I have always loved learning about other cultures. It can be so easy to be sucked into the western way of thinking that we forget that there's a huge world of people out there with varied experiences and viewpoints. I find this western and eastern contrast especially interesting in regards to motherhood.
In China, for example, it's commonplace for the new mother to stay off her feet for 40 days after birth. She's cooked very specific, vitamin rich foods, and she's supported by women in her community during this sacred time of healing and bonding. This is quite the contrast to America, where statistically the average woman returns to work just two weeks after delivery. This is only the tip of the iceburg of the imense knowlege we can gain from learning about motherhood from other cultures.
Something else I've noticed and come to appreciate are the Rites of Passage that are celebrated around the world. I recently read a story about an African tribe that secludes the pregnant mother from the men of the village in order to adorn her and tell her stories of birth and labor.
One Aboriginal community, the Hopi, have an ancient purification ritual for the newborn baby and their mother, that is highly complex and connected to their creation legend. After the child is born they are kept in their home in darkness for twenty days. The mother chooses the perfect corn (that has four kernels on the end) to symbolize their Corn Mother (their creation goddess) and places it beside her child. For nineteen days the child is bathed in cedar water (like a cedar tea) and rubbed with ashes in a specific alternating pattern. The mother is also occasionally washed and drinks the cedar water. As the days go by the family draws lines in corn meal on the home's wall, then erases the lines in steps and redraws them in the community temple. These lines are the baby's spiritual home and their movement indicates that his spiritual home, once the mother's womb, is becoming the community temple. This is the baby's introduction to their spiritual life.
The beautiful traditions and stories go on and on of ways a new mother is blessed, though, what is that in our culture here in America? A new mother in America will typically have a baby shower where friends and relatives give gifts. Newest trends also include gender reveal parties where the baby's gender is revealing in a surprise "pink or blue" way. There are all sweet and fun! But how are we honoring the mother and this sacred event?
Most largely pregnant women in our culture are accosted in grocery store lines with opinions, "You're so huge!" or told horror stories of how dreadfully painful or terrible birth is. Where is the wise woman wisdom telling her she is capable and beautiful?
I encourage you to think about a Rite of Passage that could mark this time in your life, as you await your new little babe. Something that could honor the sacredness of this experience. Not as "another thing to add to the list" but as a way to connect spititually and honor this sacred passsage into motherhood.
A few ideas:
A Blessingway Ceremony: A Blessing Way was traditionally a Navajo Ritual created to spiritually support and empower the new mother for her journey of birthing and motherhood. In recent times, this beautiful Ritual has been adapted as an alternative to Baby Showers, where the focus tends to be more on the gifts and the baby, rather than on the Mother and her experience. A blessingway or "Mother Blessing" can be as creative or simple as you like. Women you invite can write you birth affirmations, share stories of their power, take turns adorning the mother in flower crowns or handmade jewlery to wear during birth. I've attended several Blessingway Ceremonies and I can say that they are so special and empowering to the woman.
Henna: After being drawn to it for years, I've recently started dabbling in henna. Henna is an Indian artform of using a natural, plant-based stain to draw beautiful designs on the body. Most people get them on their hands, feet, or palm. Pregnanct women can get a beautiful design to decorate their belly. It can be a beautiful way to celebrate your new form. You can also choose a design that's meaningful and empowering for you like a flower or mandala.
Belly Casts: These can usually be done at home yourself. Afterwards you can paint your bellycast and hang it up to display somewhere in your home.
An Empowering Maternity Shoot: Book a photographer at 9 months pregnant, put on a flowy dress, get out in nature and get some gorgeous shots of your mama body.
Meditation and Ceremony. Meditating on your feminine power and affirming your body's ability to bring forth life. Afterwards you can create anything you want to solidify the moment. Make a flower crown, set up a birth alter with affirmations, crystals, and/or photos. Make it your own.
If other traditions have taught us anything about birth it's that it's collectively viewed as a sacred and precious time in a woman's life. It's one that is meant to be celebrated and adored. I encourage you to find a way to include, not just a celebration of the baby, but a celebration of your journey into motherhood. You deserve it.