I was speaking earlier this evening with a couple about places and positions for labor. We walked the house and tried a few things in a mock labor- something I do with all my clients. We came to the bathroom and explored ways to use the fixtures for bracing and comfort during a contraction. My client remarked how "open" she felt when going to the bathroom these days, at 38 weeks pregnant. From her remark I made a note to definitely spend some time here during her actual labor.
And then I got to thinking...
One of my favorite mental snapshots is of my view looking up from a kneeling position on the floor in a dimly lit hospital room bathroom. Up on the seat before me is a woman beginning a contraction. Her head drooped low, her dark shoulder length hair falling forward over her face. It's wet and stringy as she's just gotten out of the tub. Her arms are pressed onto her splayed spread knees as she rocks back and forth with heavy breath and a rising moan. From my place before her I feel transported in time to the cult of mother-goddess.
I am witnessing a miracle in front of me. Her body and being transforming in front of me as she generates the soul of her child into reality. Her eyes fall closed and her lips draw tight, the white of her teeth bright in the dark room. From beneath her lungs, beneath her heart, from the center of herself comes a cry- she is at the threshold of pain but not suffering.
I'm transported to another birth- at the feet of another mother who's sleep is wrenched with a wide eyed gasp as a contraction comes on. She is seated on a chair in the darkness, her hands planted firmly upon her belly. She lets out a moan of enduring pain then returns to her deep slumber, softly snoring as she drifts.
Ina May Gaskin is famously quoted as saying,
"If a woman doesn't look like a goddess during labor, then someone isn't treating her right."
I tend to agree- though most, if not all, of my pictures are memories. Kneeling at the feet of a laboring woman one does not wonder where the worship of birth and the female comes from. I have been on SO. MANY. bathroom floors. Offering water, catching vomit, bathing feet, holding mothers, holding space. I have been to the temple. I have been in the sacred. And it is beautiful.