It crossed my mind that only a “birthjunkie” would be SO excited to be invited to a sacred placenta burial ceremony, but I was! This placenta traveled all the way from Norway 8 months after its birth to be buried in a holy place!
Since my lotus birth ( https://gaurilowe.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/my-home-and-water-and-lotus-birth-part-2/ ) my appreciation and respect for the placenta has grown. As well as my awe for its natural beauty and presence. It is a phenomenal, often missed, tree of life – life-sustaining organ.
So this placenta was born via an emergency caeserian and has made it all the way to Sridham Mayapur, a holy city in East India, to be buried on the banks of the River Ganges (also known as Mother Ganga). This was to honour the placenta that had been a close maintainer of her babies life.
It was a small, casual and sweet ceremony. We found a quiet spot, dug a deep hole, close to the water and buried the placenta with the cord curled upwards, placing some flowers over it, while quietly chanting some sacred mantras.
As I walked to my son’s classroom this afternoon I overheard a boy in his class saying “A miracle has happened! Lochan is going away for a year!”. He was being mean. I could hear it through his voice and I confirmed it later. It hurt like a dagger through my heart to hear my son spoken about in this manner.
I knew my son is different. He has always challenged that bell curve. He has always challenged my yearning for the assurance of being normal. The mother’s questions I see so often posed “What is the normal growth for a baby? What is the normal amount of times a baby wakes at night? When is it normal for your baby to sleep through? How many poo nappies are normal? When can a child normally cut with a pair of scissors? How many words can a child normally say at this age?”
He challenged every bell curve. He forced me out of my linear and any box-like thinking that I still held. By the age of 5 he knew which types of cars had their spare wheels underneath them or in the boot. That is because we took half an hour to walk from our car to the shops…due to checking under each car for a spare tyre.
He was an expert in fish! And as many children swam on the water – he would spend as much time as he could with his face submerged – in the underwater world of the waterlife, defying gravity. He held his breath for eternity! When others learnt to swim on top he was quite happy swimming below.
And he became really good at drumming his own intricate signature beat.
Within minutes of meeting you – he would come and tell us who “Your Lord” is and the details of your diet. He is a proud vegetarian and easily and naturally challenged anyone who wasn’t. After meeting an elderly conservative lady one day, I came to get him – and found they were discussing if Jesus was vegetarian.
He did things his way. And that was so often NOT the way that the parenting books and ‘experts’ described…especially according to their timelines and scientifically backed milestones.
Some friends offered various forms of input – even a diagnosis of Aspergers! I gracefully declined. What could that help? A label? An expensive visit to a child psychiatrist who could prescribe a dangerous drug to help my child fit that deeply entrenched socially acceptable brand called “normal”.
The best advice that I always came back to was to TRUST. To trust him and his process. And to realise he was fine! Actually he wasn’t even ABnormal. And I found that guidance always demanding a deep settling acceptance in me. A deep relief that he was ok. I was ok. And actually this was all very special. I am learning to identify my projections, my unmet needs, my parenting definitions I carry with me, my expectations based on my lack of sleep, my sensitivities, my childhood experiences, my humanness.
I am learning again and again – to see the growing child in this overwhelming world we live in. I get the most strength and alignment with a sense of truth when I see how amazing my son is! He stands in his own space and is who he is – and demands a sense of integrity from you!
He is not competitive. He has nothing to prove. In a bicycle race everyone raced past eager to win, even crying afterwards if they came second and not first…he just cycled past merrily in his own time completely engrossed in enjoying the cycle and the view.
He easily plays with younger kids, girls, he does not judge or compare! He does not retaliate if hit – he is gentle. He knows about the soul, eternity and equality. He has faith and he is honest and true.
He told me very convincingly the other day, when I was encouraging him to do some card games (like other boys his age love to do) – “I am just not a card or game kind of boy. I am a car kind of boy.” He knows he needs to play.
He expresses his frustration and anger immediately and does not hold it in. He likes to sleep with one of us near. He is challenging and amazing. He has a bold plan to build a house in which the whole world can live and it will go around the whole world and he can describe in detail – each floor. There will be no need to have shops nor money as people will only eat what they grow.
If he does not shoot you down with his questions about your life – he will endear you with his intensity and fascination and imagination.
And he has taught me – to TrUsT.
It turned out that boy I overheard that day was probably expressing himself in a way to protect him from the emotions of a boy leaving their class. It was probably not personal but a way he was interacting with an older boy. He had expressed the opposite in the class just before. Anyway – whatever it was – it really allowed me to dive into an appreciation of my beautiful boy!
My son is not AbNormal. I cannot even indulge myself in labelling him as different! He is as unique and special and wonderful as every other child – as your child, as our neighbour’s child, as the child in the shopping queue in front of you!
That soapbox mould we somehow want our children to conform to (the social norms and expectations around us) actually do not exist, There is no soapbox mould. I would sometimes take solice in thinking “My child is different.” Actually he isn’t! He is a child.
And I hope I can do what will support, savour and love his awesome mind and growing body in the best way so his inner flame and passions remain true and glowing!
This story needs to start from the beginning – and the birth of my Shyami started preconception! But I will skip the details of the longing, surrendering, false hopes, praying and negotiating and releasing that we went through before he was ready to join us.
I remember the time of his conception clearly. We were nearing the end of our sojourn to a holy place known for its magnaminity and mercy – a place that we went to as a family for deep nourishing and reconnecting after a tough few years of gruelling, relentless work. So Shyam spent his first weeks forming his perfect body in my womb while we made pilgrimage with our older son to the most holy places in India.
First stop after Sridham Mayapur (capital of ISKCON) was Krishna’s birthplace known as Vrindavan -deeply beautiful, ancient steeped temples and saints. And on to curvy, steep, faceless roads that hug the northern mountains of the Himalayas – as we walked in snow, journeyed on ponyback, dunked from ice surfaces to natural hot springs, ate with pilgrims, sadhus, slept in tents covered with ice, warmed ourselves at fires used to make fresh chapatis and drank chai to warm our insides. As well as bathing in crisp cool Ganges when out of the Northern colder regions – giving us fresh relief from the heat.
Starting a new job (after immense negotiation with the Department of Health – so I could be closer to home), I hid my pregnancy for a while. I soon found out that this new hospital was named the “busiest and roughest trauma unit in the Western Cape” for a reason! Night shifts, day shifts, more than 8 hours not only on your feet but running often, resuscitating, diagnosing TB, MDR TB, as well as every other emergency and trauma diagnosis you can imagine. I “slept” for an hour in my car during night shifts. As they all tell you “Well at least it is good experience.” Heartbreaking. Social medicine at its best. The results of poverty, crime, alcohol, drugs. The results of Apartheid still ripe. I lasted 2 months. And then begged and made a plan to swap departments. Still busy, tragic and hectic – but different hours and pace. And following my interest – obstetrics.
So aware of my growing baby within throughout all of this – I took fetal love breaks – often – either while walking from one ward to the next, sitting down for a moment here and there. It wasn’t easy. I remember doing a resuscitation at 5am after a night call, at about 33 weeks – with incredibly inept staff. Switchboard was on “lunch” (the incredulous term used when anyone is taking a break at any time of the day!?) and we could not call a red box emergency alert so other doctors could come help. If anyone knows CPR is hard work!
And finally at 37 weeks I started maternity leave. I rested, refreshed and became ready. But by 38.5 weeks I was itching and the “just waiting” was hard.
So my famlily and I decided to go camping!
We stayed in a beautiful healing low fynbos forest about 1.5hours away. and a short and bumpy dirt road in! We slept in permanent tents on a bed in the forest. We had outdoor showers, camping food, incredible walks (that I lumbered along) and soaked in the rich healing and sacred wisdom of the trees in the forest.
These profound trees are used to make healing essences – African Tree essences – just like flower essences. It is a truly healing sanctuary. We walked a labyrinth, spent time with a
1000 year old Milkwood tree!! and had the whole site to ourselves and loved it. It was just right.
A Milkwood tree , known as the Tree of Wholeness – symbolises power, groundedness and connectedness. “The energy of the milkwood tree can assist us with feeling at home in the world – it connects you with your personal power, and may remind us on a cellular level that we are all one family – each of us loved and needed and cared for.” I was happy to soak in her vibrational healing energy at this this time! http://www.africantreeessences.co.za/tree_of_wholeness.html
A one day camping trip expanded into 3 days as we continued to spend some time with some good friends, and swimming in the salty ocean!
And on Saturday night we came home.
Sunday morning I made homemade bread before our meeting at my home with the organisational commitee for the first Midwifery and Birth Conference in South Africa! My midwife, also on the team, did a prenatal with me before and felt it could be anytime now or even later. And after the meeting I had a fantastic lunch and went to relax and read a little.
At 13h40 my water broke. And after about 1.5 hours I was in full blown established labour.
Continued in Part 2…
A long version of this in combination with my my own journey to birthing work appears in the wonderful book Water Birth: Stories to Inspire and Inform by Milli Hill at http://www.waterbirthbook.com .
Pregnancy is a time of deep and wonderful transformation for a woman. A time when she may be faced with many life-changing decisions, questions and searching. A time that may evoke challenges, joys and fears. Each pregnancy is surrounded by its own unique story and each holds within it the very same common thread – of stepping into the unknown.
Although I have been through medical school, busy obstetric and antenatal wards and clinics, severely ill patients as well as serene and romantic homebirths – I remain convinced that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING we CAN do with pregnant mothers – for their health, for the health of the pregnancy, labour and birth AND for the babies health – is to become very connected, in-tune and respectful of the miraculous process that is hapenning – of the mother growing her baby.
Soula acknowledges the unique journey for each individual and offers a way to connect with the baby growing in a mother’s womb. The process does this by engaging active imagination, in a relaxed state.
We use the language of images as this is the language of consciousness and the language of the baby – being preverbal. It is a language that the baby can understand and interact with. By using this we also arm the mother with a wonderful tool to continue to use in communicating with her baby. As she can continue to give and receive gifts and messages in the form of images and symbols.
The connection with her unborn baby allows questions to be asked and answers to come. Importantly we ask “what does the baby need to feel supported by the mother?” and this can help to understand what it is that is needed for the pregnancy, the actual birth and the parenting following. Often it can give a very deep and important message to the
mother of what the baby needs emotionally or the quality of the state that she needs the mother to enter.
These images and messages can be recreated, written down and engaged with during labour and birth and can act as a powerful sense of reminder, calming and centring at these times.
The connection with the baby is a very deep and special connection that occurs on a deep spiritual level. It
is a connection that cannot be created by experiencing the physicality of one’s baby during an ultrasound scan, a palpation or a doppler. Not even a 4-d ultrasound! It is a quality of connection that engages your spirituality and a very deep aspect of your baby and your own soul.
In this way it allows a powerful connection that also holds a potential for healing. A healing for the mother AND a healing for the unborn baby. This healing is the actual connection with its mother on this level. Creating for it a special space of being heard, loved and connected with. The baby in the womb is sentient, conscious and interactive. It responds and it remembers with an aspect of its brain that has not yet developed the narrative ability to tell its story – but can do so with images – and remains in its subconscious. This time in the womb is a profound time of developing, forming what it will know as its reality or learning what is “normal” to it and is exquisitely controlled by the quality of the mothers emotions and state of mind.
By connecting with your unborn child you are allowing a platform of such deep transformation, connecting, healing and loving that it most certainly heals the deep consciousness of your unborn child. It not only leaves you with a deep insight into the quality and nature of your baby but also leaves your baby feeling connected and acknowledged and leaves you both with an inexplicable anticipation for a wonderful reunion!
Today we visited a local dairy farm to buy 10litres of fresh cow’s milk to make paneer (cheese) for a celebration gathering the next day. We visit the farm monthly to do this. It is situated in the hills beyond our house.
We arrived near the end of the milking – only a handful of cows were left to milk. Our son vanished with the local farmer’s son to feed the calves, rake the cowdung and explore the farm tractor. We often go and pet the calves and let them suck our hands and arms.
The farmhand was hussling about 6 cows behind the fence and another was carrying a young calf and hussling another one to a pen behind an iron gate. More came beyond. Two small calves were still wet from being born! About 3 were born that same day and the others were 2-3 days old. You could see the remnants of their wet umbilical cord stump hanging. The mother cows (some had afterbirth still hanging out from her behind) were having their udders emptied of colostrum (that that was left after feeding their calves).
One cow kept avoiding the fence and ran beyond and then to the left and right and back wildly. Getting more and more agitated and once or twice I felt myself ducking for shelter as this large, heavy and beautiful creature seemed to leer towards me – doing everything she could to avoid the fence. And everything she could to get to her new baby calf.
Her natural instinct was so powerful she seemed almost mad with need to retrieve her offspring she had just birthed. The calf was behind another gate – in a small storeroom. I learnt she was a first time mother and was not used to this system. As the others were.
Eventually with more help she ran into the large pen, sliding on the cow dung, landing on her side and retrieving her balance and composure swiftly back onto her feet – covered on her one side with the mud and dung. Not bad physical feat for a mother just given birth.
The impact of this instinct was profound to say the least. Her intense need to be with her child – was not explained by her comprehension, she NEEDED to be with him and her body made her do whatever it took to be with her newborn.
We waited until after they were milked and re-united with their calves.
Making our way home – I realised more how this maternal instinct is an incredibly powerful, profound and inexplicable survival instinct in all of us too. I realised how the more we give our bodies over to medical authority the more we become deprived of feeding and supporting this instinct. The more we allow ourselves to realise and tap into and trust this instinct – it can drive our pregnancy, labour and birth and parenting.
We are mothers, we are connected to a primal instinctive mother earth and divine mother that will only harvest and guide our instincts to grow our children perfectly, as nature ordained.
Trust ourselves. We know what and how to do it. As mothers there is a connection to a supreme magnificent mother nature that should be the only higher authority in our lifecycle.