Foreword by Pam England
It is often said what western culture needs more now than ever are rituals to mark important transitions in our status. It is not that we need rituals more now (than before); conscious, socialized human beings have always needed rituals! For many reasons, celebrating birth as a sacred rite of passage in the west has been absent for too long (amazingly, childbirth wasn't recognized by the Church as one of the Holy Sacraments!).
Even in the absence of tradition and elders, somewhere inside every woman is a deep knowing, even if it is barely conscious, that giving birth is a multi-layered, mysterious rite of passage. Many women realize it only after they give birth, in private moments when they reflect on what happened to them and within them. It is then they secretly wish they had been prepared differently, honored in some way before, or after, the event that completely changed their mind, body and soul. This wish often turns to grief, and then is gradually forgotten as caring for the baby consumes their life.
Whether they realize it or not, everyone (parents, babies and birth professionals) has felt and is feeling the wounding impact over decades where the only barren ritual of preparation for childbirth has been reduced to a medical orientation. In recent years there have been rebellious ripples of remembering birth is a sacred rite of passage. In the absence of tradition and experienced elders to draw from, an increasing number of courageous and creative women have modified or abandoned baby showers altogether to experiment with blessingways that honor the mother.
The parched, ritual-thirsty soul of society is calling for a change. In the absence of tradition and elders, we desperately need new direction. I applaud the authors of Mother Rising for answering that call. I cannot praise the authors enough for their voice and vision. Mother Rising gives our generation the sweet, nourishing nectar to inspire the creation of rich, soulful, memorable blessingways that bless not only the mother, but every participant, and ultimately the blessings ripple out and touch everyone in society.
A woman's experience in birth and the outcome of her birth is influenced by a vast web of influences; we see only a fraction of the threads that make up the fabric of a birth, most of the influences are unseen and even generations deep. It is influenced not only by what the mother eats, but what her mind and soul is fed from the time she is playing with dolls until the day she is in labor. It is mysterious and complex.
We are led to believe birth outcome is largely determined by "prenatal care" or safe medical management; that belief has made us as a community of women incredibly passive and disconnected. While it is true we cannot absolutely control the outcome of a birth, we must not believe that we are not without power or influence.
Even if you have never led a sacred ceremony, by following the clear guidance in Mother Rising, you will have the confidence to do it. Make the space, gather the people (and allies and ancestors), bring your intention; the ceremony itself has power and makes the magic happen.
It is within every one of us to make a difference. We can't wait until we know how (there is nothing to know), or hope someone else will do it. More powerful than your experience, it is your loving, positive intention that will move the mother, open her, ground her, and enrich her in ways you cannot imagine.
When we gather together, there is power. When we hold a shared intention, there is power. When love is present, fear trembles; it is Love that brought the Child to us, and Love that will deliver mother and child.
This is a ground-breaking book. Mother Rising is expertly and warmly written and well-organized. Each page draws you in, and slowly draws out of you indigenous, soulful wisdom and confidence you never knew you had. When blessingway rituals become a western tradition, birth outcomes will change.
Pam England, CNM, MA
Copyright © 2006 by Yana Cortlund, Barb Lucke, and Donna Miller Watelet,
except photographs, copyright © 2006 by Dawn Mamikunian. All rights reserved.