Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birthing Rituals

Wow! I am actually the first one up in the house... which never happens anymore, especially since Ben generously offered to watch the baby in the morning so I could sleep in during these late weeks of pregnancy. It is such a beautiful morning out: everything is still wet from the last two days of spring showers, but there's so much light green everywhere, and it's cool, but the sky holds promise for a sunny day.

These last few days, especially as we've been feeling the reality of this upcoming birth, I've been thinking about birthing rituals. Especially for a Catholic, I am a horrible at rituals. If it weren't for the routine of being in a family, I think I would shun rituals and tradition all together. However, even though ritual-making isn't my natural forte, some of my fondest memories of growing up center around various traditions, routines and rituals that were a part of daily life. I know that my little order-enforcer Zosia seems to thrive on rituals-- bathing rituals, bedtime rituals, mealtime rituals. Since she's been tiny, like 9 months or something, she has picked up on the fact that we join hands before meals to say grace. She just likes that sort of thing. So recently, I've been intentional about trying to create routine and ritual even in times or places that it doesn't feel particularly necessary to me. And I know that not only will those around me appreciate it (Ben is also one of those people who loves to have "special things" to pull out at certain times of year, or special foods to eat on certain occasions), but I have found that I really like it too, when all is said and done.

I've been thinking about what things are birthing rituals for me. There were few things that I intentionally did the first time around about the birth-- it was just such unknown territory that I had no concrete plans. But even so, here are some "rituals" about my birth with Zosia that I hope to be able to continue with this baby.

The days before Zosia's delivery were filled with long walks. Ben and I had been told that first babies are almost always late (on average 10 days past due date), and we really didn't want an induction, so we did everything within our power to naturally stimulate labor-- walking (and, by the way, ahem, marital unity) being one of the best ways to get it going. So we went on epic walks through Cambridge starting a couple of days before the birth. It was a wonderful time to be together, talk about the baby, have Ben push me up tall hills (cut me some slack, I was 10 months pregnant!). Long walks were very much a part of our daily life back then... these days, especially during the harsh winter months with a toddler, not so much. So hopefully in the next couple of days (with a beautiful forecast) we'll be able to carve out some time for a couple of nice treks through Falls Church.

The picture above is of a moo-moo that I bought at a thrift store in Atlanta. Ben gave me such grief when I purchased it, but it has come in handy-- it has become my official birthing outfit. I wore it through my labor with Zosia, and the other day when I went into warm up labor, I had tried it on in the morning to make sure it still fits. So I totally think this dress has weird labor powers. And it's all ready for this birth-- and future births, and is also available for loan should anyone be interested (I had already given it to my sister because I was sure that she would be the next one to have a baby... what's the hold up?? ;-).

When I was pregnant with Zosia, a dental assistant of all people told me that she felt like the first shower after she delivered her son was this magical experience. She encouraged me to prepare special soap, special shampoo, special lotion all in preparation for the first shower that you can actually see your toes in months. After labor (which is basically the most athletic experience of my life thus far), a shower felt amazing, and I imagine that this post-delivery shower in my very own bathroom will be even better. Yesterday when I was out getting last minute things ready, I did pick up special bathing supplies, resting on our dresser top right now, to prepare for the post-delivery ritual.

There are other things too, but I can sense that I'll have to stop myself (man, I'm verbose in the morning! No more morning blogging). We're hoping to have a placenta ceremony in the yard. Family and friends coming to care for us and prepare yummy foods is a wonderful memory, and there is no better way to a nursing woman's heart than through food-- once again, my sister Irene is coming to help with food and household stuff for the birth. We have special gifts prepared for Zosia for the birth, along with some special childcare lined up, so should we have more kids, that might become a ritual. And I imagine that homebirth is very fertile ground for all sorts of other special family rituals-- we'll just have to see how the spirit moves us. And while all of these are things I'm hoping will be present during this birth, I'm also open to them changing, or new things being introduced, or us just not feeling like doing one particular thing or another. Don't forget-- I'm bad at rituals!

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