When I found out I was carrying my second child, who my husband and I tried to conceive for nearly a year, I hugged the positive test stick with massive appreciation.
Then, I lowered myself onto the bathroom floor and meditated for nearly an hour.
My aim was to establish a connection with the soul of my child and to send gratitude and love in all directions. (I suspect my next-door neighbors wore big smiles the next day, even if they didn’t know what hit them.)
I’d been on a spiritual path for years before then. But when I got pregnant, I renewed my desire to infuse my spirituality into my everyday life, and specifically, my pregnancy and the birth of my child. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about since, as I watch so many moms-to-be get caught up in daily busyness that has become even more intense since I was last pregnant and gave birth. And the environment becomes more medicalized by the day.
I began a daily communion with the spiritual being I was carrying. I had some of my most powerful meditations ever. Interestingly, in one meditation I felt myself telling my unborn child not to worry about anything, and had the distinct sensation she was telling me that it was I who shouldn’t be concerned.
Renowned pediatrician William Sears recommends a nightly practice for expectant parents that I performed as well. Sears calls it the “laying on of hands.” You place your hands on your protruding belly as you lie in bed just before falling asleep, using that connection to silently send love and acceptance to your child, and being open to what, if any, sensations come back to you.
The magic of my pregnancy was further enhanced when friends asked if they could host an alternative to a baby shower.
Known as a “Blessingway” (the name is apparently derived from a Navajo rite), the ceremony begins when you are greeted by close friends who hold candles and softly remark on your strength and beauty. Each friend then takes a turn chanting the names of their ancestors, going as far back as possible (e.g, I am Meryl, daughter of Joyce and Joe, granddaughter of Kitty, Maxwell, Jean, and Abe, great-granddaughter of Esther, Lewis, Fanny, and Louis), to remind us all of our bond to all souls, born and unborn, living and dead.
Other parts of this uplifting ceremony included a warm herbal foot bath for the mom, a crown of fresh flowers placed on her head, and songs and poems about love and connection read by her girlfriends. Plus, if you’d like, the ceremony can delicious lunch and cake. (You can find details about this beautiful ceremony in books like Mother Rising or Blessingways.)
My first baby had been born naturally in a New York City hospital, which my husband and I had turned into as spiritual an environment as possible. We brought scented essential oils, small statues from our eclectic home altar, and colored silks to throw around the delivery room. We listened to my favorite Sanskrit chanting music, “Om Nemah Shivaya,” (a phrase that means “I Salute the God Within You”) so many times that when I woke up in the middle of the night, I was surprised that a Catholic hospital was playing this song over the intercom; only in the morning did I realize I’d heard it so much it was playing in my head!
Since my second child was to be born at home, setting the tone for spiritual connection was even easier—we didn’t have bleeping monitors or concrete walls to contend with.
Sure enough, when my daughter’s head emerged after a long, painful labor, I felt united into a single, magnificent whole (as I had during my son’s birth) that included me, the baby, my husband, the midwife, her assistant, the people in nearby houses, the residents of my city, and really, all the people in the world. Time stood still, and it remained that way for hours.
Of course, a medical crisis, the excruciating pain of back labor, the true need for Cesarean surgery, or any number of other factors can conspire to drag a birthing woman’s focus from the loftiness of your higher self (or what some people call God, infinity, source, or nature) during labor or birth. If this happens to you, try not to resent it; make even this occurrence spiritual by non-judgmentally observing and accepting it.
The late Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, whom I had the pleasure of once interviewing for a magazine profile, claimed that hurtling through space in his tiny capsule was the most spiritual endeavor of his life. “I experienced what has been described as an ecstasy of unity,” he wrote in his book, The Way of the Explorer. “I not only saw the connectedness, I felt it and experienced it sentiently. I was overwhelmed with the sensation of physically and mentally extending out into the cosmos. The restraints and boundaries of flesh and bone fell away.”
That’s how I felt during each of my births. With desire, planning, focus, and, yes, a fair amount of luck, it is my dream that every woman know a similar sensation.
This article was excerpted and adapted from the new book Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids.
Author: Meryl Davids Landau
Image: Jason Lander/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman