By Lauren McClain
I was introduced to the indigenous Mexican term “Dando a Luz” from Pathways issue 57. Few things have clicked into place so easily and felt as right as the concept of birth as “brining the light.”
My experiences with spirituality and childbirth do feel connected.
I had three spiritual birth experiences. One was only spiritual in retrospect. One was a pre-labor cesarean. And one was an accidentally unassisted home birth with my partner that I’d be happy to do once a month.
When I was pregnant the first time, I wanted to have a spiritual experience during birth. It didn’t happen. Or it didn’t feel that way at the time.
Childbirth is usually very intense. What’s difficult is getting past—or using–the very intense physical aspects of birth in order to experience birth as a spiritual being instead of just a physical body doing something hard.
Spiritual experiences are also intense. When we have deep, meaningful and highly spiritual times, they tend to be exhausting. After a beautiful funeral, when you leave a life-changing seminar, post-therapy, after seeing your grandchildren for the first time—you’re tired. It’s no wonder the apostles kept falling asleep at Gethsemane.
Bringing the light involves effort.
To have a spiritual experience, I’ve sometimes had to use the temporal, physical aspect of my moments as the bridge to a higher level. It’s usually something unpleasant, something uncomfortable we’d rather not have to deal with. To be in the moment and say, “This is hard but I know it’s not everything. Help me.” We can do that during childbirth.
If you can’t manage it during the birth itself, that’s normal. It’s rare that, during a difficult period in our lives, we’re able to see how it’s helping us become who we’re meant to be or connect to the universe. You may only see that as you process the birth and fall in love with your baby. And that’s OK.
If you want to have a spiritual birth, consider these things beforehand. If you didn’t get to have a spiritual birth but would love to, it’s not too late.
You can change your past experience by learning and changing your perspective. You can turn a difficult event from the past into a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow—which is what is meant by healing. Healing can take place anytime.
Here are tips for accessing the spiritual power of birth—bringing the light.
Learn to let go.
One of the biggest ways we prevent ourselves from having spiritual experiences is by insisting on controlling everything. We believe that we are alone and responsible for everything—that if we don’t keep a tight leash on the situation, it will spiral out of control and certainly lead to doom. You’ll be lead into spirituality if you can relax and trust a little more, believe in the possibility that it can all work out without your anxiety and attention to every detail.
Practice being in the moment.
This is good practice for life, to pay attention to only this piece of your time and not color it with the past or your concerns for the future. Being only in the moment is a great way to manage the intensity of labor, as well. You feel a spiritual connection only in the moment you’re in. You can’t plan to feel it.
Take some of the fear out of birth.
Take a birth class, read positive birth stories, talk to people who had birth experiences that the loved or credited as spiritual. Fear can lead you to a connection with the divine, but you have to allow that connection by not focusing on the fear. It’s easier to allow your fear when it’s not so strong and you’ve prepared for birth.
It’s spiritually imperative to be grateful for what you have. Often, spiritual experiences come with feelings of thanksgiving, with your conscious or subconscious acknowledgement that your life is touched with goodness. You can think about the people and things you are grateful for while you are in labor, or write thank you notes/make gifts for your birth team in anticipation of labor, say prayers of thankfulness, or just notice in each moment what is good about it. Pay attention to each little moment in labor—what feels good or right about it, what are you grateful for right now?
What kind of birth you have—what happens—cannot prevent you from having a spiritual experience because a spiritual experience, by definition, is your ability to recognize that what is happening in the physical world is not all there is.
Lauren is a childbirth educator (Birth Boot Camp) and the author of the Breech Baby Handbook. She owns Better Birth Graphics, a shop full of practical, intuitive birth media for professionals. Her work has been published in Mothering, Holistic Parenting Magazine, Birth Issues, True Birth, Mama Birth, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland with her family of five.