"Every birth is holy. I think that a midwife must be religious because the energy she’s dealing with is holy. She needs to know that other people’s energy is sacred.
Spiritual midwifery recognizes that each and every birth is the birth of the Christ child...
By religious, I mean that compassion must be a way of life for her. Her religion has to come forth in her practice, in the way she makes her day-to-day, her moment-to-moment decisions. It cannot be just theory. Truly caring for other people cannot be a part-time job.
During a birthing, there may be fantastic physical changes that you can’t call anything but miraculous. This daily acquaintance with miracles – not in the sense that it would be devalued by its commonness, but that its sacredness be recognized – has to be a part of the tools of the midwife’s trade. Great changes can be brought about with the passing of a few words between people or by a midwife’s touching a woman or the baby in such a way that great physical changes can happen.
For this touch to carry the power that it must, the midwife must keep herself in a state of grace. She has to take spiritual vows just the same as a yogi or a monk or a nun takes inner vows that deal with how they carry out every aspect of their life. A person who lives by a code that is congruent with life in compassion and truth actually keys in and agrees with the millions-of-years-old biological process of childbirth..."
I was recently talking with a young woman who is re-training to be a mid-wife. She is a mother herself and no doubt it is this that has sent her down that root. It was so beautiful listening to her talk of her job and the sense of awe and wonder that comes with being present at the beginning of life. She also spoke of the sense of connection she feels with the woman she works with as they move through the stages of pregnancy. There is a real pastoral nature to the work it seems and this seemed especially true with women who are troubled or who have addiction and mental health difficulties as well as issues such as poverty and homelessness. The job must be extremely painful at times.
We also talked of faith and belief. Conversations that people often wish to have with me. It’s interesting that most of the time I say very little, I tend to listen while they give birth to their own thoughts and feeling. It seems this young woman is going through seem real changes.
I have known here for many years, her older sister has been a friend since I was a teenager and we were out celebrating her sisters 40th birthday that day.
It was lovely listening to her talk about how her work and motherhood had led her to ask those questions about meaning; about her search for a centre and how she admired so many of the Muslim women that she met in her work, who seem to have this centre and purpose and meaning. She said that in contrast this was something that was lacking in the lives of so many of the more troubled young women that she came into contact with. She told me that she didn’t really know what she believed in herself, just that she found this centre in her work. I know what she means. As I have said many times the God that I have come to know really comes to life as I find and give from my heart to another and when I allow another to give from their heart to me. In those moments that loving spirit comes to life.
I love the following “For a Mother” by John O’Donohue. It is taken from "Benedictus: A Book of Blessings"
“For a Mother” by John O’Donohue
Your voice learning to soothe
Your new child
Was the first home-sound
We heard before we could see.
Your young eyes
Gazing on us
Was the first mirror
Where we glimpsed
What to be seen
Your nearness filled the air,
An umbilical garden for all the seeds
Of longing that stirred in our infant hearts.
You nurtured and fostered this space
To root all our quietly gathering intensity
That could grow nowhere else.
Formed from the depths beneath your heart,
You know us from inside out,
No deeds or seas or others
Could ever erase that.
After worship last Sunday I was speaking with a member of the congregation about the hymns we sang in worship. He mentioned one that he believed we had never sung in the two and half years that I had served the congregation. He named the hymn and number and I insisted that we’d sung it recently. I even had it in my mind and sang the first verse back at him. As I got in my car I promised that we would sing it soon, but couldn’t next Sunday as we had already picked the hymns for Mothering Sunday, when the worship group had recently met.
What a fool I am. I got up on Monday morning to make a start on the service, opened the worship group book and there it was. We had decided to sing the hymn weeks ago, as the opener to the “Mothering Sunday” service. This is why it was on my mind and the words and tune were in my head. Just another beautiful example of synchronicity.
I love the opening verse and it is appropriate for “Mothering Sunday”
“Now Thank We All Our God,
With heart, and hands, and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom the world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.”
So what is motherhood, well it certainly isn’t gender exclusive. It is something we all do and it something that a true spiritual community must be involved in. Remember that one aspect of the original meaning of “Mothering Sunday” was a return to the mother church.
To mother is to serve others. Certainly I see this when I think of the example of my mother and others who have mothered me; when I think of the deep love that they have shown in their actions.
Mothering is about a commitment to love. Not in some soft and mushy way, no it’s about giving of yourself for others. We all mother when we cultivate relationships, spiritually intimate ones, with each other; mothering is something we do when we give ourselves fully to life, to nurture the world outside of our own bodies. Good mothering is also about encouraging others to care for one another too, in deed and word. This to me is the primary purpose of spiritual communities like the ones I serve, for me a spiritual community is a breeding grounds for compassionate living. In my eyes religious communities are the birth places of compassion, the Unitarian communities I have been a part of have certainly helped to nurture that aspect of me.
I believe that we are all called to the sacred work of mothering; mothering that teaches us that real love is part and parcel of that mysterious life force that strengthens us in life’s vicissitudes, that brings us to wholeness both within ourselves and others and enables us to find the courage deep within to be dedicated in thought, word and deed to whatever our task may be.
Mothering Sunday reminds us that we are not here purely for ourselves; it reminds us that we are here to care for and to nurture one another. We are here to bring that invisible force, the love that I know as God, into life through our own human hearts and in our thoughts, words and deeds.
"Prayer for All Who Mother" By Victoria Weinsten
We reflect in thanksgiving this day for all those whose lives have nurtured ours.
The life-giving ones
Who heal with their presence
Who listen in sympathy
Who give wise advice ... but only when asked for it.
We are grateful for all those who have mothered us
Who have held us gently in times of sorrow
Who celebrated with us our triumphs -- no matter how small
Who noticed when we changed and grew,
who praised us for taking risks
who took genuine pride in our success,
and who expressed genuine compassion when we did not succeed.
On this day that honours Mothers
let us honour all mothers
men and women alike
who from somewhere in their being
have freely and wholeheartedly given life, and sustenance, and vision to us.
Dear God, Mother-Father of us all,
grant us life-giving ways
strength for birthing,
and a nurturing spirit
that we may take attentive care of our world,
our communities, and those precious beings
entrusted to us by biology, or by destiny, or by friendship, fellowship or fate.
Give us the heart of a mother today.