The gentlebirth.org website is provided courtesy of
Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA


Spiritual Issues

Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy - View e-book or Download PDF - FREE!
An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

See also:

Subsections on this page:


Sacred Birthing - Wow!  This is a must read for anyone who found this page!  [There's also a book, Sacred Birthing,  Birthing a New Humanity©.]

Birth Territory and Midwifery Guardianship: Theory for Practice, Education and Research (Paperback)
by Kathleen Fahy et al.

Review by Sarah Buckley, MD includes, "Thank you to these authors for expanding birth territory to include some Ps that have been missing for centuries: the importance of Protecting the birthing woman and her space; the Physiology of undisturbed birth: Pregnancy beliefs and spirituality; analysis of Power relationships in the birthroom; the Politics of birth and last (but not least), how to put this all into Practice."

Pre-Conception and Conscious Conception

Feelings of Change by Jenny Parratt is a collection of stories told by fourteen Australian women having their first baby.

Creating a ‘safe’ place for birth: an empirically grounded theory by Jenny Parratt and Kathleen Fahy

Including the nonrational is sensible midwifery.
Parratt JA, Fahy KM.
Women Birth. 2008 Mar;21(1):37-42.

Birth Territory: a theory for midwifery practice.
Fahy KM, Parratt JA.
Women Birth. 2006 Jul;19(2):45-50.

Trusting enough to be out of control: a pilot study of women's sense of self during childbirth.
Parratt J, Fahy K.
Aust J Midwifery. 2003 Mar;16(1)

The impact of childbirth experiences on women's sense of self: a review of the literature.
Parratt J.
Aust J Midwifery. 2002;15(4):10-6

Your Baby and its Birth - As a mother or father, you are the gateway for the future to enter and transform the world. Like a temple to the highest, keep your being clean and beautiful. Reach out to the highest when you concieve. And feed that new life not only with nature's good substance, but with ideas, music, stories and love.

Birth as a Spiritual Journey by Adela Stockton

A Prenatal Project in India - a wonderful program used to instill 'good moral values' during the prenatal period.  I especially like the Prayer said by the parents:
"We pray in the name of the Highest Truth. We believe that everyone stands by his own causality, self or karma. To the extent to which the karma of all three of us has conjoined, my prayer should contribute to, and ameliorate this child. Though I do not wish any change in the chosen course of this child, I harbor a natural desire for the good of this child. Little baby we welcome you!"
"Come to enjoy a fruitful and realized life. On our part we would like you to be ..... and develop ....... skills if you have no objection. In pursuance of indication from you, namely .., we shall try to offer facilities for the same. Else let this prayer work to that end as much as it can. We submit this prayer for the good of yourself, our family, our nation, mankind and the world as a whole. Let this step purify all of us to attend to what we desire and deserve. May the Good Spirit in us help all of us." (In the dotted spaces, the parents can suggest their wish to the baby).

Pregnant with Heart and Soul: An Interview with author Riet van Rooij By Rita Brhel, editor of The Attached Family [11/17/09] The Attached Family is a subscription publication - consider joining!

International College of Spiritual Midwifery (http:

Midwifery, Mind and Spirit: Emerging Issues of Care by Jennifer Hall

She Births: A Modern Women's Guidebook to an Ancient Rite of Passage

There is also a chapter by Jennifer Hall and Meg Taylor in Soo Downe's edited book on Normal childbirth:the debate and the evidence

 Spirituality of Birth reading list

reclaiming spirituality in birth by sara wickham

Freestone Innerprizes - Optimal Personal, Family & Planetary Health - Jeannine Parvati and Frederick "Rico" Baker have made conscious and healthy parenting their basic spiritual path.

Above Rubies is a magazine to encourage women in their high calling as wives, mothers, and homemakers.

Mothering and Goddess Imagery - pregnant statuette

I like the sensibilities of the Sun Gazing website.


Free Astrology Natal Charts - This is a fun site to play around with - classic "Western" astrology charts and interpretations.

family astrology from mothering.com - The Magazine of Natural Family Living

The TwoStar Oracle - Canadian Astrology Chart - This has trines, etc., and the little planetary bodies, too, with interpretations of the aspects.

Vedic Birth Charts - Vedic or Jyotish astrology birth charts - no interpretation

Jyotish Vani astrology charts - they have a several day turnaround time.


I find birth very spiritual, both personally and when I attend someone else's.

Briefly I found giving birth changed me on every level, it was as if a switch was flicked and suddenly I was acutely aware that I wasn't the only being on the earth.  I had an out of body experience having my second during transition (no drugs involved) and I do believe I was in between two worlds and if there is a heaven I think I may know a bit of what it's like.  I'm not religious at all and I recognise that the sensations and emotions and changes in the brain are hormone related but, I do feel changed on a very deep level. Giving birth is a ritual, a rite of passage, and I felt such a change should be accompanied by a physical and mental challenge like nothing else.  I suddenly saw my mother as a different person, and myself as a different person.  I always consider the spiritual side of birth and weep a little for those who do not appreciate the amazing gift women were given when birth was designed.  The birth of a child should be very sacred and I always ensure the woman can have her birth environment how she wants it, calm, quiet and dimly lit. I have very special feelings about where I birthed my son and I'll be very sad if we ever move to leave it behind.  The night he was born I decided to leave my career behind and follow a calling to be with others when their baby was born and told the student mw while bathing I intended to become a doula, she asked me when I had decided this and I said 'just now'. 

Spiritual Self-Care - this is a nice summary.

Sacred Birth Workshops: Childbirth Preparation for the Heart, Mind and Spirit with Stephanie Dawn - The Sacred Birth Workshop was designed to explore conscious conception and fertility, and to empower your pregnancy, childbirth and your postpartum life as parents…

Using spiritual tools, as well as practical steps and insights, Stephanie Dawn shows you the way to the pregnancy, birth and life of your dreams!

I was told once by a yoga teacher that giving birth is equivalent to 5 years meditation. 

"Spiritual midwifery" by Ina May Gaskin was an eye opener for me after I'd left midwifery and was expecting my first child. The pictures and birth stories are filled with spirituality (something I hadn't been taught about during my midwifery training in the eighties!). I have attended a few births in hospital that I could call truly spiritual. I don't know how to describe them except that they feel almost magical. I hope to see more of these when I'm with women giving birth at home. 

I remember a speaking at a big youth convention some years back talking about the birth of his first daughter and how he and his wife had been singing in the delivery room and the birth seemed to go relatively smoothly as his wife was at peace. (this was a Christian couple, for your records) I've also heard of people reading scriptures and playing praise music while going through the pregnancy in preparation for the child's birth (to put something positive into the child's environment and experiences)... the whole mindset of those months before the child's born and what's going on around the child and mother majorly affecting the child in those early stages... Thus having a home of peace, joy and love with expressions of such would be how such people want to start out their child's life during pregnancy and possibly birth as well.

Poetry and Prose

Fatherhood At Its Best

I Will Support - Father's Affirmation - by Patricia Blomme

"A Midwife Should Possess A Lady's Hand, A Hawk's Eye and A Lion's Heart"
                             --From a 16th Century Midwifery Text

"You are a midwife, assisting at someone else's birth.  Do good without  show or fuss.  Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening.  If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge.  When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say: We did it ourselves!"
from The Tao Te Ching

My Cesarean Poem by Barbara Stratton

"Being Born Is Important"
by Carl Sandburg

Being born is important
You who have stood at the bedposts
and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.

You who have seen the new wet child
dried behind the ears,
swaddled in soft fresh garments,
pursing its lips and sending a groping mouth
toward nipples where white milk is ready.

You who have seen this love's payday
of wild toiling and sweet agonizing.

You know being born is important.
You know that nothing else was ever so important to you.
You understand that the payday of love is so old,
So involved, so traced with circles of the moon,
So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood.
It must be older than the moon, older than salt.

Being Born Blessed (born in the rain) -by Leilah McCracken - this birth fantasy is based on Leilah's personal birthing experience, and she does a wonderful job of articulating the joy that is inherent in birth.

The Lady's Prayer

The Earth is my Mother
I shall not want
Her hand brings forth the green pastures
She tarries within the still waters
She leads me in fields of fruitfulness
for my Glory
Yea, as I walk through the summer of life
unto death
I will not be afraid
for You are with me
Your womb in the earth
will enfold me
You prepare a harvest before me
and bless my home with children
You fill me with milk and honey
My cup overflows
Surely, goodness and beauty will nurture me
all the days of my life
and I will become part of the earth

by Mary S. Lofton

Where were you, gentle midwife, when I
Lay on the altar of the obstetric gods?

You were not born yet or
Were just a little girl at play

I wonder what you were like
As your steady eyes observed the world
In the kindergarten of your life

Did you early hear the whisper of
Nature's power in the wind

The crash of thunder that bursts the cloud
And brings the endless drone of rain upon the earth?

Did you always know the budding tree
Takes many hours to give its fruit?

At night in dreams, you heard the silent
Cries of birthing women

Who sought the comfort that never came
Except through a groggy fog of chemicals from man

In time you rose up, full grown at last,
Too late for me to feel your tender hands

But with my daughter now
You form a safe cocoon around her bed

And I sink back in memory and weep once more
For all that might have been.

--copyright Mary S. Lofton, mother of a birthing woman

Flash! - July, 2001 - Singing the Bones has been released as a feature length motion picture!

Singing the Bones is a vision into a hopeful future, which echoes our past, when woman's role was at the heart of being human, when power meant giving life. Its darkness and its reconciliation offers an inspiration for our survival, a glimpse into our possibilities as human beings. About Caitlin Hicks -  Playwright/Performer

ASPO/Lamaze Philosophy of Birth

Birth is normal, natural, and healthy.
The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.
Women's inner wisdom guides them through birth
Women's confidence and ability to give bith is either enhanced or diminshed by the care provider and place of birth.
Women have a right to give birth free from routine medical intervention.
Birth can safely take place in birth centers and at home.
Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health, and to trust their inner wisdom.

Available as a very attractive poster.

Midwife's Psalm

I have a midwife, I shall not want. She makes me lie back on soft cushions, she leads me to walk during labor, she empowers me to birth. She will not rupture my membranes just for times' sake. Yea, though I labor in my own home for hours or even days I will fear no intervention, for she is with me: Her heart and her hands, they support me. She prepares a table beside me in the presence of my family. She anoints my perineum with oil; my water flows. Surely a precious babe will follow me all the days of my life, and I will remember this birth with joy Forever.

adapted by Janie Young

Each Baby's Birth Song

Love begins by recognizing what most deeply fulfills us is not what we have or what we do, but the state of our heart. The Indian mystic poet Kabir wrote: "Are you looking for Me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours." Here he speaks of our longing for the Beloved.

In the heart of each of us, there is a voice of knowing, a song that reminds us of what we most value and long for, what we have known since we were a child. There is a tribe in East Africa that recognizes this song even before birth. In this tribe the birth date of a child is not considered the day of its physical birth or even the day of conception, as in other village cultures. For this tribe the birth date is the first time the child is a thought in its mother's mind. Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular man, the mother goes off to sit alone under a great tree. There she sits and listens deeply, until she can hear the song of the child she hopes will be born. Once she has heard this song, she returns to her village and teaches it to the father, so they can sing it together as they make love, inviting the child to join them. After the child is conceived, she sings the song to the baby in her womb. She then teaches it to the old women and midwives of the village so that throughout the labor and at the miraculous moment of birth itself, the child is greeted with its song. After the birth all the villagers learn the song of their new member and sing it to the child when he or she falls or hurts him or herself. It is sung in times of triumph or in rituals and initiations. When the child grows up, this song becomes a part of his or her marriage ceremony, and at the end of life, his or her loved ones gather around the deathbed and sing the song for the last time.

Hearing such a story brings a yearning for such listening, for our own lives and song to be held and guided from such a place of respect. But we have been distracted and drawn into the marketplace. Our lives are complex, and our times are materialistic, ambitious, outer-directed. So often we have forgotten how to listen. It is difficult to be in touch with our heart in the midst of a busy life.

When we do speak with our heart, we must ask the most honest questions we can. How do we feel about the way we are living? Is it conductive to ease, creativity, wholeness, respect? Or have the responsibilities of our adult life made a prison for our body and spirit?

Even doing too many good deeds can be a problem for us. As Thomas Merton said, "To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many good projects, to want to help everyone and everything, is itself to succumb to the violence of our time."

What we seek in living from the heart is a rhythm in life that includes time for renewal in nature: time to walk for no purpose at all; time to sit still; time to listen to the sounds of life around us; time to listen to our bodies; time to listen to our heart.

So the work of our heart, the work of taking time, to listen, to live our lives, to love well, is also our gift to the whole of the world. Through our inner courage, we awaken to the greatest capacity of human life, the one true human freedom: to love in the midst of all things.

For it is the heart force that brings all life, that creates all life, that moves through us. So take time to listen, to allow that wellspring to be known in your own life.

This is from a friend on one of my lists. Our discussion was about women making space and time for prayer. "Bubbes" means grandmothers, while "Shekhinah" is the only feminine-form name in Hebrew for God.

In my reading, I came across a wonderful prayer for mothers. It's from a book called "She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism" by Lynn Gottlieb. I thought all you moms and moms-to-be and bubbes-to-be might enjoy it. It is a prayer to the Shekhinah.

A Mother's Daily Prayer

Wild Mother of earth and sky,
You who nestle seed in clay
And lift up winged creatures on Your wind,
Enliven me with your morning grace
As I awake to mothering.

If I have time to say these words
And You have time to listen,
Keep my children safe from harm,
Bless them with healthy bodies and minds.
Let them flourish.

Winsome Mother of sea and stream,
You who move it all along,
Grant me humor, patience, and compassion
To flow with the day that beckons me now
To fix breakfast, check homework, and answer the phone.

Cosmic Mother of stars and destiny,
Who juggles time and child,
If I have not yet been interrupted
I pray also for these things:

[Add your personal prayers]

Wise Mother who gives and takes away,
Who sets the boundaries of work and play,
May we all love and forgive each other
Yet another day.
And grant me the stillness of quiet hours
To renew and refresh my mothering.

The Birth of a Mother

by Renee Kendall 11/29/96

Breathing and breath all around me,
"OH! OH! OH!", such are the words barely spoken.
Tears and pain and finally release,
Gently the body droops with relaxation.

Another cry and furrowed brow,
"Oh, I am consumed, I die!", rush the words.
Pressure from within, pressure from without,
Soon the wave subsides to relief.

The wave returns in an understanding swell,
The body rises to meet the challenge.
"No more,......please....I just can't...."
And the renewed breath of air sustains for the moment.

A new cry is heard, a quiet simple wail,
"What is it....what have I done?", the words echo in the room.
"You have created life....the greatest creation known!"
"You are woman, you are the vessel of life, touch the life in front of you."

The flesh is warm, and soft, and wet,
The eyes so penetrating, so hopeful and needing.
"What have I become?", whispered softly to the room,
"You became a mother today....celebrate your gift of life!"

The mouth is searching, somehow knowing
Of secrets yet to be revealed.
"Can I truly do this?" the query seems so small,
"You have created life, and now you nurture it to fruition."

Renee Kendall

Speaking as a mother who happens to be a midwife, the moments after my births when I held my children in my arms with the cord still connecting us remain ineffably precious in my memory. I am so thankful that no one rushed our inevitable separation. I want to share this poem to help us all remember the sacredness of the umbilical cord.

    by Mary Vineyard

    In the nest of my body
    I carried the tiny bird of you,
    a great secret,
    my singular joy,
    your silence safe
    within my solitude.
    We moved through days and nights,
    the dancer within the dance.

    When you were born,
    I kept this piece of cord
    a slice of the spiraled river
    that fed you from my heart
    while ten moons
    circled the sky.

    Life had cradled us
    and made of one body
    sustenance for two.
    Remember this as you grow up and out,
    from womb to world:
    There is a source that feeds you.
    Invisible now,
    still it brings you what you need.
    Wherever you go
    there will always
    be enough.

    Willow Tree

    I am a willow tree,
    Strong, yet fluid

    I can bend with the wind,
    but my roots are tough,
    Opening to birth my child
    is flowing with the wind:
      from a soft and gentle breeze
      to a stormy gale
      back to a soft and gentle breeze.
    My body is strong, but flexible.
    It is my friend, it knows how to open.
    I am a friend to my body
      eating well, walking, and loving myself.
    I shall birth safely, freely, openly . . .
      among my loved and trusted ones.
    I am the willow, flexible
      endowed with the power of surrender
    to the wind rustling through my leaves,
      my branches.
    My roots reach deep into Mother Earth
    Anchored in Her strength
    I bring forth life
    In joy!
by Bonnie Anderson

(c) copyright 1996. All rights reserved.
First published in the ICAN Clarion, Spring 1998 issue.
Permission granted to Ronnie Falcao to post to the Midwife Archives.

Bright Blessings to you, New Mother!!

"Sacred Mother
I hear you calling
Sacred Mother
I share your voice
Sacred Mother
I know your secrets
Sacred Mother
I've made my choice

Blessed passage
Through the window
Blessed falling
From life's great tree
My arms wait here
To receive you
Sacred Child
Blessed Be!"

Maiden Huntress, Warrior Woman, help me meet labor wholeheartedly. May I know all the strength of my powerful body, may my thoughts remain clear and focused, and may my spirit join effortlessly with the power of birth. Mother Goddess, nurturer and sustainer of life, grant my child safe passage into the world. May he be born strong, healthy, and alert, and may his spirit meet ours in love and recognition once he is born. Help my arms to support him, my breasts to nourish him, and my body to warm him on the day of his birth and beyond. Ancient Crone, Queen of Wisdom, Goddess of Ending, once my baby is born safely may you guide the one who cuts the cord, and may you help my womb to close fully and quickly after the birth is done. With your blessings may our days of waiting and preparing end with a rebirth of joy for me, my baby, and my family. Blessed be. - from Circle Round, Raising Children in Goddess Traditions, by Starhawk, Diane Baker, Anne Hill

Birth is a potentially empowering female rite of passage.  My role as midwife is to help women utilize the spirit within them to bring that personal power to life.  Empowered by their birth experience, they can then bring a spark of confidence to their mothering.

I see two distinct kinds of energy in a birthing woman.  One is a surrendering; she is yielding to the pain, the intensity , the unknown, allowing the aggressive power of labor to move through her.  The other is an energy of focus; she is actively pushing, directing the energy with intention.  Birth is, then, an interplay of energies, a rhythm, a spiritual dance.

One of the most spiritual moments at birth is when the mother goes into a trance-like state.  I think she's actually transcending and part of her consciousness is guiding the baby's consciousness onto the Earth p lane.  She's helping the baby fully surrender to the process.  This is necessary because moving from the spiritual plane to the Earth plane, coming into a plane of greater density is a process requiring great force.  This is one of the reasons why labor must be so powerful an experience.

What I do as a midwife is facilitate this process by being aware of it - it's not just a physical experience.  The midwife must oversee or be keenly aware of these energies.  The midwife's confidence has an effect on the baby's confidence to move on to this plane.  She helps the woman realize that the focus of power is within herself; no one else can give birth for her, she is the one who does the work and I help her realize that she is able to do it.  [Written by Rita Pauley, extracted from Becoming A Midwife by Carolyn Steiger, p. 178.]

Birth Humor

[I wasn't sure where to put this subsection, but then I figured that humor feeds the spirit in a special way, so here it is!]

My dh and I were playing around with song parodies:

"Get me to the Birth on Time"
"Born Free, My Mom Was a Doula"
"Splish splash I Was Birthed in a Bath"
"Mama Don't Breech, I've been loosing sleep"
That great nipple stimulation hit "Rub Me Tender"
"Put your Foot on my shoulder"
And when lying on your back just won't do "Take Me Out to the Hall Dear"
"Doula around the Clock"

Birth Photography

bellymotherbaby Photography

Mother Blessings

Mis-use of the word "Blessingway"

The word Blessingway has been commonly used for a Mother Blessing celebration/ceremony for pregnancy and birth, and there have been requests from the Native American community for people not to mis-use the word this way.

A traditional Blessing Way ceremony is a sacred, spiritual ceremony to the Native American people.  It is not specifically designed for pregnancy, can be used in pregnancy before birth, but has distinct verses and words that must be performed to create balance in the respondent.  The ceremony is performed by a tribal shaman or elder....and is for healing and rebalance.  Here is more about authentic Blessingways.....

Blessing God's Way - A Celebration of Pregnancy! for women and families wanting a distinctly Christian perspective on this type of gathering.

Mother Rising - The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood by Yana Cortlund, BarB Lucke, and Donna Miller Watelet - The Blessingway Book You've Been Waiting For!  This book is highly praised by a number of renowned midwives.

“Different in essence from a baby shower, a blessingway honors a mother-to-be and creates a circle of support that will cradle her as she prepares to give birth to her child. Surrounded by the most important women in her life, a mom-to-be can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her, thereby gaining a sense of power, confidence, and support that will help her rise to motherhood. By creating blessingway rituals for each other, we can reach outside of ourselves and weave a web of community: a living breathing web of women who are blessing, teaching, and supporting one another — and as a result, helping give birth to each other’s children.”

Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers by Shari Maser - This is an inspiring book that has the good grace to honor the origins of the word Blessingway.  It's a great  how-to guide for planning any kind of mother blessing.  I was especially delighted to find the section with words and music for some simple but beautiful songs and chants suitable for mother blessings, labor and birth, and any kind of centering time.

This is a fabulous article from Mothering Magazine:

Beads and Blessings
By Anne Nicholson Weber

The Blessingway: An Alternative Baby Shower - By Sue Robins 

Pregnancy - A Ritual of Creation from Diane Stein's book Casting the Circle - A Women's Book of Ritual.

Having a Magickal Child

Rituals for Birth: The Blessingway Ceremony By Jeannine Parvati Baker

BLESSING THE WAY, a 28-minute film about the ritual celebration of birth, provides additional information about The Blessingway Ceremony, including ideas of how to structure the ritual, elements that can be included in the ritual and a list of resources. Elements from The Blessingway can also be used in all sorts of Rites of Passage such as birthdays, menarche, menopause, puberty, weddings, etc.

A Doula's Intentions for a Birth

An Online Blessingway Ceremony

Pregnancy and Labor Meditation

I have been offering a blessing way ceremony to my clients lately. Only one has had hers yet. I feel that they need to be tailored to suit the mom; some are more attuned to very esoteric spiritual rituals some aren't.

I would like to hear from those of you who do this as to what you do. I don't want it to become another baby shower and like to keep much of the focus on loving and appreciating the mom. Some ideas we have are:

A beautiful candle is passed around and each guest can offer her blessings or (more mainstream) why she thinks xxx will be a good mom. Then the mom can burn the candle at her birth.

The blessings or praises can then be written on the mat of a pretty frame that is given to the mom to put a picture of her baby and herself.

We can all make something out of some craft supplies at the blessing way to represent blessings for the baby and make it into a mobile.

Every one brings a gift that is handmade: can be some kind of craft, a poem, a story, a special food for the birth or after...

A flower garland for the mom to wear.

All the women help to comb and decorate her hair, massage her feet with scented oils any more ideas for this...

Paint the moms belly with beautiful symbols and take a picture of it.

Embroider or paint on a flannel blanket for the newborn.

I read about circling the group with a red ribbon, in the end every one cuts their piece of ribbon and ties it to her ankle or wrist and wears it until the birth representing the circle of women and cycle of life.

I have always told my clients that they get to do "whatever you want" when planning their Blessingway.  This includes incorporating the other participant's in a way that enhances their beliefs.  At the last one we did a couple weeks ago, we had a Wiccan, an agnostic, a catholic, a Protestant, etc. They each had brought a gift that reflected their love for her through their faith.  It was beautiful!  The one person who did not come was her CB teacher. This teacher, a fundamentalist (my perception), called me the day before, and asked, "Where is god in all this?"  She said she looked up blessingway on the Internet and saw all this stuff about Navajo wars, and their worship of their own gods, etc.  She was VERY upset that I was encouraging this (little did she know it was my idea)!  The way I explained it to her was that the Navajo blessingway was just the "kernel" of a larger idea, that of empowering and bringing women together to celebrate and "lift up" the soon to be mother, so that when she is going through labor, she will remember all who had gone before her, and all who had pledged their support.  I told her about the gifts each would bring, not of monetary value, but gifts of the heart, such as herbs, poetry, and affirmations.  I didn't think it got through to her, but my client told me this week that her teacher showed up several days later with a collage of photos, all the women in her CB class, of women in powerful positions during labor, of the teacher herself giving birth, wonderful images of strength and love for her to look at while waiting for labor, and during. She was overcome with emotion, and now this teacher is talking about doing a blessingway for her sister!  So...even though it was a leap for her, she overcame her own ignorance/prejudices to see the value of this beautiful ceremony.

I think that part of the reason I'm a midwife is to change our terrible habits of minimizing the importance of this event in a family's life, and unthinkingly scaring the wits out of the pregnant mom in the meantime. We've lost that innate knowledge of our ancestors, the acceptance that this (birth) is what we DO.  We've complicated it to the point of unrecognizability! Encourage all your pregnant moms to do blessingways, or some ceremony that marks this special time.  They will love you for it!

In my circle of friends, we do an herbal foot bath using herbs which are symbolic. Each participant chooses an herb to add to the bath, explains it's symbolism or it's usefulness, then she massages the mother's feet. After all the herbs have been added and mom has had sufficient time to soak, we dry her feet with corn meal- a symbol of fertility. The footbath smells heavenly.

Some moms have strained and dried the herbs then reused them during labor. I could post a list of some of the herbs we use and their symbolism/use if you would like.

Below is a list of some herbs we use for a blessingway footbath along with their symbolism. There are many other herbs which can be used, and I am sure that many of these have other meanings besides those listed.

My circle of friends will often 'bless the way' of someone who is facing a big change in their life- whether it is the impending birth of a baby, a marriage, divorce, or the start of a new endeavor.

In midwifery school, my class did a blessing of the hands of the students who were leaving for 'integration' which is the last semester of training for a CNM- often done at a site distant from the school. We used some of these herbs and did a ritual hand washing. One student wrote a beautiful poem about the hands of midwives, which she shared with us all. It was a moving experience. This was repeated the next year for my class by the class coming behind us. It was written about in the JNM last year.

Blessingways are very beautiful and I believe that they can help the woman make the transformation into motherhood. It also involves her family and friends in her pregnancy and birth in an intimate way that seems to carry on to the baby and postpartum time.

Here are a few things that are common at blessingways in this area.

Calling in the spirits from the 4 directions, asking for their strength and protection. Usually done by the closest friends.

Have each person bring a special bead or charm to make a birthing necklace. Each woman presents her gift to the mom with a wish or hope for her labor and birth. Have extra small beads to string in between the larger ones. These necklaces are always very beautiful and special to the mom. They are often worn in early labor and then used as a calming focal point as labor progresses.

The woman has her hair brushed and braided with flowers by her mother or mother figure in her life. If it is her mom it is nice if she talks about how she felt when the woman was born.

The pregnant woman's feet are washed and massaged in warm, flower filled water then dried and rubbed with corn meal. This is traditionally done by the woman's midwife. (and it feels heavenly!)

Usually a blessing way is just women but we always have a potluck afterwards and sometimes the men are invited to that. During the potluck we send around a sign-up sheet for postpartum help.

Raven Lang, of the Birth Book fame, has written 2 lovely booklets about blessingways and mother roasting.

Additional suggestions-- Make a belly cast with her before the Blessingway, and decorate it at the party. After the decorating is done, each participant can explain what her contribution signifies.

Make a "medicine bag" and have each participant bring something very tiny (seed, flower, shell, tiny note, feather, piece of ribbon brought to the Blessingway in a knot and untied in front of the mom and placed in the bag untied--etc.). Pass the bag around and participants explain the significance as they put their gift into the bag.

Great idea. Moms remember these Blessingways forever and it really impacts. Can't wait to see what suggestions you get!

Have everyone bring a bead and make a necklace for mom. Pass around the string (or whatever you use) and each participant why she chose this bead, shares her love and wisdom with mom etc.....

Shortly after the birth of my son I attended a Blessingway for a friend hosted by my midwife. It was a very empowering occasion during which the mother to be is given the support of other mothers and close friends. The midwife combined her home visit to my friend with the blessingway. She also used the time to meet the other people that would possibly be attending the birth.

The ceremony had the following parts:

Everyone was asked to bring a symbolic gift from nature, (feather for free spirit), and a candle after the birth stories were shared then a pan of warm water with rose petals was set at the feet of the mother to be and each guest in turn went up to her, presented her gift, said some thing about the coming event and the significance of the gift, washed the expectant mothers feet, then lit her candle and sat back in the circle.

By the time everyone had finished the room was aglow and you could feel the strength that everyone was offering to the expectant mother.

The house was then blessed by one of the guest and then we all sat down to enjoy the wonderful food everyone had brought.

After the meal we again made a circle this time standing up and everyone held on to a long piece of string. In turn each woman turned to the woman next to them and said something along the lines from my head to your head from my heart to your heart from my whom to your whom and then she tied the string around the other woman's wrist and cut the string loose from the rest of the circle. By the end everyone had a piece of string around their wrist. The strings were to be left on until the birth of the child, then they could be cut off.

Before we all left the midwife also got everyone to volunteer to sign up for bring food to the house after the baby was born each person chose a day and someone volunteered to coordinate the visits.

A little over a year latter I gave a blessingway for a good fiend of mine I search the web and found some interesting information.

I recently did a blessingway with one of my clients.  In general, here's what we did.

The seven of us attending sat in a circle.  I explained a little bit about what the blessingway was -- that it was drawn from a Native American tradition to honor the transition of this woman from maiden to mother.  I emphasized that this was about her, not about her baby -- that people would be paying attention to her baby for many years to come, and that her own needs would be forgotten sometimes!

Four of us called the directional energies, using "Grandmother Spirits of the east," etc.  I invoked Brigid, Celtic goddess and Christian saint, known as the midwife of Mary.  Her lover invoked the Dagda, Celtic father god.

We each had a candle, which we brought up to her, one at a time, to sit at her feet -- she was on a chair and the rest of us were on the floor. There was a bowl of water mixed with herbs, and we each washed her feet in the water while we offered her a "gift" for her to take into labor -- courage, love, strength, patience, trust, etc.  Some of us had poems to read.  At the end (after many tears!) I came to her and dried her feet with cornmeal.  Finally, we stood in the circle and passed a long strand of red ribbon around the circle, which we tied around our wrists.  The ribbon stayed on each of us until her baby was born, to symbolize that our energies were with her.

Shower Blessings

We sat in a circle and the hostess lit a candle. ( The candle was one of those candles you get in a health food store with the paper wrapped around it. They have different candles for different things, strength, abundance, etc.) Then she read the paper( they are affirmations). We than passed the candle around the circle each saying why she would make a great mom. Everyone focused on her having a homebirth. Things people said were, "you have lots of strength, You are powerful, You have courage to have a homebirth, you are doing the best thing for your baby", etc. Then she said some things that made everyone teary eyed and told The Mom to light the candle during her birth to give her strength. Then I took key words from what everyone said and wrote them on a nice piece of paper that we put in a frame that said The Mom will make a great mom because.... We presented her with the frame. Then the hostess had a basket with pieces of paper with body parts written on them, right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, head, belly, feet, hands. Each person was to massage the body part they chose. Hostess had cream, and towels. It was so relaxing for The Mom! Our midwife made The Mom a beautiful doll out of herbs from her garden. She choose herbs that were for women. She also said some beautiful things.( Our midwife was excellent) She was not a CNM but a traditional midwife.

This sounds a lot like a Women's Ritual/Blessing Way that I attended when I was pregnant both times.

Women told me stories of their births. (Most of the people didn't know me very well except for my midwife, so the "why you'll make a good mom" would not have been appropriate.) My midwife dedicated herself to serving my needs and the baby's safety at the birth. My feet were rubbed with blue cornmeal. At another one, everyone rubbed a different body part, affirming it's usefulness and my beauty in my ripeness. At one ritual that happened a year or two before, clay pictures were drawn on the pregnant women's bellies.

I loved both of my blessing ways!

Spirituality of Motherhood

Mothering and Homemaking as a Spiritual Practice - buddhamom.com

You can subscribe to the Buddahmom yahoo group

Belly Casting/Belly Masks/Birth Art

Art Bellies - A simple kit turns pregnancy into art.  This is a way of creating a silhouette of the pregnant belly.

Online Exhibit - The Family Gallery in Duncan's Mills, California - a show of 30 bellymasks wherein each woman included a photo of herself and her baby and a statement of an experience of her pregnancy or birth in prose or poetry.

Through the Lens - 600 years of Breastfeeding - Photos of breastfeeding women posed like classic works of art.

Excerpts from the Birth Project by Judy Chicago - published by Doubleday & Co. 1985. - Prior to the Birth Project, few images of birth existed in Western art, a puzzling omission as birth is a central focus of many women's lives and a universal experience of all humanity - as everyone is born. Seeking to fill this void, Judy Chicago created multiple images of birth to be realized through needlework, a visually rich medium which has been ignored or trivialized by the mainstream art community.

ProudBody Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit and Tummy Tatts Temporary Tattoos from Butterflies & Hiccups

Belly Cast Kits from babaloosco.com

My Belly Mask - by Lisa Bobrow

Midwifery Today is now offering the Pregnant Belly Cast Kit - A03PBC for $32.50

Belly Mask Kit from bellymask.com- A bellymask is an heirloom sculpture created right on your pregnant torso in a simple one-hour process. Made of plaster gauze, it is an exact replica of your pregnant form.

Pregnant Belly Masking - they offer kits.

Belly Casting and Birth Art

Does anyone know the materials to use and the instructions to do body casting?

I've used plaster tape, available from a medical supply store to do casts. It usually comes in rolls. You need to grease up the skin first with beeswax/olive oil mix or something similar (vaseline if you don't mind petroleum) to protect it. Then you simply moisten strips of the tape as you go and have fun layering them across the surface. A few coats of gesso (art supply store) will smooth out the surface of the cast after it dries if you want to paint it. Enjoy!

I just bought plaster of paris on rolls-worked great.

You can buy pre-plastered gauze at http: I figure with you using 3.5 rolls then if the bulk buy is 12 Ill have plenty left over after doing a 6m practice casting and the big belly cast to make a bunch of face masks with mine and my daycare kids over the summer !!  Its $40 for one dozen rolls of 4" X 5 yards

I got stuff for my belly cast at Michael's (large craft store chain).  It  comes in rolls and can also be used to make masks and stuff.  You just  cut strips, wet them and apply.  I would make it about three or more  layers thick.  You should only need a couple of rolls.

You really don't need that much. People make the mistake of trying to make the mask strong by using a lot of casting material. It is much better to use a minimal amount, then let it dry. After it is set, use plaster of paris to smooth over the cast. You can do this inside and out to get a strong, smooth cast, and if you are interested and especially artsy, you can use it to add belly button and nipples. You can also screen sand it for an even smoother cast.

You can gently drill wholes in the upper-outer area to hang the cast. Best to do this before plastering. I added thin metal washers on the inside, and plastered over them for strength where the ribbon would be.

I had the henna tattoo artist paint my cast with the same design as my henna belly tattoo, using the shades of blue from the (unused) nursery.  Then she coated it with varathane inside and out so it would not get moldy or soft from absorbing moisture. We also put the baby's footprints inside the mask.  Fun!

Exactly what are you hoping to cast? Materials and technique depends on this.

One of the simplest ways to make a casting is to use bandages that are impregnated with plaster (sold in drug stores- fairly cheap). Its cake, you just wet the cloth and "paste" them on, layering to desired thickness. Its very important that you do not seal a body part in plaster, it is not safe or easy to get off. (as with arm casts, they require a saw to remove - unless a two part cast is made).

You must work quickly as the plaster sets FAST. When dry, (plaster will become warm and stiff) you simply, gently lift away. A light mold release - on bodies, vaseline works great- will make removal much easier. (You just butter the area and bandage over it).

For the head and face, common sense dictates that you make sure to leave air holes over nose and mouth. (sounds obvious, but you would be surprised...) To cast 3-D objects, you will need at least a two part mold. But Im guessing you would like to cast bellies, right?!

Recipe for Making your own Pregnant Belly Mask

Plaster cloth - 4 rolls of  4” or    4 rolls 2” and 2 rolls 4 - cut these rolls into various lengths  6”-10” wide, long container for water
Acrylic gesso (canuns ground) primer

Gather 1+ persons, sit up straight in a kitchen chair, maybe in front of a mirror, and have them dip the cloth in the water and start sculpting from your pelvic bones up.  Make sure you are liberally coated with the Vaseline, paying attention to pubic and pit hairs!  It starts hardening in about 10-15 minutes.  Takes  ~30 minutes with 2 folks applying and 45 with one person.

After it dries apply the acrylic so paints will not soak and blur.

Supplies found at Craft Supply shops

Ideas for decorating:

You can buy a Belly Mask Kit from www.femailcreations.com or 800-969-2760.  (Item #8101 - $85)

I did a belly cast of my last pregnancy.  Here's what we did.

1. get one of those knee-sitting ergonomic chairs, so that belly will protrude nicely, but mom is still comfy

2. Slather un-petroleum jelly, or other really really thick lotion all over surfaces to be masked (in my case, I did a pose with my hands holding my belly, and we masked belly and breasts)

3. wet strips of maskmaking material that is impregnated with plaster that is 'cool setting' rather than heat setting.  Mask making gauze is usually cool-setting.

4. decide on a plan of action...breasts down, or belly up.  To do the hands, we cut thin strips of the material, so that the fingers would look right, also used the smaller strips or squares on the nipples, but you could skip that, I guess.

5. We did enough layers that we felt it would hold it's shape pretty well once released.  The bottom layers were well set before we were even done.  The baby didn't suffer from it at all, and I felt really pampered.  It was really easy to pop off of my body too.  I think the trick was to use lots of the un-petroleum jelly to coat all the surfaces to be covered.

6. cover the entire mask with jesso after it is dry to make it more sturdy and long lasting

7. paint or not...I left mine white and I think it is beautiful.

I use Johnson and Johnson Plaster Bandages, it is a roll and all you have to do is cut and dip in warm water, sets up really fast.  Have done twins twice and we were all done within an hour.

I just use regular strips of casting plaster.  Cut long pieces for the belly and shorter ones for the breasts.  Dip in warm water and use immediately.  Be sure to have mom rub some Un-petroleum jelly (veggie based) on all pertinent surfaces and cover pubic and armpit hair with pieces of plastic wrap.  Be sure to get lots of overlap in your layers.I have never had a baby's movement ruin a cast.  After it starts to set, pull it off and place over a cardboard box with the belly hanging down inside to keep the shape till fully set.  If mom is real patient you can leave it on till it gets pretty hard.

Un-petroleum Jelly is just the brand name of a vegetable based vaseline-like product.  I buy it at the natural food store here in OR. I am sure that you could just as well use a petroleum based product with no damage to the cast - it just isn't as nice for the skin

Birth Art

Color of Woman's Online Gallery - Shiloh is often at birth-related conferences.

The Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice (CJMRP) Fall 2011 issue has a few pages of paintings by Frida Kahlo and Amanda Greavette, along with "La mer est trouble" by Ann-Christine Foisy and "Being Born Is Important" by Carl Sandburg.                                                

Beautiful Birth and Mother Art from familytreeglass.com

Pregnant Nudes and The Ninth Month by Catherine Steinmann

"Pregnancy and Childbirth" - A Gaping Void in the History of Art - An Insult to Every Woman Who Has Ever Given Birth.

Norman Gardner is author of The Forbidden Art of Pregnancy

Pregnancy Art Gallery & Store - Barbara Getrost - Fine Art Giclee Prints * Posters * Greeting Cards * T-shirts

Durga Bernhard has some art about Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth.  She has also done some cover illustrations for famous birth books.

Cesarean Art - for all the scarred mothers

Alternative Birth -Soliciting Submissions from photographers - We are interested in photos of pregnant women, labor and birth photos of women in active labor/birth positions, photos of doulas/midwives at work, photos of prenatal yoga and alternative childbirth classes, photos of women participating in birth rallies/protests,breastfeeding, etc.

Energy Work at Birth - Reiki, Crystals

The Gentle Energy of Reiki at Birth - Tokyo Childbirth Education Association

An in depth study of Crystal Healing with mother and child, during and after Pregnancy

I'm getting ready to take lessons in polarity therapy for use in my doula work.  My thought is that when my moms get hung up on emotional issues if i can bypass their ego's (conscious mind) and convince their id (subconscious mind) to let it go and get the energy moving again that it will be a wonderful application for birth.  I have used meditations that involve visualizing the base chakra opening like a brilliant red rose in the groin, and have had great success with it.

I'm excited about learning this polarity therapy; does anyone else use it?

I have been working with moms on the idea of opening the pelvis energetically and establishing an energy flow in labor (I'm thinking chakras  as I do it, don't always describe it that way - depends on the mind set of  the client)  It seems to be very helpful...

As soon I get called to a birth I do a powerful centering exercise to make sure I will be fully present to that mom and babe. This is something I learned in my studies of Therapeutic Touch.

I myself am not Native American. I am a white woman who has been gifted with some Native teachings. As I drive to a birth I always chant a Native American song that I learned from Brooke Medicine Eagle. The gist of the chant is that I am doing this work for the good of all people.

Upon arrival at the birthplace, if the mother wishes it, I will call the grandmothers using a special chant that was taught to me by my medicine teacher. If the mother is not cool with this, I simply imagine the hands

I have been to births with drumming. In fact, my own daughter was drummed in.. Drumming is as trance inducing as anything out there...if you can keep a shamanic beat. It is absolutely effective at releiving the pain of labor.

It is also common for me to use the scent of sage at our births because it is associated with holiness and cleansing. I use a massage oil with the scent of sage throughout the labor.

Many of my clients are just average middle class white women. If they seem open I tell them about the spiritual aspects of birth and the Native American rituals I have studied. Sometimes they really like the idea of connecting with the Earth at such an important time.  No matter what your religion is, if you live in North America these rituals are meaningful.

One of the neatest things I've ever seen done was the preparation of a moss "cradle" upon which to lay a newborn. The parents wanted baby to feel the Earth before anything else, even mother's breast! As soon as baby was out and dried off he was placed on the moss for a few moments and then he went to breast. It was absolutely awe inspiring!

Protected Birthing Space

I keep thinking that one of the reasons women labor and birth better in birthing tubs is that they have a well-defined birthing space which protects them from easy interference.  It also occurs to me that the warm, watery, enclosed space is not dissimilar to the womb, itself, and that being enclosed in this space may recapitulate the woman's own birth, thus reawakening her body memories of birth and facilitating her own birthing.  I have fantasies about creating a portable birth gazebo to go over the birthing tub - some kind of loose frame with beautiful fabric all around it.

From a newspaper article about an ancient Egyptian "birth brick": "During ancient Egyptian times, Wegner said women would give birth while squatting on the bricks or on a special seat. Often mothers would be confined in a birth arbor constructed of wood, "magical" vines (convolvulus vines), and matting. One or more female attendants would have assisted her."

Cats at Birth

As a cat breeder, I found the cats to be wonderful at my birth, always checking up on me and making comforting sounds. My experienced breeding queen sat next to me after the birth as I recovered, as if she was watching over me. All of my cats have taken very well to the new baby and have been curious and very gentle. Cats are very social, intuitive creatures, and I would recommend them as labor support!

Well I have been told by midwives that they prefer that you put the cat outside. They told me that the cat can get aggressive or even get sick. Heard a birth story from a lady that her cat vomited when she was in transition. Cats seem to be very in tune with what is going on with their care providers. I had a cat when I had my 3rd child. Weird things began to happen. I went outside one day and there were 12 cats outside in my backyard!! It was really weird. They were all just sitting around in various places and just watched me. STRANGE! I even asked my midwife about it and she laughed telling me that cats seem to have sense when a woman is close to giving birth. I loved my cat-scruffy was a girl-she was fixed so there was no reason for all the cats like she was in heat. That was not possible. Well do what you will. Just make sure that you have somebody there that can take the cat if he gets spooked or agitated. He wont like you being in labor any better than your DH  [grin]

At several births I've attended, their cat was positioned behind the mom in the small of her back as she sat laboring.

when i attended his birth his moms cat was ON THE BED and gave birth to kittens (mom was on a birth stool) right around the same time as the baby was born....it was pretty amazing. We couldn't figure out through the labor why this cat just would not leave this mom alone.

I attended a conference once where a nurse was presenting and she told us the story of her cat. This cat never sat in anyone's lap but preferred the position on their shoulder when they sat on the couch. One day this cat jumped down into her lap and stayed there. A few days later she found out she was pregnant and the cat preferred sitting in her lap the whole pregnancy, moving back to its shoulder position after delivery. A few years later the cat jumped in her lap again so she rushed out to get a pregnancy test and sure enough, she was pregnant again!

Cat as Indicator of Full Dilation

My homebirth midwife said she has noticed that when a woman is in labour with a cat in the house, the cat is a very good indicator of when the woman is fully dilated  - the cat appears and starts yowling. This has occurred a number of times apparently.

I also have a red tabby Oriental Shorthair boy who would prove your midwife right. Not only did he announce the beginning of the second stage, but he also hollered with me during contractions. We did eventually have to put him in another room, since he wanted to give a little *too* much support (he loves his "mommy", but mommy did not want to be rubbed in the face during transition!).

Being Born in the Caul, i.e. with the Amniotic Membranes or Amniotic Sac Intact

Here's a close-up of a baby's head born in the caul

Waterbirth Baby Born Underwater in the Sac - YouTube video

"In Icelandic tradition, the caul or fetal membrane appearing at birth, is associated with a guardian spirit called a fylgja.  This fylgja can take many forms after birth, including an animal, an inanimate object (such as a cloak), or another human being, and often serves as a kind of warning against potential danger.  Interestingly, the caul itself has been regarded as bestowing a protective influence against drowning in Anglo-Saxon culture (it was cited in this context, for example, at the beginning of Charles Dickens' classic novel David Copperfield.)"  Development and its Connection to Human Potential After Birth by Thomas Armstrong, PhD., Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, Vol. 14, Number 3-4, Spring/Summer 2000, p. 294.]

Search for "Baby Born With A Caul" in this piece about Asian mothers birthing in Australia.

We are actually rather delighted to see babies born in the caul!

With all of my conversation about AROM, I would never do it to avoid a birth in the caul -- they are fabulous--Both Amish twins were born in the caul -- some kind of record maybe? Actually maybe one broke right as he was being born, but it was close -- I've had several "in the caul" Babies breathe in and out amniotic fluid all the time -- I am unable to understand why that would be a problem.

Some of the sea-faring cultures (e.g. Portuguese) believe that it's very good luck for a child to be born in the caul; it means the child will not die by drowning.

It is a very old idea that a child born with a caul over its face will be endowed with special powers or gifts. There is a 15th century(?) group called the benedanti in Italy who were people born with a caul, who did battle at night (in their sleep or during a trance) against witches who were bent on destroying the crops. They saved the caul from birth and wore it as an amulet of their station.

There are other instances in Finland where the Lapps believed that some people born with a caul would become werewolves in adulthood. (Also 15th C)

Baby's Spirituality / Flower Essences

Some sources for Flower Essences

Bach Flower Essences from Nelson Bach

New Millennium Flower Essences of New Zealand offer Birthing flower essence mixture (helps both mother and baby deal with the trauma of birth, and also helps integrate the baby's soul fully into its body), including Baby's Body Integration Super-essence. They also have an article on Indigo children.

Flower Vision Research & The Essence Resource Center - They carry a variety from different sources.

Alaskan Essences is the only US supplier of the Indigo Essences that I could find.  There are several excellent UK sources: Helios Homeopathy, healthandgoodness.com and, of course, Indigo Essences.

I especially like the Childbearing Kit from Fox Mountain.  [If the link doesn't work, try www.foxmountain.net.]

Flower Essence Pharmacy - [Closed (temporarily??) in 2002]  Maybe reincarnated as FlowerEssences.Com?

Perelandra Center for Nature Research - They offer a paper entitled "PERELANDRA PAPER Process."

Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder Through Flower Essence Therapy by Patricia Meyer and Andrea Shor

Flower Essences and Pregnancy by Marlene Keel

Pregnancy Support™ - Balsam Poplar • Bog • Devil's Club • Diopside • Emerald • Grove Sandwort • Ladies' Mantle • Northern Lady's Slipper from Alaskan Flower Essences at mcn.org.

General search for flower essences and pregnancy

Flower Essences and kits of particular interest to midwives:

The Dr Edward Bach Centre - the home of the Bach Flower Remedies

I am a certified nurse midwife and yes the cauliflower essences is for BIRTH. I have had the opportunity to use it with several moms in labor. Cauliflower is one of the unique essence that has a specific process to go with it. Perleandra now has a 'special' hand out with the definition and process to be given to expecting moms. [also makes a great baby shower gift]. The babies that are born under the influence appear totally integrated (body with soul)!!! I've seen babies born integrated without the essence but most aren't.. the essence seems to make the difference. So please encourage anyone you know who is pregnant to consider using it in labor. I put it in a water bottle and have the mom sip it during labor. It doesn't affect the labor... the baby does that. I've followed a few of these babies over time and am convinced that these children truly remember from where/what they have come and why. No spending a life time figuring it out. At one time I thought these were the 'Indigo children' but am not sure. Anyway I feel the process is what makes cauliflower valuable for adults too. If you're testing for it a lot, ask if you need to do the soul-body integration process too. I'm sure MSW has a 'paper' on it and makes the suggestion to use it for children as you described. I've suggested it to portents but haven't gotten any takers and don't feel I can use it on others without consent. I used it on myself several years ago and was definitely more focused and "blended" afterwards. I haven't test positive for it again.

Imagine a whole world of babies already awake when born and remembering spirit!

Baby-welcoming Ceremony

Using clean, warm water wash the baby and say:

    A small wave for your form
    A small wave for your voice
    A small wave for your speech
    A small wave for your means
    A small wave for your generosity
    A small wave for your wealth
    A small wave for your life
    A small wave for your health.
    Nine waves of grace upon you
    Waves of the Giver of Health
    -Caitlin Matthews

Welcome Your Baby: Pagan Traditions

We're going to have a welcoming ceremony for my new grandson.  There's a great sample ceremony in the book After the Baby's Birth...A Woman's Way to Wellness by Robin Lim.  Here are a couple of the blessings to be said for various people important to the baby:

"(Give a rose bush to the mother and say her name) I give you this rose as a symbol of earth in its abundance.  Your gift to your baby throughout his life will manifest in his every experience of this plane.  May you enjoy him as you do this rose--his budding and unfolding, the pruning of his stalks, and the joy of his blossoming."

One for the father, one for the godfather.  This one for the godmother:

"(Give a crystal to the godmother and say her name.)  I give you this crystal as a tool to focus your awareness on the inner realm, to learn and share any lesson that will help this child develop as an individual, to grow in intuition and perception.  Learn this child as you learn the crystal. Use it on his behalf and when his own perceptions grow to maturity, pass it on to him, for his own use."

Last is a blessing for the baby, and I'm going to have his parents say it:

"(Sprinkle water on the baby's body and lips, say the baby's name.) I give you water.  May it bathe and sustain you on this plane and may your stream of life lead you on an interesting journey and back to the ocean of oneness from whence you came."

I have some great music, including "Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers.  The only problem is that I don't have anything for the grandmothers or grandfathers to say.

Drying Umbilical Cords as Mementos

I always cut the cord from the base of the placenta, wash it and milk it and then form it into a heart-it dries within 2-3 days depending on how thick it is-I think it's so nice to save the whole cord-that physical connection between mother and baby-just keep it away from any animals while its drying!!

One nice thing to do with the cord is to dry it. Cut off cord from the placenta and milk the blood out. Then you can spiral the cord and on a piece of gauze. Leave it to dry in an out of the way place that has good air circulation. After a couple of weeks it should be completely dry. They turn out to be very beautiful. Some cultures use them for teething rings but we just like to look at them. My son had a true knot in his cord and it is interesting to see.

Placenta Prints

We bagged up my/babies' placenta and brought it home.  I then made a placenta print. I made it outside. I used paper towels to pat all the blood off the placenta and then painted the placenta and the chords with green washable, water-based liquid paint.  I then flipped it over onto a large piece of paper and made a print of it.  It is so cool, you can actually see the 2 different placentas fused together and the cords.  With the placenta at the top of the print ( the top or leaves of the tree )and the chords coming down ( the trunk of the tree ) it looks like two trees  intertwined. I then put the footprints of each baby under the corresponding placenta section at the bottom of the "trunk" with their names.  On the top I had "THE TREE OF LIFE".  I made several prints and gave one framed to the mid-wives.  The only one they ever saw with two placentas. We are going to bury the placenta under a new tree we will add to the yard this spring.  We want to buy a special tree as we live in a forest and wanted a species other than what we already have. I did this one week after the babies were born.  It gave me a chance to really look at the placenta. The 2 bag of waters tissues were still attached.  They looked like mother of pearl in  a way. I examined the vessels and saw the differences in sizes. There was a "communication between the vessels".  I could see how there were a couple of main vessels, but then they split to each side of the fused placentas. The side that had the bigger placenta (and was the bigger baby 7lbs, 15 oz ) had more vessels split to it than did the smaller placenta  the smaller baby 5 lbs, 13oz) (One placenta was 75% the other 25% of the whole thing) The difference between the smooth shiny side with the cords that was on the babies' side vs the rough darker side that was attached to the uterus.  It really is a beautiful organ!!

I used a heavy stock-printmaking paper I had lying around   from art school days.  I would recommend an absorbent paper verses a slick kind.  ( a rice paper would have been lovely)  I like Arches or Rives Papers, made of 100% cotton, are acid free. Good Art supply shops should have these (I lean towards the cream color).  Here is a link with good prices...( you can get free samples) http:

Take a peek at Jacks PPrints.  I used the blood directly from placenta. Perhaps not the most intricate and detailed prints because it was several days old and the blood thinned out.  It is a great remembrance.  PS) Make sure to keep out of sun with this method- it will bleach out.

Mothers Who Have Gone Before Us

I know that you know your deceased mother is watching and waiting with you for her grandchild to make its arrival. Think of her holding your little one's hand until the big day arrives!

In May of this year, I was attending a birth for a woman birthing her second child. Her own mother had been a very important figure in her life and had been with her at the first birth, and had died in the intervening time. As the woman neared transition, she turned towards the door and started talking to her mother, as if she were, herself, a child once again. She wanted to go to the park and have a picnic with her mother. The other midwives in the room said they felt a presence of some kind. I was too focused on my responsibilities to pay it much heed, but I did feel a chill and some goosebumps.

We convinced her that it was safer to stay with us, but she continued to talk with her mother. Her labor stopped cold. No contractions, no nothing. Mother and baby seemed fine, but in some alternate reality. We sort of withdrew, leaving her in whatever space she was in, keeping a distant eye on her. After about an hour, she had the most amazing purging I've ever seen - out of every orifice. (Weak of stomach can skip the rest of this paragraph. She had projectile vomiting, her waters broke, she peed all over, and she had massive diarrhea.)

After that, she seemed completely normal, her labor resumed, and she proceeded to have an uneventful birth of a beautiful baby who seemed very wise and very present immediately at birth.

The woman remembered none of this afterwards, or else didn't want to talk about it. (The poor dad was beside himself, alas.)

I've always suspected that "the grandmother spirits" often show up at birth, and this is the most concrete evidence I've had of it. When I do prenatal work with women, we sometimes call on grandmotherly spirits to be with them in labor and birth. If you specifically invited your mother to be with you, and cultivated a relationship with her spirit, I think she could be a great help to you.

The grandmothers are with us always.

A Young Woman's First Moon

book "Menarche: The First Blood"

Here's some info on first moons. Here's a ritual i found in the I am Woman by Rite book, by Nancy Brady Cunningham. I will copy what she wrote verbatim.

Preparing for First Blood

  1. Gather together red and white flowers in a vase. These needn't be roses and gardenias - any flowers will do as long as the color is correct.
  2. Two red taper candles in decorative holders.
  3. Music both mother and daughter enjoy.
  4. Any water-filled bowl will do -- preferably a glass one if it's available.
  5. Hairbrush, comb and mirror, and red lipstick.
  6. Three kinds of food and drink -- bitter, sweet, and salty.
  7. Red wine or grape juice in one glass.
  8. A gift wrapped in red paper.

First Blood

A mother prepares her daughter's bedroom for the menarche ritual they'll celebrate there later this evening. The girl's spontaneous initiation into womanhood must not go unnoticed, for although blood usually signifies injury or illness, menstrual blood heralds a woman's potential to bring forth life.

So the onset of menses needs to be celebrated as the power sign that welcomes womanhood; the mother has given much thought to this ritual so she has all the ingredients on hand, with the exception of fresh flowers. IN fact, over the last year the mother collected everything she'd need for this rite of passage, keeping all these beautiful things in a large red velvet box hidden within the fragrant recesses of her cedar chest. When the daughter called from school today to announce that she's finally gotten "the dot" - her euphemistic term for a period - the mother quickly mentioned that a surprise in her honor awaited her arrival home that evening.

After a light supper, the two adjourn to he small room lit only by two red candles. The mother and daughter sit before a water-filled punch bowl representing the young woman's womb, the place wherein dwells her power to nurture and bear life. The mother chooses some instrumental music that they both enjoy; while the tape plays they sit in silence, absorbing the candlelight and recovering form a busy day.

The young woman begins the ritual by selecting a few red roses from the bouquet arranged in a crystal vase. She snips their stems to signify cutting away childhood, then floats the blossoms on the water's surface. The floating roses honor her ability to bring forth life from her womb.

The mother now reaches into the red velvet box and withdraws a new brush, comb, and mirror-- all three a deep shade of scarlet. She begins to comb her daughter's long auburn tresses; tears well in her eyes as she remembers how many years it's been since she's fixed her daughter's hair, and images of the girl's childhood whirl through her mind. The mother then unwraps a beautiful white gardenia; its scent fills the air as she winds it into her daughter's shining hair. The mother then comments on the color of the flowers: 'The red of the roses celebrates the richness of womanhood, while the white of the gardenia symbolizes childhood innocence; and so this ritual is both an end and a beginning.'

Now the mother draws a crescent moon on the daughter's forehead with a crimson lipstick, while sharing these thoughts: 'Today you become a woman. I draw this symbol on your face to celebrate your monthly bonding with the moon and your common tie with menstruating women throughout the world. I honor your passage from girl-child to woman with this crescent, for the moon influences the tides of our menstrual cycles just as it rules the ebb and flow of the sea. The moon is always in a state of flux, and so too our lives are ever-changing, full of all kinds of happenings.'

To impress on this young woman that life is not all sweetness and light, the mother feeds her a taste of black, bitter tea from a white porcelain teacup; then offers her a salty cracker presented on a small china plate covered in a rose pattern; last the mother scoops a bit of honey form a jar with a sterling silver spoon--so that this foray into the range of life's experiences ends on a sweet note.

To end the ritual, the mother ceremoniously opens a bottle of fine red wine brought back from a recent trip to Greve, a small Tuscan town near Florence. She pours only one glass of wine, using a lovely clear goblet with a ruby red stem -- and they both sip from the same cup marking 'the mystery of the blood' they now share. At last she gets to open her gift, a box wrapped in red foil paper and crowned with a huge white satin bow. The tissue paper reveals a buttery soft leather pouch-just the right size for carrying necessities at that time of month.

The mother and daughter hug, giving an affectionate ending to this rite of passage. Both embrace, knowing the daughter will never forget how special it is to be a woman.

Well, that's it. I guess you can change what you want so it fits your needs and desires. Hope this helps those who asked.

Working with Birth like Working with Death and Hospice Care

I first read about the role of the midwife during birth and death in the A Midwife's Tale : The Life of Martha Ballard. it was so inspirational for me.

As an RN I do palliative (end of life care) in the community and in hospice. Prior to working in a hospice, I attended home deaths. I remember one death in particular. While I was driving home after the death, I was passed by a hospital which I had recently attended a birthing woman as her doula. On reflection I was amazed that the feeling I was experiencing post-death was EXACTLY the same as I experienced, working as a doula, post birth.

The high and euphoria was the same. The intense emotions experienced after this gentleman passed was very releasing, the same as when a woman finally pushes out her baby and everyone that was holding their breaths while watching or awaiting the news of the wee ones arrival was the same as when I announced this person has just drawn their final breath. There were tears, and emotions of relief and joy to a certain degree that the discomfort and journey was finally over and new time in life had begun. Much the same as any birth I have ever attended, with much more joy that is.

It is amazing.

I now work palliative care on a regular basis while my doula work is on hold (easier to book shifts and make a reasonable income). I love being with the families during this time. And though I love birth just as much, my emotional quota is filled up just the same. I love what I do as much as any baby catcher loves what she does.

Put Faith in God, Not in Hospitals

Yes, lots of us have lost faith in hospitals while gaining faith in ourselves. If I am run over by a truck, then please take me to a hospital. If I am performing an act that has had millions of years of evolution to perfect and/or was custom designed by God, then let Mother Nature do her work and keep the doctors from interfering unless absolutely necessary.

I, personally, feel that if the baby died at a hospital, it would be the doctor's fault and I would never forgive myself for trusting him/her. If the baby died at home, then it is God's fault and I'd have to forgive Him eventually.

I've come to realize that a God who is big enough to so perfectly form little eyes and ears and a little round nose and a heart and lungs and every single part of a little person is certainly big enough to work out the details of their coming into the world.
    - Vicki Pasterik

How to Counsel Pregnant Women after Previous Pregnancy Losses


SEARCH gentlebirth.org

Main Index Page of the Midwife Archives

Main page of gentlebirth.org         Mirror site

Please e-mail feedback about errors of fact, spelling, grammar or semantics. Thank you.

Permission to link to this page is hereby granted.
About the Midwife Archives / Midwife Archives Disclaimer