Alone in myself with my baby in the water tub, the water guided me into a deepening trance of ‘open and give over mamma,’ holding and relaxing me in its fluid substance. I was a babe held in the womb of some Great Goddess, even as I held a babe in the amniotic waters of my own womb. And open I did. Instinctively my hands were working with each sensation, palms up and open, hands out of the water and raised, like a salutation to the Goddess herself, ‘yes I feel your presence Mother as I am Mother now.’ These actions were what came to me in the tub as I did what is known as ‘active labour.’ I would more describe it as a multidimensional dance of the universe, a meditation beyond meditations. I found myself hissssss-ing as each sensation built low down and then up along the sides of my womb. There was no mistaking this ssssssnake-like ssssssound that guided my body into birth, my palms stretching into an ancient salutation of forces greater than myself yet no bigger than myself.
Nané Jordan, Birthdance, Earthdance, 2002, p.
‘Thinking’ about birth: Some critical signposts along the thea-logical way
“Birth was at one time important in a symbolic way to theological visions, mostly with a view to depreciating women’s part, and rendering it passive and even virginal, while paternity took on divine trappings.”
(Mary O’Brien, 1981, p. 20)
Thealogian Carol Christ identifies how the Western philosophical and theological focus on mortality/immortality ultimately rejects and ignores birth giving (2003, p. 207). Gestation and birth is the metaphorical ‘blind spot’ of textual inquiries that focus on a singular figure of a male/paternal God. Thealogian Naomi Goldenberg calls this the “patriarchal lie… the denial of the womb that gives birth” (in Christ, 1997, p. 67). This lie, denial or ignorance of birth within the Western historical trajectory is rooted, “replayed, reenacted… and taught” (Christ, 1997, p. 67) in complex historical, socio-cultural and spiritual terrains of the human dialectic of male/female embodiment. Birth-giving capacities of women have been regulated and simultaneously denigrated in patriarchal family systems and accompanying religious traditions. Asserting the necessary physical materiality of life as having sacred dimensions, eco-feminist writers recognize the denigration of female, birth-giving bodies by pointing towards a dualistic and hierarchical equation of women with body-nature-Earth, and men with mind-culture-Spirit (Diamond & Orenstein 1990; Mellor, 1997).
Women’s Building, SF, Nursing Mama
Drawing from philosopher Luce Irigaray’s Elemental Passions to reclaim a fluid logic beyond such binaries, Hanneke Canters and Grace Jantzen (2005) call for a “feminist revival of birth for a life of flourishing” (Anderson, 2007, p. 2). Birth, as an activity and experience, is inseparable from human culture and consciousness (O’Brien, 1981). In the words of womanist midwife and scholar, Arisika Razak, “birth is the primary numinous event. It is our major metaphor for life and coming to being” (1990, p. 168).