Reclaiming Motherhood as a spiritual path by re-sacralising Pregnancy & Birth

Written by Jane Hardwicke Collings

A spiritual path is a journey concerned with the sacred, the spirit, the soul.
A spiritual path is a journey to wholeness.
A unique journey for each soul, each life time.
It is a journey of self discovery, trust and faith.
Whilst each person’s journey is unique, there are certain common experiences, specific events and particular times during our lives, that have profound effects on us, creating signposts on our spiritual path.
Pregnancy, birth and motherhood are such times.

Pregnancy is always the beginning of another phase of a woman’s spiritual journey.
During each pregnancy a woman has the opportunity to come to know her intuition, her inner wisdom, her inner strength, her connection with all women and her divine nature – all essential prerequisites for mothering.

“Since finding out I was pregnant I’ve had a blossoming of my heart. I feel more alive and heart centred, its really strong. I’m so much more sensitive, I saw a dead wombat on the side of the road, which I often see, and I couldn’t stop crying. In the usual situation of seeing a dead wombat I get out of my car, drag the wombat off the road and check the pouch for babies, this time I just sat in the car crying and crying.”
Patting her swelling belly she says “Motherhood is making me feel whole and connected to my spiritual responsibility which is mothering, being mother and knowing mother from the inside. Because there is another being here, that I am responsible for, I’m being more mindful, more careful. And I feel myself being so much more mindful and careful of all children. I feel a connection with the Goddess, the Earth, because I feel like I am becoming whole. It’s as if I have ‘stepped into myself’, it feels very strong..” Jaia

Pregnancy is often the first time that a woman, and a man, notice that there’s more going on than they can see! For many, pregnancy brings up the important spiritual questions – Where does life come from? Where does life go? Why do certain things happen?  Pregnancy draws a woman inside herself. There is a compulsory shift from the rational, left brain, masculine approach to the non-rational, right brain, feminine way. This becomes an invitation into her inner world and a pathway to deeper knowing and understanding, part of her spiritual journey. Or as it is for some who don’t make the shift, evidence of a hormonally induced madness, an inconvenience.

“I’ve always been a bit of a follower, wishy washy, drifting along. I didn’t step up and make the big decisions, I was never the instigator of things. Now that I am pregnant I recognise my inner power, its been a journey of discovery, finding faith in my own power and stepping up to that therefore taking responsibility for myself and my baby.
Pregnancy has awakened in me more faith in femininity and faith in myself as a woman. I’ve had faith in other things about myself for example my intellectual side, I know I can do that. Where as using my intuition instead of my intellect hasn’t been so comfortable, that’s been a big part of my journey. So now I am embracing this feminine way, its what I need to be right now. I challenge myself to use my left brain, but when I do, it doesn’t satisfy me. It does in a lot of ways but something is missing. I see the part of me that is right brained, doing university study, as the part of me seeking approval. Coming from my left brain, no one says well done, its different. So being pregnant has challenged my right brain focus. Will I be that again? maybe, but it will be totally different, more spiritually based, then something won’t be missing.” Mel

The spiritual potential of pregnancy, birth and motherhood challenges the dominant patriarchal paradigm. The spiritual aspects of the experience – finding one’s inner ‘all knowing’ wisdom, connecting with the divine essence of the baby, feeling the oneness of all life – don’t fit with the premise that pregnancy and birth are medical events. Today reproduction is mostly viewed as a medical speciality, with lots of technology and experts. The medical approach to pregnancy and birth, with its fear based beliefs and attitudes, with its multitude of tests and specialised technology has eroded away any trust a woman may have in her body and its natural biological processes for many generations. This has resulted in the dominance of the masculine way of thinking and being around pregnancy, birth and mothering. For most women today, pregnancy and the birth process, originally sacred women’s business, are feared, controlled and devoid of spirituality. Most women and men go along with this. This has and still weakens our link to the Earth, to Nature and to our inner nature. Since pregnancy and birth are the rite of passage into motherhood, what happens during pregnancy and birth choreographs a woman’s mothering and this of course affects her children, her children’s children, our future.

Mothering today for many children, often from six weeks of age, is outsourced. While the mother gets back to work, real work, paid work, and she is replaced by childcare workers who raise her children. Trapped on the materialistic, capitalist treadmill, we think we have to return to paid work after birthing our babies or we wouldn’t be able to have this, that or the other thing. The mothering instincts of many have been overridden by a yearning for the dollar. Already we are seeing the ramifications of institutionalised child care and the replaced mother and I dare say we shall for some time.

A group of 1364 children who had regular childcare from birth to school age were assessed through to their fifth grade year. Many of them were prone to disruptive classroom behaviour as they grew older. Astonishingly enough, these trends were present when any care was given for at least 10 hours per week by anybody but the mother, including the father, grandparents and other relatives! Types of disruptive behaviour observed included: bragging, arguing, cruelty, destruction of others property, disobedient at school, fighting, lying, cheating, screaming.i

What happens in the early years of one’s life, how one is mothered, teaches one about love and determines the underlying attitudes one will have toward being loved and loving others. Animal mothers that are numbed at birth reject their babies and won’t care for them.ii Animal studies link maternal deprivation with abnormal brain development that leads to depression and violence.iii

Rates of postnatal depression and Attention Deficit Disorder grow alongside rates of intervention in pregnancy and childbirth. According to the WHO, 85% of births should be natural, in Australia, a typical example of the modern world, around 25% are and yet most of these actually aren’t because almost every woman has her placenta unnaturally taken from her.

“The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother” Napoleon Boneparte

Pregnancy and birth have many layers of very specific biological purpose that are intended to ensure survival of our species. A pregnancy is meant to show a woman how amazing she is to be able to grow another human being, her own baby, inside her, without even having to think about how to, so she can trust in life and her ability to create life, the feminine. Birth is meant to switch on and awaken the instinctual mammalian mothering characteristics that will ensure that the mother will protect and care for her baby. Mess with this and we see for example, women willingly handing over their babies at their most vulnerable ages to others for their care, whilst they pursue the dollar or a career or whatever.

All this is no surprise when you know the effects of institutionalised pregnancy and birth care. The way women are treated during pregnancy and birth subconsciously brainwashes them to believe that others, trained others, will be better able to care for their babies than they would, just like they – the trained ones – were able to understand her pregnant and birthing body better than she was. Dictated to by the clock and specific homogenised routines, external methods of measurement and control, she rarely has the chance to find or notice her inner wisdom, her own rhythm. Hospital midwives and doctors rely on the machines more than a woman’s intuition or feelings. When no time is made to read the signposts on her spiritual journey through pregnancy and birth, she may not notice the psychological obstacles that come up for her, presenting in various ways to get her attention (eg emotions, physical symptoms) and so she doesn’t get the chance to acknowledge, heal and then let them go. Pregnancy and birth are meant to take you into your depths, because that’s where you find who you really are. This is one of the key spiritual opportunities. In the process of shedding the outer layers of patterned behaviour, socialised and culturally accepted behaviours and the belief systems that support them, a woman finds out the raw real stuff of which she is made, what she’s capable of and what her purpose is. This is the spiritual journey of pregnancy and birth, preparation for motherhood. When birth isn’t considered sacred and the hugely influential pathway to motherhood, then the spiritual journey is missed and motherhood becomes the expression of this, one way or another. And the state of the Earth and our culture’s future will also reflect this.

“Motherhood started me on my conscious life journey – I thought, there’s more than just me now, I need to ‘step up’ “ Pip

If we see motherhood as a spiritual path, knowing that our babies have chosen us as their mother, that we made deals in ‘heaven’ with each other, then trust and deep respect are more likely to prevail for all aspects of the journey and those on it.
As I said in a speech at my recent 50th birthday party, specifically to my children who had each just spoken beautiful words to me: “Thank you for helping me be the best mother I can be. Being a mother is a very special thing, it’s a life, it’s a devotional practice, it’s an honour. And I thank each of you – Sam, Ella, Ellie and Jackson, for choosing me.”

History tells us of another time when the mother baby relationship was messed with.
By the 1700’s in England and Europe, most of the wise women and midwives had either gone into hiding or been burnt at the stake as witches. Women’s knowledge of the cycles and the reproductive freedom this gave her had been labelled as witchcraft, a killable offence. Women were told that they must use no contraception, and never deny their husband’s sexual urges. Many families had many children. ‘Women were taught that their children belonged not to them but to God, this eroded the instinctual maternal possessiveness that best fosters good childcare and mothers often left their unwanted babies in God’s care. With so many unwanted children there was the advent of Foundling Hospitals where the nurses, nicknamed the “killing nurses” were expected to do the State’s dirty work and make sure the unwanted children didn’t survive long. The first Foundling Hospital in London admitted 15,000 infants in the four years of 1756-60. In Europe the death rate for infants in Foundling Hospitals was 80-90% in their first year of life.iv

Today, women are told that their babies have rights that override what ever they think is right for their baby, women are threatened and forced to do certain things and procedures they don’t agree with or face having their children taken from them. The legal profession is facilitating children suing their mothers for pregnancy related issues, insurance companies are offering mothers insurance against pregnancy and birth complications for the baby. All this serves only to further erode any trust in the birth process and the motherbaby, mamatoto, connection, which then undermines the most important relationship of all, mother and baby. When the mother and baby relationship is disturbed no one wins.

Mother Nature, the Goddess, can help women reclaim pregnancy, birth and mothering as the spiritual path that it is. It is our essential nature to be mothers. It is what we know at our core to do, to be. Do your research when you are pregnant and don’t get talked into things you don’t want to do. Stand together with other women and stand up for your rights during birth. Find a homebirth midwife. Call the Goddess to guide, protect, support and nurture you. Gather together with other mothers and talk about your spiritual path of motherhood. Help each other see the blessings. I facilitate a weekly mother’s circle, we sit in a circle with the children coming and going. A talking bowl is passed around and each woman answers the questions: Where am I in my cycle? How am I experiencing that? How have I been challenged this week? What do I have to be grateful for this week? Probably one of the most profound effects this experience continues to have is women noticing how shared the experiences of motherhood are and how they can help each other, mostly simply by listening.

I have observed, guided and participated in women becoming mothers many, many times. And what I have seen is that the supported woman, the one who is encouraged to access her spiritual path of motherhood, finds it, lives it and we all benefit. Just as it ‘takes a village to raise a child’ it takes a community to hold, honour and respect the mother so she can be all she can be, living the spiritual path of motherhood. As guardians of the spiritual path of motherhood supporting each other, we “save the earth, one birth at a time.”v