The magnitude of pregnancy can be a hard thing to grasp amidst the busyness of a working life, or looking after other children; shopping, housekeeping, etc, never mind the odd house move or renovation that most new parents undertake in pregnancy!
We all know this is no small thing, but actually finding ways to communicate that can be a challenge. Most people have a sense of this momentous thing that is happening in a pregnant woman and her partner's life – everyone wants to chat to a pregnant woman on the bus or in the shops; some people even dare to touch her belly without asking(!), and many people will give some unsolicited advice or tell you their own birth stories. I see all of these gestures as well intended desires to reach out and connect, because whether we know the pregnant woman personally or not, we all feel moved and excited by the thought of a new soul coming to earth, and we all feel a sense of awe and wonder around a woman who is carrying new life in her belly! It's just that we have lost touch with our ancient cultural rituals and celebrations that would enable everybody to be part of this great blessing in a way that actually supports and nourishes the family at the centre of the attention, rather than intimidating them with unwanted information!
I am a great believer in learning what we can from indigenous cultures everywhere – especially our own – and finding new ways to bring them back to life that makes sense for us today. Modern industrialised living has severed us from so many of our ancient traditions – especially around pregnancy and birth, and sadly that means that a lot of pregnant women move through pregnancy feeling lonelier than ever, estranged from their old life and ways of being and uncertain of what is to come. The only pregnancy rituals that we have these days are periodic visits to the midwife which can be hit or miss as to whether they provide the mother with any actual encouragement or support, or whether they just fill her with more worry and doubt! We also have the modern day 'baby shower' which is all focused on the baby and little recognition is given to the Mother who is living through one of the greatest transformations of her life and who is anticipating the greatest rite of passage she will go through as a woman – to give Birth.
Slowly, gradually though, old and new ways are coming together and finding soulful ways to honour and recognise this huge time in a family's life. Growing communities of doulas are supporting families 1:1 and offering an often much needed listening ear; information that empowers choice; and time honoured practices that nourish and support the well-being of the mother-to-be. Mother Blessings are becoming a little better known, and I have known a couple of Fathers with good support networks, to be held and celebrated by their men folk. Gathering community in good ways at this time, I think, are vital to the well-being of the whole community – not just the mother and father, and the child or children involved.
Proximity to pregnancy and birth gives us all a chance to pause and consider what is truly of importance in our lives. What do we have of value that we want to pass on to future generations? What do we need to change or let go of in order that the young ones growing up won't adopt our bad habits and poor living practices? What makes life worth living? What are we all actually doing here on this earth, and is there something else we are supposed to be doing?
These are not easy questions to answer, and we may never find the answers, but I believe that pregnancy – whether our own, or that of a loved one – gives is the nudge that we need to look deeper, to pause, to reflect on our lives, to consider what we want for our children's lives and to begin to take steps towards living in a way that is befitting to inviting new life to Earth at this time in history.
This is why I hold pregnancy and postpartum circles for Mothers and Mothers-to-be, and why I offer Mother Blessings to all my doula clients. Because as groups of women, we really 'get it', and the chance to listen to and hear the real life experiences, thoughts and feelings of other women who are going through or have been through similar experiences to us, is a rich opportunity that enables us to reflect and gain perspective on our own lives. It is my great hope that these sessions give women the time and space that they need to slow down, become quiet and listen to their own inner questions... and to find their own answers. To find their own strengths, visions, and voices and to be able to stand in their power as Mothers, ready to protect and love their families with all their might!