Mini Me Yoga & founder Kate Bartram-Brown celebrate the joys of creating family, bringing mindfulness to the every day happenings, and kids yoga for family fun and positive whole child development. This week we celebrate the process of coming into motherhood, with guest blogger and midwife Shell Luttrell.
A new mother recently reported to one of my midwife partners, Rachel, that she felt like she was still tripping through an alternate reality as a result of her labor and birth. Rachel and I joked that its a long trip that one may never return from. Welcome to your new reality.
As pregnancy and birth transforms our physical selves, it also transforms our psycho/spiritual reality.
As hormone and nerve receptors and transmitters are activated, hormones released or oppressed, the metabolism changes, areas of the brain and mind are activated or deactivated and the sympathetics, parasympathetic and enteric nervous systems align with each other, our bodies begin to work like highly charged sensors, psychically gathering endless streams of data from our bodies, the environment and the entire planet.
This data is then analyzed and used to create moment to moment chemically unique breastmilk, aversion/attraction to certain foods, deep, even psychic, bonds with members of our immediate family and aversions to certain people or groups of people.
This massive influx of information and stimulation can either expand the capabilities of the body and mind systems or it can overwhelm them.
When the system is expanding, it is quite common for new mothers to feel “high” and to experience feelings of connectedness and wellbeing. Interestingly, these positive results do not seem to be dependent on the ease or difficulty of birth but rather on how the mother is treated.
When the system is overwhelmed, it is quite common for new mothers to feel “low” and to experience feelings of disconnected isolation and sadness. Interestingly, these negative results do not seem to be dependent on the ease or difficulty of birth but rather on how the mother is treated. Specifically, how much time she spends alone.
Knowledge regarding the transformative nature of birth and the need to protect new mothers from system overwhelm is not a newly discovered thing. Tribal people are well aware of the power of birth. Since it is understood that women’s health directly influences the health of the community, respecting and honoring women for the spiritual gifts that they bring is a very important part of traditional tribal culture.
The most obvious example of this is that all cultures have traditions to celebrate and honor pregnancy and childbirth. These rituals give context to the mother’s new experience of reality so that her new skills can be used in a life-positive way. It is my observation that the inverse is also true; women who are not honored by their community are at greater risk of their newfound reality being experienced in a life-negative way.
A less understood example is the connection between many traditional ceremonies and childbirth. A medicine person (traditional healer) once told me that all ceremonies of purification and strength, from Sundance and sweat lodge to the peyote ceremony and fire-walking are the masculine version of the female cycles of reproduction. And because since a specific masculine ceremony is related to a specific phase of the female cycle, women are asked to not participate if they are pregnant or menstruating. This is meant to protect the women in question, as well as the ceremonial participants, from potential abortive effects.
As with childbirth, these ceremonies work, in little and big ways, by freeing consciousness from the body. This is achieved by fasting, heat, pain, sound, sensory deprivation, phytochemicals and other physical challenges. The ritual constructs and tools (songs, icons, instruments and ceremonial items) provide a protective mechanism for the psyche while consciousness journeys forth on behalf of the individuals chosen cause. The purpose isn’t to have a pleasant experience but rather, to have a profound one.
It is fascinating for me to witness that here, in modern times, we can still find a clear correlation between community health and women’s health.
While on a global level the number of women who die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is decreasing, the same cannot be said of the United Staes subgroup. Our maternal mortality rate is not only rising as other nation’s rates are falling, ours is double to triple that of almost every other developed nation.
As a witness to birth, it is clear to me that how it manifests is a direct result of who we are. Not just as an individual but also as a family, community and a nation. THIS is the great spiritual reality of birth. We, citizens of the United States, are in spiritual and clinical crisis and this crisis is expressed in our birth outcomes.
In Shamanic terms, childbirth opens the gateway to “the other side”. This doorway is not a philosophical concept any more than oxytocin is. It is a physical reality.
Much like a revolving door, this gateway flashes between the colors red and blue. In-between the red and blue flashes are even smaller, quicker flashes of black or white. Each color represents portal to a particular realm of reality.
A birthing woman may enter through just one of these portals or she may rapidly shift between all of them. These shifts can be observed in her body language, demeanor and clinical presentation.
When a woman makes it to the other side, she becomes an essential part of the matrix that holds this world together. She is a life-bringer.
Though it is easier to accomplish in a gentle, calm and drug-free atmosphere, it can occur regardless of how or where the baby is born.
When her journey is interrupted, it can cause discord not just for her, but for all of us.
So what can be done? What can we do, as a community, to honor both the clinical and the psycho/spiritual needs of birth?
- Do something significant and kindly for every pregnant woman in your life, for all of your life
- Connect with birth. When someone you know is giving birth, hold focused vigil
- Offer daily prayers for, or a few minutes of singular focus on, health for all pregnant and birthing women
- Dismantle institutional racism and classism
- Demand healthcare for all women
- Strive for optimal personal health
- Only eat real food
- Protect the environment
- Endeavor to leave the world better than you found it
- Wish every pregnant woman a Bon Voyage
And most importantly, we each need to understand that birth is a community event. Even when private and intimate, an individual birth impacts all of us.
Meet our guest blogger, Shell Luttrell!
Shell Walker Luttrell of Phoenix, Arizona, is a midwife with over 25 years experience in women’s health and alternative healing. She has managed births in home, hospital and birth center. She is also trained in Advance Life Saving Obstetrics, advanced midwifery skills, has achieved the MBC to meet International Midwifery standards and is a registered preceptor. Shell has trained and apprenticed with physicians, nurses, medical specialists, herbalists, shamans and healers of every kind. This has helped her to develop what she refers to as the practice of “centric midwifery”. Her unique approach to human reproduction has resulted in an impeccable safety record and a c-section rate under 3%. Founder of Midwives Rising!, The Phoenix Birth Center, The Phoenix Birth Foundation and the Eats on Feets network, she is a philomath, poet, researcher and devoted advocate for women and babies. Shell provides midwifery care with her partners Danielle Haines and Rachel Martin Flynn, at Midwives Rising in Phoenix, Arizona, where they practice centric midwifery in a group model. Shell was born in Missouri, raised in Alaska and has lived in Arizona since 1987. She was raised with a deep and abiding respect for the natural world. Honoring the powerful union between humans, earth and the heavens is a fundamental part of her life and therefore, her midwifery practice. She expresses her passion for pregnancy and birth through poetry and photographs at Shellluttrell.com