A friend of mine is about to give birth to her second child. For her first birth, she tried a home birth, but this time, she’s giving birth in a hospital. Like a lot of us who make this choice, she’s feeling a need to bring as much consciousness and intentionality to the hospital experience as she can.
She asked whether I had any songs that she could bring into the hospital environment that would help create sacred space.
I could empathize. My own first birth was a home birth turned emergency cesarian. It was an incredibly traumatic experience.
I knew music would be important in helping me through it, but I was pretty surprised by how it all played out!
Beforehand, I’d spent weeks creating the perfect playlist that would carry me through a possible mulitple days of labor. Lots of dreamy, chilled out ambient music, some hypnotic choral stuff, I couldn’t wait to press play!
Naively, we were so confident about our home birth that we hadn’t even packed a hospital bag.
So when we ended up transferring to the hospital, we were woefully unprepared. I remember opening the backpack of items we’d thrown together on our way out the door only to discover that we’d forgotten the ipod and with it the playlist.
At first, I was dismayed.
But then labor started, and to my surprise, I didn’t even need the music.
What I needed to do was SING!
As it turned out, singing during labor was the most powerful tool I had to manage the intensity of the experience.
I’ve talked to enough women to know that I’m not alone in this.
Many of us find, in the total surrender of active labor, access to a voice we didn’t know we had.
It’s hard to describe the intensity of the experience of giving birth. My friend Jennifer Terran likes to say it’s like the Big Bang – happening IN YOUR BODY. WHOA! I totally agree with her. And for me, it was a profoundly mystical experience. A loss of self.
Interestingly, there are very few birthing preparation classes that explore this – the spiritual aspects of pregnancy and birth. I first started thinking about this when I was pregnant, because I noticed that I was experiencing some drastic shifts in the way I understood my sense of self. As a long time student of comparative religions, I understood this shift in spiritual terms, and I longed to engage with others who could help me learn how to integrate the experience.
One night, when my feelings were especially strong, I reached out for a teacher or guide. I wasn’t sure who to talk to about it, so I got on the computer and googled the words “Pregnancy as Initiation.”
At that time, (this was a few years ago), I found… nothing!
I was shocked!
Now, maybe I wasn’t using the right search terms. Maybe if I had searched “spiritual pregnacy” or something else, I would have found something more like what I was looking for. (And I should mention that NOW, I DO have a teacher who has helped guide me in this way… Her name is Isa Gucciardi, and she is the founder of an organization called the Sacred Stream.)
But at the time, I was struck by how nobody seemed to be talking about this important dimension of the pregnancy experience.
This was a turning point in my own journey. Since then, I have been committed to trying to create spaces that allow more of that kind of dialogue and exploration to happen – spaces where we come together to engage the spiritual dimension of our growth as women and as people.
Because I’m a musician, my avenue to do this is primarily musical.
There’s something very special about singing as a container for ritual. As the wonderful composer Alice Parker said, “Music is the most companionable of arts.” Unlike prayer, or meditation, in which individuals have their own, private experience, in music, we raise our voices together, so that our many voices become one.
The song I’m sharing in this video is one that addresses the spiritual dimensions of birth. I learned about it from the wonderful San Francisco home birth midwife, Sue Baelen.
You can sing it either way. Sing it on your own, and it may help you in your own process of loving surrender. It can help pave a pathway through anxiety and fear, and towards a sense of trust in universal love.
Sing it in a group, and it’s a great reminder of our collective power, when we make ourselves a conduit for universal creativity and love.
If you are in the Bay Area this weekend, join Mothersong Chorus for our Women’s Circle Sing this Sunday, July 9th, at Neighborhood Playgarden, from 3:30 – 5 PM.