It’s often believed that in order to resist and rebel against the modern-day "evils" or "shortcomings" of the Medical Industrial Complex (MIC), and to uphold the sacredness of indigenous birthing, one must birth outside of mainstream medical institutions (hospitals). Well… I’ve been blessed to attend several births in all three of the primary birth settings— unassisted home births, midwife-led home births, birth center births and hospital births, some with OBs, some with nurse midwives- and from my experiences in these different settings, I can confidently assert that birth can be and should be a sacred ceremonial rite of passage ANYWHERE we are.
This birth altar is a prime example of resistance, rebellion, revolution and reclamation of our indigenous birth sanctity taking place right in the midst of the MIC.
When induction & intervention scare tactics are being pushed upon Mamas & Birth Givers, when labor stalls due to internal or external blockages that need to be moved, when the staff is unsupportive of the Birther’s intuitive self-direction, when Birthers need to be guided past the threshold of life and death to bring Baby forth, we need to employ our indigenous spiritual rituals— no matter where we are. This is our duty as Birth Keepers.
For me, during the hospital birth for which this altar was constructed, two-headed birth keeping required me to
meet my client at the lake during pregnancy to give offerings to Mama Wada, asking for her blessings, protection, and care as we bring in "our" baby.
offer her labor support herbs to help assist the process
take a spiritual bath and fortify myself before my arrival
lay down work in front of the hospital to give me & my client the upper hand during our stay
bring my cinnamon broom to sweep the room and remove all blockages & disagreeable energy from the space
mix up a floor wash full of protection herbs, birth-support herbs, and herbs for women’s health and get on my hands and knees to wash the floors with a towel
bless the 4 corners, windows, and doorway of the room
diffuse & infuse the room with essential oils & conjure oils for the cause
bless the Mama with the spiritual tools needed to empower her through this sacred rite of passage
set up a sacred space (altar) and call down the great mothers into the room to support, protect, and uplift it
speak and sing prayers over Mama & Baby continually
be mindful of the energies coming and going and know what to do to shift, move, cast out, or amplify the energy when needed
All of that is part of the story behind the photo.
FOUR DAYS of laboring in the hospital, after being transferred from a birth center due to the possibility of "fetal growth restriction," which we and the birth center midwives intuitively knew was not the case. We fought every minute against the pressure, the naysaying, the interruptions, the monitors, the pain, the fear to bring Baby in unmedicated, without interventions, not simply because that was what Mama wanted, although that was a factor, but also because that was what Baby needed- it was what his energy and essence demanded from us all. His entry into the world HAD TO BE spontaneous, it had to be completely spirit-led. We had to meet him where he was and bring him from that place purely and organically, for reasons beyond my knowing. Mama had to go so far deep into her spirit to usher him out, and that journey could not be intervened or intercepted. That was something we were keenly aware of. I'll admit it was truly the toughest. most trying labor I’ve supported to date, and likewise, it was one of the most victorious given the odds that we defied.
The spiritual work that was done in that room… was not only an act of empowerment— it was an act of defiance. Mama resisted and rebelled until her baby came flying out the womb— healthy, whole, FULL- a force to be reckoned with before he took his first breath! She had the unmedicated, spontaneous birth she wanted and fought for, and that her baby needed. And it was lost to NO ONE, not even the staff, that what happened over those 4 days was supernatural. The midwives on staff sent an email saying that they felt “peripheral to the magic the doula was working for her,” and acknowledged that it was unlike anything they’d witnessed before.
And THAT is what we two-headed doulas do– in any and every setting, adjusted to fit the circumstance, in order to alter the conditions that might otherwise hold our Birthers & Babies back or taint their experience. To be two-headed means to have one head in the spirit and one head in the physical. We are responsible for holding that space in-between. We stand firmly at the crossroads of life and death, guiding our Birth Givers & Babies through their sacred passage across the threshold. It’s not only an honor to do this work, it is our duty. And when we step into this role wholeheartedly, we not only empower the Mamas, Birthers, & Babies, we empower their lineages and communities, and our own.