Currently in our gurukula we're studying prasuti tantra--the science of midwifery. And we recently had a discussion about ceremonies and rituals to honour the mother to be and welcome the new baby.
Here are some of our ideas:
Have a ceremony for when you first feel your baby kick, or maybe when you reach the halfway mark of pregnancy. Gathering with loved ones to sing and be merry while the baby is still in the womb is a way to introduce the family's voices to the baby before he/she is born.
The family and friends who attend a quickening ceremony commit to help their pregnant friend no matter what the outcome. A woman who experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth will need practical and emotional support just as much as the new mother of a healthy baby, perhaps more.
The Blessing Way
During the third trimester, have a Blessing Way. Some ceremonies that may be used in a Blessing Way include:
Combing and parting the hair of the mother-to-be
Washing mother-to-be's feet
Decorating mother-to be's belly, for example with henna.
Everyine shares stories about the mother-to-be --memories from the past that have helped shaped her in to the woman she is today.
Everyone brings a special candle (beeswax or soy). All the candles are then lit during the birth (good for a home birth; make sure to set all the candles on a big cookie sheet and keep them far from draperies and protected from children).
Everyone writes a blessing for a baby and places them in a special blessing basket.
In giving gifts, consider the world into which baby is to be born. Try to avoid plastic products that will clutter the world up. Get toys and gifts made from wood and natural fibres here.
Gifts don't have to be new. For the sake of the environment, it's ideal to pass along baby clothes that have been used before. Babies grow quickly from one size to another, so baby clothes are typically just gently used. Toys too can be passed from baby to baby.
At the baby shower or blessing way, have a sign-up sheet for people to bring/make food for the depleted and exhausted new mother, or to help with household tasks or childcare of her older child.
Naming the Baby
Baby might be named during a baptism or circumcision. Otherwise, gather with family and close friends to bathe baby and announce the name. According to Ayurveda, baby should have more than one name.
Connect your child to family with a family name. My birth name is Olivia, and I feel proud, happy and connected when I think of sharing that name with my mother, great-aunt, great-grandmother and great-great-great grandmother.
Connect your child with the natural world with a name that relates to the month or season of birth, or to or creatures or plants that are prominent at the time of baby's birth. For example, my spring-born sister got the name Rachel (ewe), because she was born at lambing time.
Your child should have a nickname for common everyday use.
A Vedic astrologer will help you find your child's 'good name'. The beginning syllable of this name depends upon the nakshatra or constellation ruling your child's chart. Choose a spiritual name starting with this syllable. The 'good name' doesn't have to be part of your child's legal name and should be protected from ordinary use like school registration. It conveys your child's essence.
Ideas like these help connect us with the sacredness and wonder of birth and free us from a merely conventional approach.
Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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