One of the most profound quotes I've ever read about birth is in the book "The Gift of Birth" by Susan Windley-Daoust. She writes, "The dignity of birthing emphatically needs to be spoken to in spiritual ways."
I first read this book when I was beginning to explore birth work for myself, and this sentence stuck out to me. Over the last year, at every consultation, appointment, and birth I've attended, this has remained at the forefront of my mind.
The experience of birth is not like anything else. It's not a doctor's visit, nor is it a mere procedure (whether it occurs naturally or surgically), and it isn't a cool party where you meet someone new. Birth is imbued with an inherent dignity like nothing else. It's both incredibly vulnerable and incomparably powerful. Every moment of the journey - feeling your body expand, your womb contract, your mind drawn in, your breath flow out - is a spiritual experience.
We often think of birth in terms of contraction timing, cervix dilation, heart rate, pain measurement scales, and timelines. All of these are important pieces of the puzzle, but we fail to complete the picture when we ignore the spirit of the person giving birth, which so often happens in certain birth settings that reduce birth to a clinical event. When giving birth, a woman has the unique and immeasurable life-giving power (no matter the birth outcome) that cooperates with the creating power of God - or the universe, or any higher power you identify with. That beautiful synthesis is like a dance between heaven and earth.
A fascinating study was published in the Journal of Perinatal Education that evaluated spirituality in childbearing women. The researchers found that many women found childbirth to be powerful and spiritually transforming, and recommended that childbirth educators assess the spirituality of childbearing women in the course of their work. They emphasize the importance of spiritual care, and suggest different ideas to give new mothers the chance to process their births in a spiritual way. Read the entire study here - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866430/ - it's well worth your time!
Speaking to the dignity of birth in spiritual ways is one of the most beautiful aspects of doula care. I love the chances I get to make space for the spiritual in birth. Every comfort measure I offer, all the emotional support I give, each piece of evidence based information I provide, all are rooted in giving my client the best chance to have this kind of transcendent birth, where they feel completely in tune with their body, their baby, the heavens and the earth. When I'm at a birth, I take every opportunity to create that space so the mother has no impediments to connecting spiritually with what is happening physically. After the birth, I love the chance I get to listen to the mothers telling the story of the birth and hear what the experience meant to their spirit.
The photo above is from a birth I attended at the Holy Family Birth Center earlier this year. My client and dear friend was the picture of life-giving power as she gave birth to her son. Photo credit: Maddi Deitemeyer - Meraki Photography (edited for privacy at request of my client and with permission from the photographer)