Blog: Safeguarding Birth, Invoking the Sacred
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
From the moment we are born until the moment we die, women are constantly engaged in the processes of creation, creativity, and change. For much of our lives, through our monthly cycles, our bodies create forms to prepare to receive new life, and if that new life is not received, a process of destruction of those forms takes place.
When we give birth, in the process of becoming a mother, our old sense of self as an independent being falls away, and, in defining ourselves, we include the needs of another in a very real and intimate way. As a woman goes into labor, however, the new definition of self as a mother who includes the identity of her child as part of her own self-identity has not quite gelled, and the old definition of self as a single, unitary being is challenged. As this challenge occurs, the power that was binding together the old form – the independent woman – is released. This power is then available to create the new form – the mother.
The power that is released as the old form falls away and the new one has yet to form is highly charged with potential creative impulse. This impulse must be carefully protected in the gap that opens between the old and new. This gap is the period of time and space that is required for the processes of change to take place.
Vulnerability is part of that gap. It is the state of being we must agree to participate in if time and space are going to be allowed to do their part in generating the new form. It takes courage and trust to enter into the gap voluntarily.
Anyone who has ever attended a birth knows that the power that arises as labor begins is utterly palpable. And they also know that the laboring woman is extremely vulnerable – or that she needs to allow herself to be vulnerable in order to let the old form fall away and to be able to await the proper manifestation of the new form.
It may seem counterintuitive to contemplate the idea that there is power in vulnerability. Many of us reject vulnerability because we think it makes us weak. Most of us actually avoid change because it requires that vulnerability. Most of us actively defend against vulnerability because it requires us to give up control.
Yet one of the reasons an initiatory process such as birth is so powerful is precisely because we cannot control it (try though we might). We are pushed into the dance of universal creativity whether we like it or not. Many women turn against their bodies because of the lack of control their biology affords them. However, if they can learn that their biological processes are actually showing them how to dance the dance of universal creativity without fear, they might think about their bodies differently.
The only reason vulnerability might make someone weak is if the vulnerability is preyed upon by forces that should not have access to it. Unfortunately, because there is so much creative power in the process of birth, there are many forces that seek to own it or direct it to their own uses. Women need to be honored and protected in order to step into this dance. There must be a proper container for these processes of change. (We learn more about this container in Tracking Spirit in the Birth Environment.)
If the vulnerability in the creative and catalytic moments is properly safeguarded, the power inherent in it can be properly dedicated to the new form – and to the initiate. This power must be protected; a laboring woman needs to be protected so that she can accomplish her task successfully and without being compromised.
There are so many places where the natural goodness, the deep creativity, and nurturing sustenance of the Great Feminine has been coopted by forces that would seek to own them. Yet it is possible for us, as women, to reclaim these qualities and hold them and direct them for the benefit of ourselves, our children, and the common good.
In order to do that, we have to discover within ourselves where and how our relationship to these qualities has been disrupted. We must go through all of the processes that are required for us to transform the wounding that we have experienced from being separated from the Sacred Feminine. We need to clarify our intentions and align them with the creativity, generativity and nurturing capacities of the Sacred Feminine; and we must distinguish our intentions from any force that would seek to separate us from her. When we defend the intention and purpose of the Sacred Feminine we support all that is creative, self-sustaining and other-sustaining, abundant, unconditional, adaptive, expansive, and dedicated to beauty.
Editors’ Note: You can learn more about safeguarding the birth process in the Tracking Spirit in the Birth Environment workshop. To learn more about creative and initiatory processes and the Sacred Feminine Join Isa and Robert Thurman for their annual Embracing the Sacred Feminine retreat at Menla.