“After the birth of my son, I felt broken open”
Did you feel this way after the births of your children? Did you feel as though you had opened yourself body, mind and spirit to bring that new life into the world? Did it surprise you to feel this way?
We give so much when we birth our children, on every level, and then we keep on giving as we move on in our mothering. We feel exhausted, but that exhaustion somehow doesn’t seem to lift no matter how well we rest. We may feel as though something is missing, some part of ourselves that we were sure was there before. It probably isn’t something you would ever mention to anyone and even if you did many would simply point out that you’re a mother now, of course you’re tired and of course you feel different.
When we look to other cultures, Mexico, Indonesia and the like we find that there is a postnatal care that is somehow lacking in Europe and America. There is an understanding of what a mother goes through, an honouring, a caring and protecting that we seem to have forgotten. New mothers are encouraged to stay at home for up to 40 days in many cultures, and are taken care of by the family. They are allowed the time to recover from the birth physically and mentally and there is time to create a strong connection with the new child.
As part of this postnatal care and honouring there is a ceremony; ‘Closing the Bones’. I have been fortunate to be taught this ceremony by a few different women, who have all learnt it from different places. Some from Mexican midwives, some from a healing woman from Ecuador, but the basic principle is the same. I have found learning this work to be a ‘remembering’, a knowing on some deeper level. I firmly believe that we did have such ceremonies in the West but the knowledge has been lost like so many things in our rush to industrialisation. The ‘Closing the Bones’ ceremony is about helping the mother to return physically and energetically back to herself.
To begin with the mother may be bathed, cleansing and honouring her body in herbal waters, more recently some women have begun to opt for a yoni steam (vaginal steam) instead. After this cleansing the mother is led to a warm and comfortable space where she may recieve massage around the abdomen and hips, helping to encourage the womb back to its right place and to draw her energy back in to the centre of her body. She may also be given a rebozo massage. The rebozo, the traditional mexican shawl is used to rock her pelvis and body to encourage the bones to realign.
Finally, the mother is ceremonially closed, sealed, tucked in. Using rebozo or scarves at the skull, the shoulders, the hips, the knees and the feet, the mother is gently squeezed and then tucked in. Each part of her body is honoured, its role in her life is given gratitude. As you might imagine, following birth, particular attention is made in the honouring of her hips and pelvis, the bones which cradled the child in the womb. The mother is allowed to rest in this space for a time, she may be encouraged to call back to her any parts of herself that she feels may be missing. She is given room to simply be, to feel held.
This ceremony can be performed very soon after birth, but some women don’t come to it until many years later, even years after their children have grown and left home, but it is still powerful. For many women the experience of being held and honoured in this way is profound.
In these modern times we are so desperate to not perceive pregnancy as an illness, we feel such urgency to return to our ‘normal’ lives, we don’t honour this rite of passage that we and our fellow women have been through. We are broken open and we don’t always have someone to tell us we can be put back together again. It is never to late for a woman to close her bones, to be honoured, to be held.
(c) Awen Clement
Awen is a womens healer and celebrant based in the UK, she has a particular passion for supporting women around the childbearing year.