After years of recurrent miscarriages, I was finally past the 12 week mark and adjusting to pregnancy after loss (PAL). I enrolled in a hypnobirthing class and was doing everything I could to get my mindset ready for what I was told would be one of the most awe-inspiring experiences a person can have: childbirth.
And then, my doctor told me I had placenta previa, which means the placenta implanted at the bottom of my uterus and the baby can’t be born vaginally. I would therefore require a cesarean section before I went into labour. I remember feeling so deflated; after all of this loss and anger and frustration, I was not going to get to do the one thing I thought would initiate me into motherhood.
My naturopath gave me a gift one day; she told me I kept saying that “I need to have a c-section” when in fact “I get to have a c-section”.
She reminded me that this condition often leads to complications and even maternal death, and yet here I am in a country that can identify this condition before labour begins and offer me a relatively safe and easy surgery that will help ensure a healthy child and healthy mother.
Once I realized my privilege, I tried to tell myself a different story. I tried to focus on the fact that a healthy baby is all I really want and need. And yet, there was a small part of me that knew I would be forever disappointed I didn’t get to experience childbirth and that primal connection so many women had told me about.
Fast forward a few years, and my first born daughter is about to turn seven. On the eve of her birthday (and my birth day), we have a ritual of saying goodbye to the previous year and all that it held. She begins by telling me what she loved about being six, what she was ready to leave behind, and what she was looking forward to in the year ahead.
And then she said something that surprised me; she said, “I never want to have a baby”. I asked her why, and she told me she didn’t want to have the baby cut out of her tummy like I did. I realized in that moment that she was holding onto the same narrative that I was; that our shared birth story wasn’t optimal and held both disappointment and pain.
I knew that we needed a Birth Closing Ceremony for us both; a chance to share what really happened on the day of her birth, and to reframe the story we would walk with from that day forward.
We followed the Be Ceremonial framework in the Birth Closing ceremony and chose three rituals; one to let go of the past, one to be present in the moment, and one to set intentions for moving forward.
Our Birth Closing Ceremony
On my daughter’s 7th birthday, I picked her up after school and we drove to our favourite beach. I suggested we both wander the beach and look for an object that represented our birth story. She found a giant ball of red sea kelp and I laughed; I told her that it looked exactly like a placenta!
We then talked about our shared placenta; what it did, how it kept us both safe and connected, and that, even though it was blocking one way out, we live in a country where doctors can still bring her out into this world safely.
We both shared how we felt about the placenta, and how we wished it hadn’t grown where it did. We thanked it for keeping us both healthy. We then threw the sea kelp into the sea, releasing the power it held over our shared birth story, and then followed it in for a swim.
We swam in the January sea and we found stillness in the moment. We howled and laughed and played in the frigid ocean. It was so magical to be in the water with her; it was her first winter dip and she had been longing to join me for one of my ceremonial swims.
While we were swimming, we came upon a long piece of sea kelp. I told my daughter that it reminded me of an umbilical cord and we both held either end of it and floated for a few minutes, soaking it all up and feeling the depth of our connection.
When we came out, we warmed up and spent a few minutes sharing what we were grateful for. We decided to tell a new story about our birth experience, one that didn’t feel so scary or upsetting.
My daughter found this rock that had a small piece missing from it. She then found that missing piece and placed the rock back together. She told me that even though she didn’t come out the regular way, she was glad we were both healthy and connected by the placenta. She also shared she was grateful she got to spend the first few hours of her life with her Pappa, while I was recovering.
We didn’t plan our ceremony ahead of time; in fact, we kind of winged it. What I did have was the ritual muscles in place from years of being intentional with how I process change and move through times of transition. The same rituals can be adapted to so many different moments and milestones; we simply add our stories to make them unique and meaningful.
And as I often say, kids are naturally ceremonial — all they need is the container to express themselves and the rituals pour out of them!
I’ll always remember this 7th birthday as the day we reclaimed our shared birth experience; we let go of one version of the story, full of anger and fear, and started to tell a new one, full of gratitude and connection. That’s the power of ceremony ~ being able to process our emotional experiences through intentional, symbolic actions. The ripples of meaning flow from there.
To create your own ceremony, you can create an account, select the Birth Closing ceremony, and choose your own ritual adventure.