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girls yet to enter double figures. We have
plenty of Mothers, ranging from the
mother of the toddler, to grandmothers,
and of course, Michelle's own mother.
She says that she's tried out many of
the name options -- Grandma, Granny,
Nanna, Nanny, and might settle for Oma,
We also have Wise Women, those who
are past their own child rearing and no
longer work in the world.
One witchy group I belonged to, some
time in the past, claimed that there was a
fourth face of the Goddess -- Enchantress.
She showed herself between Mother and
Wise Woman. I look around the room.
Each woman present was Enchantress
in her own way. Women managing their
young daughters, women rounding up
toddlers and getting them to eat only
two handfuls of chips at a time, women
quietly chatting about their own birthing
experiences or claiming it was too long ago
and surely they'd had anaesthetic. One
woman suggested the anaesthetic should
be given, not during the birth, but during a
child's teenage years. Much hilarity ensued.
Ritual two -- acknowledge that birthing
and mothering is hard, but also be amused
by it, and ready to laugh. Have "war stories"
at the ready about the birth process. My
own includes being in stirrups and my
nether regions exposed to the world, and
an unknown man and little boy walking
into the room, with the boy whining
"Mu-um!" He stopped, stared at me, and
said: "You're not my Mum" and they
wandered out again. Hello, I have no
dignity or privacy left.
Ritual three -- talk about those early
days and weeks and months. Give the
mother-to-be no reason to go on living.
But do it in a nice way. Joke about living
in the equivalent of bin liners because
the baby will chuck on everything. Talk
about sleepless nights, how many flannels
will be needed for gooey baby. Much laughter
from those of us who have done it and
survived. Michelle's pregnancy hormones
make her smile all the way through this.
Once we've all had a cup of tea, it's
time for the well-worn games. Scattergories
-- a baby's name starting with "M", for
Michelle's name. Something the husband
might say during delivery. Answers range
from "Medic!" to "My gods!" to "Mu-um!"
David wonders at all the laughter,
but sits patiently, looking through animal
books, and pointing to the animals he'd
like to be (seal, dolphin, Komodo dragon
[closest thing to Godzilla he can find]).
We play several other games, and
then it's afternoon teatime. David and the
toddler hoe into the lamingtons. We
women try not to. The world will end if
we eat as much as we want.
Ritual four -- opening the gifts. We
place Michelle on a "throne"(kitchen chair)
and presents are handed to her one by
one. We all coo over tiny baby clothes,
and bunny rugs. I check with myself -- am
I clucky? No. I give myself permission to
think the baby clothes are sweet, but I
have no desire to go through it all again.
Babies who think night is party time, colic,
a fridge full of mushy vegies, a baby who
eats kitty litter. Nah. I must be ready for Wise
Michelle delights over each gift,
imagining when she'll use each one. She
truly is glowing. Her face is a delicate
seashell pink, and her stomach is beautiful
balloon-smooth. Her feet are planted
solidly on the ground. Earth Mother, The
Empress, Isis, Demeter, Juno, Hera. The
younger women look up to her, Maidens
all. Athena and Persephone. We older
goddesses watch with affection. This is
Michelle's journey, and not one of us
can articulate fully what she is about to
experience. Going down into the depths
where you are under black water and can
hear the lighted world, but it is irrelevant
as you are possessed by your body, and
the need to retrieve your baby's soul from
the Underworld. I still remember it, and
cannot fully explain it.
The Baby Shower slowly winds to a
close. Women chat quietly. The toddler
whines to go home. David plucks at my
sleeve. He's run out of animal books and
wants to leave. I hug Michelle, careful of
her belly, and David shakes her hand. He
gingerly allows "Oma" to hug him. He
returns her hug with his own wooden,
bag-of-bones version that we've all come
to know and love. It's as much as he can
manage, and more than we ever expected.
As I drive home, I reflect. Today was
just one of the ways our society has
incorporated ritual and ceremony into
the everyday. I have friends who say that
they have no truck with ceremony. Yet,
they attend weddings, baby showers,
and wiccanings. I used to be one of those
proclaimants, but now I embrace it all. Be
it birth, death, marriage, or coming of age,
it's a chance for us to get together, mark
the occasion and remind ourselves that we
are human and that lives are being lived
All blessings to Michelle.
© NOVA DECEMBER 2009
'One woman suggested the
anaesthetic should be given,
not during the birth, but during
a child's teenage years. Much
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