Among the words I use to describe myself you'll find I speak of being a mother and a Texan. More specifically, my maternal lineage is Mexican and I grew up in a home that blended the traditions and beliefs of my grandparents with those of my German decended father. I grew up in a community where being Mexican wasn't different, it just was, and the traditions of the culture weren't "traditions", they just were. The Mexican culture has many traditions and quite a few respecting birthdays. No doubt you're familiar with the pinata, who's origin in part is believed to come from an ancient Mayan tradition celebrating the birthday of a diety. Yes, there is evidence it may be from China- but the birthday celebration is distinctly Mexican. We also have "Las Manianitas" instead of "Happy Birthday" and mariachi serenades.
Surrounding BIRTH the hispanic culture is also very rich. All of my aunts and cousins wore a faja following their deliveries to bind their bellies. Mothers and aunts observed the quarto where new mom and baby stayed together and did no household work for their first forty days, while sisters, aunts, and even neighbors took care of house and family for them. And then there is the beloved rebozo.
The rebozo has come into favor among birth workers these past few decades. It is a popular tool for helping to support and nurture laboring moms through the most uncomfortable parts of late pregnancy and childbirth. Often I use it as a tool to help moms push their babies out... but it is SO. MUCH. MORE. Centuries have shown indigenous cultures the globe over using scarves to carry their babies, to bind their bellies, to keep warm on chilly days and to support their growing wombs in the later months of pregnancy. The rebozo is more than a tool. It is an artifact of a way of life. In the Mexican culture it has another, little known but tremendous duty.
After the birth of my last child I had the privelage to experience a post partum cerrada or "closing of the bones". About six weeks after my last birth my home was cleared, my dear partner took the babies for a few hours and my sister doulas arrived to bear witness to the end of my childbearing year. The lights were dimmed, and I spent time in an herbal bath, retelling my birth story as my sister doula brushed out my wet hair. Dressed lightly I moved to the bed where I had a massage. No, not that spa relaxing treatment... the hands and movement for this ritual were intentional, drawing the months of tension and expectation out of me, releasing my womb from the responsibility and burden of carrying the child. All the while the songs of my labor played softly in the background- pushing away the noise of the outside and connecting that day to this. The sisters gently lifted my head, placing the center of the rebozo beneath. Relaxing back down, the sides of my head were cradled in the cloth as the rails were gently and silently passed over me, wrapping my forehead to "close". Working with care and intention, the rebozo was moved to my shoulders, my heart, and downward and so on. Finishing the work of my childbearing body, and closing my bones. Recalling the emotional and sublimely loving experience years later still brings tears to my eyes. My doula sisters silently wrote a farewell note and kissed my forehead before they let themselves out. I dozed in bliss for a little while before I was ready to drift back to life as a mother and care giver, just in time for the return of my children. I truly felt new. I truly felt as though I had transitioned to something new.
I came away from the experience eager that every woman should feel the power and acknowledgment that comes with the cerrada. Recognizing that it is something sacred and intensely personal, it is not for everyone. I don't currently advertise it as a service, out of respect for things that should not be sold or consumed, but I would love to speak with you if you think this is something that is right for you!