Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blessing Rituals and the Role of Sisters in Childbirth

I found this post on Rixa's blog, Stand and Deliver, some time ago. I was surprised but also not surprised to learn that pioneer era women used to gather together and conduct washing, anointing and blessing ceremonies for women about to give birth. The words to the blessings are somewhat reminiscent of our current washing and anointing ordinances, but are specific to the needs of an woman about to give birth and to her coming child. Here is an excerpt:
"We anoint your spinal column that you might be strong and healthy no disease fasten upon it no accident belaff [befall] you, your kidneys that they might be active and health and preform [sic] their proper functions, your bladder that it might be strong and protected from accident, your Hips that your system might relax and give way for the birth of your child, your sides that your liver, your lungs, and spleen that they might be strong and preform their proper functions, . . . your breasts that your milk may come freely and you need not be afflicted with sore nipples as many are, your heart that it might be comforted."
I am not sure why this ritual or ordinance(?) was discontinued. But, even without the priesthood power to pronounce a blessing on our sister's head, we still, as women have an innate power or gift of healing the sick and comforting the downhearted.

I received a birth story (all 5) from Valerie Christiansen this week and in it she says:
"Studies have shown that women birth faster with a woman in the room, even if the woman is just sitting in the corner, uninvolved. After this experience, I came to believe sisterhood definitely plays a significant, spiritual role childbirth that we have yet to fully understand."
Even without reading the studies, I intuitively know this is right, but I will find them and post a link for the scientifically minded. I will post some more of Valerie's birth story later. All five births are riveting and totally different from each other.

Returning to the sisterhood thought, when I was pregnant, my midwife shared a story with me. I had a Sikh Midwife named Davi Kaur Kalsah. I am forever indebted to the Sikhs for supporting me on my spiritual journey during pregnancy. It was so nice to have a strong woman of faith attending me. Here is the story:

It happened when she was in training at a hospital in New Mexico near an Indian reservation. A Native American woman came to the hospital to give birth. The doctor Davi was working under was a little pigheaded, as she put it, and wanted things done his way (laying down on the hospital bed, etc.). But when he left the room, 3 or 4, maybe 5 women came in. They appeared to be sisters, maybe a mother, and a grandmother of the laboring woman. As she got off the bed into a squatting position, they all surrounded her and began praying and supporting her. When the doctor returned, he was surprised and intimidated by the powerful Native American Women circling his patient. He didn't dare interfere, and he was only lucky enough to reach in and suction the baby's nose when it came.

I loved this story. Davi told it to me because she said that when she had been meditating on my birth, she had a dream that like this woman, I would be surrounded by powerful women and by my ancestors. She was very in tune. I was surrounded by 6 beautiful women and who knows how many ladies on the other side of this blasted veil.

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