07 Oct Milk and Honey
Where was your maternal grandmother born? What language did she speak-what was her Mother Tongue? How many times was she pregnant? How many times did she give birth?
After becoming a doula I became accustom to initial meetings with each pregnant woman in order for her to determine if I was a good fit for her. These introductory visits would set the tone for a pregnant woman to connect even deeper with her intuition and instincts and FEEL out if I would become the woman she entrusted to hold space for her as she transitioned into becoming a mother (or a mother of an additional child). I loved these first meetings, and delighted in answering the often lengthy list of questions that so clearly reflected the myriad of hopes, values, dreams and beliefs of each pregnant woman. I was often asked at the end of these first meetings if I had any questions of my own and along with the usual- who, what, where, when …….I’d ask them to tell me their maternal grandmother’s birth stories.
'Women…are storytellers. They are nurturers…filled with creative forces when they are fertile, pregnant or birthing. Millions of years of biology are on their side to ‘bring forth.’ Nothing can stop the power behind that force, not even the woman herself…She is the living essence of the future. She is a holy woman and there is intelligence at work in her. It is sacred energy.'. Sister MorningStar.
Energetically a shift would take place from their definitive ideals about delayed cord clamping, skin to skin and placenta encapsulation to a murkier uncertainty. Almost always they’d look at me and respond with, ‘I don’t know ‘.
Part of my internal process was to try to understand why each woman had no idea how her maternal grandmother birthed. Why wasn’t this powerful women’s wisdom being passed down from generation to generation? By asking about what country she had lived in, what language she spoke and the circumstances around her grandmothers birth an entire constellation map was created. A birthing tree of maternal lineage was brought forth whose roots run deep and whose seeds carry the future generations.
Often these questions ignited a search to find out more about their grandmother’s births. They would return with having opened a treasure chest of untold birth stories. Most of the stories were universal in nature and at their essence about the union of the mystery in the everyday, when time and space is transcended during birth and a new life is welcomed into the world. Others held subtle hints of collective memories, triumph and shame, danger and love. But some of these untold stories were like finding keys to doors no one knew existed. A stillbirth that was never grieved, an abortion that was hidden, a birth on the run while fleeing persecution.
We know now from the scientific study of epigenetics that we hold these memories in our DNA and that they are passed down from generation to generation. In one study the phobia of snakes had made a genetic imprint on the DNA coding of a family. This doesn’t mean that the daughters born into this family will have an absolute fear of snakes but it does mean they will have a more enhanced radar for predicting danger. Awareness of these built in generational patterns can be powerful tools of insight allowing us to release patterns that no longer serve us and embrace the ones that represent what matters most to us.
Consider that when our maternal grandmothers were pregnant with our mothers, we each existed as the potential for life. We were present as an egg in the already developed fetal womb of our mothers inside of the pregnant womb of our grandmothers. This physical union and complete symbiosis extends within our wombs through the placenta joining mother and baby. The placenta is often called the Tree of Life because its veins, its roots, look so much like a tree. We’ve long known that during pregnancy a mother supplies all of her baby’s nutrients through the placenta with the constant flow of her bloodstream. Now it’s known that DNA is actually flowing two ways through the placenta from mother to baby and from baby to mother. If a mother takes a simple blood test as early as from the 8th week of pregnancy, her baby’s fetal cells can be detected in her bloodstream giving information on health, sex and development. A mother’s brain cells are permanently altered by the presence of fetal DNA which improves her neural health lowering rates of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. It is the same DNA from mother to baby that carries genetic memories and the same DNA from baby to mother that improves maternal neural health, and between the two lies our literal and figurative regeneration.
It is with this understanding that we can expand our awareness and release family patterns that no longer serve us and consciously continue to embrace those that support our wellbeing. No woman reaches adulthood without having absorbed the messages from her family about what is to be valued. Some of these messages were explicitly stated, others were sensed and others carried through our DNA. We may have resonated with many of the messages or rejected them outright. Part of becoming aligned with our truth is the ability to face external messages and collective beliefs and choose for ourselves what we agree with and what doesn’t represent us. Birth stories are one potent portal to access these generational messages because they perfectly hold what matters most to birthing women. How she was treated in contrast to how she wanted to be treated. What she hoped to have happen and what evolved. Whether she viewed birth as sacred, primal, dangerous or natural and what she thinks now after giving birth.
Are you more curious about how your mother or maternal grandmother birthed? That answer will be different for each of us. Every answer reveals who we are today in relation to our family. But whether these questions evoke sadness or comfort they provide insight into the generational patterns that make up our family constellation. What life events were hidden and kept secret, what was celebrated and held up to emulate. It is through awareness of these patterns, that we can reclaim our voice by telling our own preferred stories about who we are and what our legacy will be.