Welcoming Baby: A Rite of Passage & A Book Review

IMG_0927So much for weekly posts: it seems three months have passed since my last offering on here. However, major happenings have taken place, one of which is nicely complemented by a book review that shall feature herein.

Many changes have taken place in our lives since September:

I have backed out of a big project which meant a great deal to me in order to concentrate on the things that mean a great deal more;

I have re-embarked on Home Education with FreeToBeP after nigh on two years’ in mainstream school;

Last but definitely not least, we’re celebrating the arrival of FreeToBeNumber3 (hereafter known as FreeToBeL) who is currently snuggled against me in the sling; a sweet, sleeping three-week old.

I delivered FreeToBeL myself in the birth pool at home – a quick, intense labour but a gentle water birth that I’m thoroughly glad I achieved for this precious new water sign. Just as her head was about to crown and she was making her way between two worlds, her siblings informed our dear friend who was taking care of them in FreeToBeP’s bedroom that they must see mummy right then.

Thus, they checked in with me at the perfect moment and were able to greet their little sister the very moment she entered the big, wide world.

In my opinion, this is the ideal welcome for a new life – in calm surroundings at home, directly into the comfort of a mother’s arms, and to the smiles and coos of friends and family.

First-born FreeToBeP had an elaborate pagan blessing ceremony at 3 months old after a long, hard labour to get him out left us both exhausted rather than celebratory. I also felt, as a single mother, that it was important to see him surrounded by supportive people and to be accepted into a community. My biggest fear as a single mum is that of isolation.

Blessing Ceremony

FreeToBeZ (who was out in 4 pushes accompanied by beatific smiles) had a similar experience to FreeToBeL, thanks to FreeToBeP’s timely entrance into the same living room where FreeToBeL was delivered. As the second-born, it felt like FreeToBeZ was born into a family; albeit an immediate and local family of only of a mother and a 4-year-old brother, it was a family with an established network of supportive friends, and a father who wanted to be involved even if immigration law meant he couldn’t be.

So, an appropriate book for the moment is ‘Welcoming Babies’ by Margy Burns Knight. I read this with the kids both before and after FreeToBeL was born.

welcoming babies book cover

‘Welcoming Babies’ is an educational picture book which briefly describes many different ways in which babies are welcomed into the world depending on the country, culture and/or religion they’re born into. A double page of notes at the back of the book goes into greater detail about the customs and beliefs behind the ceremonies described. The full page illustrations are colourful, engaging and full of movement.

I found this a valuable book with regards to learning about global community; that whilst many things in our lives are determined by the country we grow up in or the religion of our family, babies – new human beings – are celebrated all the world over, recognised in a myriad of ways for the precious new instances of life that they are.

The importance of the rite of passage from womb to world is something that people of all nations and belief systems mark and respect. It also draws attention to the fact that – whatever one’s beliefs – we are all bound by ritual when it comes to birth and death.

My favourite ‘welcome’ of the book was the simple but symbolic Hopi greeting; regarding the dawn of a new day and the light of the sun rise as a fitting occasion and event for the blessing of a newborn child. This reflects the ‘elemental’ blessing ceremony that I wrote for FreeToBeP – honouring Mother Nature for the seemingly miraculous yet perfectly normal process that is creating new life, and recognising the symbols in the natural world that put the microcosm of our individual lives in balance with the macrocosm of the greater world and universe.

We borrowed ‘Welcoming Babies’ from our local library and, in my opinion, it is a really useful tool in the ‘teaching global citizenship’ toolbox. Many children can relate to the topic of new babies (indeed, it is a lovely book for introducing the issue of new siblings which bypasses the usual human biology and gets straight to the end result!), and it introduces concepts of religion, spirituality, community, family dynamics and culture without any of these complex subjects detracting from the main theme.

And thus, still in my baby moon, we continue with our own welcome:

The many occasions to express gratitude for being entrusted with the care and guidance of another human being, for the gifts and kindnesses of friends and family, for the smiles and love that surround the presence of a baby;

The protected time to exist in a bubble with few demands from the outside world and an invaluable opportunity to bond and to take joy in witnessing the newly established bonds of siblinghood;

The reminder to reflect on what is truly important in life, especially when it seemed like only yesterday that your first-born arrived and yet six and a half years have passed, and you live in the unsettling mix of guilt and hope that you have learnt from the errors you have so far made as a parent.

Thus a welcoming ceremony takes place each and every morning, where the light of each new day shines a light on the preciousness and precariousness of my children’s lives and I pledge to try my best to live our new family mantra . . .

Whatever the question, the answer is love.

 

How did you welcome your child(ren) into the world? Was a formal celebration an important way in which to mark the occasion? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with me.