Learning from traditional cultures
As a new mother with a brand new baby, how were you cared for and nurtured? Were you held in a safe and sacred space to integrate the birth experience and given support to take your time emerging from the womb of birthing?
The support and on-going care for new mothers in Western culture is often sadly lacking, not least the missing recognition of the need for healing the birth experience, in whichever way it has unfolded. Never has this missing link been so obvious to me as during my recent trip to Mexico, where I was invited to participate in a post-partum healing ritual with a traditional midwife, a curandero (healer).
Here are my reflections of this intimate, nurturing and deeply healing process. I now believe every new mother deserves this level of care and support as she embraces her new role.
The baby’s gaze melts my heart. His dark, liquid eyes seem to reflect the universe as he lays peacefully in my arms. In the centre of the room the sound of crying, in deep release, come from underneath a blanket where his mother sits, curled in a foetal position. She is receiving the traditional Mexican ritual of temazcal for post-partum healing, for this her midwife has lovingly prepared a steam bath, infused with herbs for the ceremony.
In this case, the mother is releasing her grief of not being able to birth naturally (for medical reasons), and surrendering to the path of caesarean birth. In Mexico the traditional midwives offer this powerful ritual to all women, regardless of birth experience, in recognition of the transformational journey the mother has passed through to hold her baby in her arms.
Healing the Birth Experience
The midwife speaks softly, in Spanish, to the mother “Thank you for being here, give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel.” She continues to support the process while tenderly caressing the mother’s spine in upward strokes, massaging the back of her heart and sacrum. “Take what is arising and let it go” the mother begins to cry, “…release it without judgement, let the sensations move through you… do not hold it inside.”
Minutes earlier, I have been invited into this sacred, womb-like space in the mother’s home. We have never met, yet our connection is immediate, the unspoken bond between women, beyond culture and language. As we greeted each other she immediately passed her baby son to me, trusting I will care for him while she moves through the labour-like process of healing.
The practice is completed with Closing the Bones, here the midwife uses rebozos (traditional woven scarves), to bring the mother back into her body. This energises and grounds her, symbolically closing the many pathways that were opened during the birth.
As I gaze into the little one’s eyes, I feel the union between mother and child, the significance of this ceremony not only for the mama but also for the child’s spirit to ground fully onto the earth plane. The more his mother lets go, the more he relaxes into his tiny body and drifts into blissful sleep. Beyond healing birth, I believe this sacred ritual is for the future of our children and for the planet.
With enormous gratitude to Erika Jocelyn, the midwives and doulas of San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro, Mexico, for opening your hearts and homes to share birthing wisdom and healing together. Image of beautiful Pachamama mural artwork by Mexican artists, Carlos Caban.
Anna Watts is a Sacred Birth Educator, Doula Trainer, Counsellor and Spiritual Healer. The Celebration of Birth Doula Academy offers regular Sacred Birth Doula Training and the new Sacred Beginnings Postnatal Training for both new and experienced doulas to explore birth as a journey of transformation and healing. Visit the website for dates and information – www.celebrationofbirth.com