Many pregnant mothers- and fathers-to-be spend time thinking about what it will be like to give birth, and what it will be like to be a parent. In the modern world we spend much time combing through books, blogs or research articles on different medical technology and their risks and benefits and statistics about outcomes ...many of us are really good at cultivating this thinking, analyzing part of ourselves. Especially as this is the type of preparation our culture tends to validate most: “If you prepare enough, if you have all the information, if you read the right books and take the right classes, then you’ll get the birth you want.” But there is probably already a part of you that knows that there is more to childbirth preparation than just "the assimilation of obstetrical information."
There are other "parts" of ourselves that need time to be heard, seen and developed in order for our birth preparation to be more holistic, more balanced. One of these parts, or "archetypes" is the Nature Child. But all too often she is dismissed in our culture (as real children often are): that she wastes time, she’s messy, what she has to say isn’t important to the Real Adult World.
This is part of what is missing in Birth In Our Culture, this honoring of the Nature Child side of ourselves, honoring the importance of Wonder and Oneness and Non-Knowing. For some of us this might be confusing. When we believe that or “Everything I need to know is in the research,” or even that “Everything you need to know is already within you” we close off to a sense of embracing the unknown, the deep mysterious universe, and to staying ever-curious about our experience.
A beautiful aspect of the Nature Child archetype is that she is not attached to an outcome - she is not so interested in “Can I do this?”, but more interested in “What will happen next?” More interested in her relationship to the plant, rock, tree, clay, animal, rather than an outcome. She can also be awoken in our natural internal landscape: for example, in a yoga class the other day we were being guided through a forward bend and my thoughts were focusing on the goal of getting my forehead to my shin. Our wonderful teacher reminded us “Let the prize not be getting your head to your shin, let the prize be the relationship with your body, the relationship with your breath.”
Below are some specific ideas for awakening your Nature Child archetype. As with any list, please consider these starting points and by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions nor yet another list of things to add to your ever-growing to-do list. Nature Children don’t make lists! Just pick one or two that sound appealing, that call to you, and see what happens... So here it is:
Eleven Things you can do to awaken the Nature Child:
- “Spend time in nature.” With trees and plants and in Living Nature. In Coyote’s Guide to Nature Connection the author Jon Young suggests finding a regular Sit Spot to foster this ancient connection: the same place in a natural or semi-natural space is visited on a regular basis (ideally daily or weekly). A person can discover that rather than the natural world being just wallpaper, a person is in relationship TO and WITH the natural world. Maybe you start to recognize a certain size and shape of bird that also visits your Sit Spot regularly? Hear a certain bird call? Even if you don’t know who the bird is, just listen and notice. Perhaps a certain plant catches your eye? Even better if it’s one that you don’t know the name of (very young children usually couldn’t care less about names - they just want to explore the texture of the leaves and count them and smell them and does this plant have many friends like her...etc.). Let your curiosity awaken...make a new friend...
2. Plant a garden. Those three words perhaps strike fear in the hearts of many self-proclaimed Black-thumbed peeps. Seeking the assistance of a loving gardening elder is imperative, or just start with a small potted indoor plant that you nurture from seed. Let your hands and fingers relish the nourishing soil. Maybe rub some on your face (make sure no cat poop is in it though!) Plant a little flower for your baby and watch it grow as she grows.
3. Eat wild edible herbs. I love this quote from Stephen Harold Bruhner: “Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken. It is no wonder that we are taught to close off our senses to Nature. Through these channels, the green paws of Nature enter into us, climb over us, search within us, find all our hiding places, burst us open, and blind the intellectual eye with hanging tendrils of green.” Some safe plant friends who don’t have any toxic look-a-likes include: dandelion (great added to salad), chickweed (great with egg salad!), malva (cheeseweed!), nettle (cook first, though, she bites a bit!), “sourgrass,” sorrel, violet, miner’s lettuce, wild rosehips, evening primrose seeds, etc. While there are VERY few herbs that are harmful in small quantity, (spit out if bitter and burning!!) if you are not 100% sure of the identity of any herb, do not consume!! Here’s another great opportunity to connect with herb-savvy elders in your community.
4. Learn about animals and how they birth and care for their young. The Nature Child is fascinated with animals, and relates deeply to them. For example, did you know that elephants make a circle around a laboring elephant to protect and support her? Or that bonobos actually tend to give birth with other female companions around, and often up in a tree? (rather than on their own as previously thought) And dolphins give birth tail-first to their young?
5. Observe the Phases of the Moon. The Moon, whose rhythms and dancing mirror changes in a woman’s body, the roundness of a pregnant belly like the full moon. She waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows, in a circular rather than linear way. Rather than looking up the phase of the moon on a calendar, try looking up into the sky - notice how she dances with the sun, gets close and then sways away...perhaps chart your moods, dreams, and physical sensations and notice how they might relate to the phase of the moon...
6. Making Music and Singing. Children sing their way through their days - and you can begin singing to your baby now. Even if you cannot carry a tune, the sound of your voice vibrating through his whole body can nourish and stimulate. Also playing an instrument live has a magical vibration: try drums, rattles, shakers. Rhythmic drumming has been shown to alter brain waves from the more logical every-day beta waves to the more intuitive and meditative alpha and theta waves (that are the same waves produced during labor!)
7. Play with clay. What child doesn’t like to get her hands dirty! Exploring the simple combination of earth and water to create and get messy at the same time sets free the Nature Child! Particularly when emphasis is placed on the process of creation rather than “what” is created. An interesting practice to cultivate non-attachment to outcome: after you have sculpted something, smush it back into a clay ball and begin again...
8. Measure time naturally. The Nature Child is averse to clocks and calendars. When my daughter was younger and I was headed out while she was in the care of others, she would sometimes ask me when I would be back. I knew that “4:30pm” was meaningless to her, so I pointed to the sun and said, when the sun starts to hide behind that tree across the street, I will be home. How delightful to spend an entire day speaking about time in those terms! “How long will it take to drive there?” “As long as it takes to cook oats.” It’s also helpful to speak in a larger sense of months and seasons passing: “My baby will likely come when the rains begin again, or when a certain flower is in bloom....” (Note: It is from this magical and symbolic place that we can safely tell young children their Birth Stories as they start to ask questions about their births.)
9. Belly dancing. Not just for seduction, belly dancing traditionally was and is used to teach younger women how to move their bodies in labor! Practice a fun, playful, sensual and helpful form of exercise...most communities offer “Bellydancing for Labor” classes.
10. Get a massage! Awaken the sense of touch with the nurturing, gentle, confident hands of bodyworker near you. Use your hour enveloped in touch as an opportunity to practice mindfulness - bring your awareness fully to where you are being touched.
11. Sit by a fire. What could be more magical than gazing into the transformative and awe-inspiring power of fire? Do you have memories of watching the fire as a child? The child within may visit again when you sit down, wrap a blanket around you and simply watch the flames dance. Perhaps a friend or elder can tell you an ancient story, a story that was told by fires for thousands of years....
How will you cultivate your Nature Child? Can you hear her whispering to you? “Come out and play....”