The omnivorous black bear spends considerable time sifting through dense foliage hunting for delicious berries, usually in the last few months leading up to hibernation, if she lives in a more northern climate. She stores these sugary bits as fat on her body, in the hopes that they will sustain her during the cold dark time she will spend in a cave, learning to see in the dark.
So it is with us.
I recently spent time gathering blueberries with my family in northern Idaho. As I squatted close to the ground and reached for the plumpest clusters in the understory that were protected from the summer sun, I slipped into a meditative and focused state: moving efficiently, strategizing the next branch to explore, enjoying the plunking of several berries at once into my filling bucket (much like in the book, Blueberries for Sal!), feeling that delightful abundant sensation of collecting-for-later. (Though of course many berries found their way directly to my belly.)
I got to thinking about birth and the ways in which we prepare. Pam England, author of Birthing From Within, describes one of the archetypes that is often quite present during preparation for any major rite of passage: The Gatherer. This is the part of our selves, our psyche, that wanders gently through the forests of our minds and worlds collecting. Collecting what we think we might need for our journey. Different than a Huntress who stalks her prey, (stalks her own mind for patterns of thought and beliefs that may or may no longer serve her highest Self), the Gatherer does not stalk, but shifts her attention to the next shiny thing, the next plump berry that draws her attention. She may be picking at the same bush for most of her pregnancy, never realizing there is a whole field of sun-ripened wild huckleberries over the next hill. However, gathering is still an important task of prenatal preparation, and much of what we gather will sustain us in one way or another during the Journey of Transformation.
Many women and their partners gather articles and stories about evidence-based birth practices. We gather stories from our friends and relatives about what is a good birth and what is a bad birth. We put them in our baskets, fill our unconscious bucket with things that help us feel full and heavy and prepared. Especially if what we gather looks a lot like what we have gathered already: ...my mother had a difficult birth, so of course since my pelvis measures small I will have a difficult birth as well… or... I must have a gentle birth and breathe my baby into the world - I will only listen to positive birth stories from now on and watch beautiful birth videos...
When I had a pretty full bucket I added a lovely flower.
How did I know to add the flower? I was drawn to it. The flower called me.
And that is how it is when we prepare for birth. We listen to what we are drawn to, honor our heart's calling, pack it up, make it pretty (like our perfectly packed birth bag), and then we let it go. We surrender to the fact that maybe our birth bag will get left at home on the way to the hospital, or kicked over and the contents spilled, or thrown up on, or never even opened. But that doesn't mean we don't pack it up with awareness.
What are you collecting in your bucket or basket as you prepare for an upcoming birth? What do you gather as a parent? What do you gather as a birth worker?