausing every few steps to ride the wave of feeling from my abdomen, I remembered all the women who had gone before me. My mother birthing me. My grandmother birthing her. Through the generations, all the women who had labored to enable my child and I to be there that morning. We were all connected by this experience, by the labor and the rush of endorphins, by the prayers for aid to deities either Pagan or Christian, by the first sight of our baby’s tiny faces. I felt their encouraging voices and their helping hands, and their presence through that connection made the birth easier and also more profound for me.
A few months afterwards, I was writing my birth story and remembering the strength that my ancestors had given me, and I wrote a prayer for a woman in childbirth to say to her ancestors. I don’t know if I’ll have that experience again, but I’d love to share that prayer in case it might be helpful to any other Pagan mothers who are going through the childbirth experience.
To my mothers and grandmothers who have gone before me:
You have birthed your own sweet babes,
now keep mine safe.
You have felt what I am feeling,
now help me overcome.
You have made my being possible,
now guide me and my child to wisdom.
Molly Khan is a writer, student, and mother of three from the Midwest prairie. She is a founding member and liturgist for Prairie Shadow Protogrove, ADF. She writes about her joys and struggles as a mother and a Heathen Druid, as well as her experiences raising children in an interfaith household at thepagangrove.blogspot.com.