I am waiting for Hurricane Irene as it makes its way up the eastern seaboard. It isn’t even close by yet, but it is already raining so hard that I can’t imagine where all the water will go. And will my birds, the ones who feed at my feeders every day, will they all be okay? I wish I could invite them in.
This morning, one of my clients, who happened to be one of my former midwifery students as well, hosted a first birthday celebration for her daughter. I have been to so many first birthday parties, almost as many as most of you have hairs on your head. Cake, cookies and balloons are generally a part of the festivities and presents wrapped in animal-print or Happy Birthday! paper or carried in various sized bags with brightly-colored tissue papers peeking out are often piled up on a table. These parties are always fun and sweet and it is often the first time that the person being honored has his/her first taste of ice cream even though he/she has absolutely no idea what all the festivities are about (You, Sweet Potato, you are 1 and this party is for you!).
Today’s birthday party was different. Christina and Mark decided not to have a traditional birthday party. Instead, they invited family and friends to a Blessing Ceremony for their daughter. On the invitation, it said that they had chosen to hold this kind of a “party” based on their wish that their daughter “will make the most of her life and help others to do so also.”
The invitation continues: With the guidance of the Peace Abbey [if you are ever in Massachusetts, please consider makig a visit there. It’s free and worth any effort it might take to get there — www.peaceabbey.org], our intention is to anoint Kaya as an “instrument of peace.”
The ceremony began at 11 this morning and was over by noon. It included music, prayers and poems, some of which were selected from all twelve of the world religions and some which were personally composed. Kaya’s wonderful parents wrote and recited a personal pledge to rear their daughter in ways of non-violence, conflict resolution and peace. Everyone was invited to participate in the service if and as they saw fit. It was a joyous and beautiful hour. Kaya herself was happy to look, but not touch, the candles that were lit in her honor and to play with the sunflower cards which had been passed out to everyone there which told us why her parents had chosen her name and the meaning of it in many different languages/countries.
Afterwards, there was a delicious light lunch consisting of salads and fruit that had been prepared by some of the people attending the ceremony – and, in keeping with the tenants of the Peace Abbey, it was vegetarian. Oh, if you don’t know how the Abbey saved Emily the cow, you MUST check out the article about that, “Profile in Cowrage” – it will touch the very shackles of your heart.
For many of the women all over the world who contact me after having had an unsatisfactory birth, or an unnecessary/preventable cesarean section, their baby’s first birthday doesn’t feel very celebratory. The anniversary of that day a year ago brings up memories of disappointment, upset and trauma. More than one – in fact dozens – of women have called me a week or two before their child’s first birthday in tears – wanting to feel excited and happy – but feeling extremely blue. Perhaps planning something different than a traditional birthday party would help to heal some of the sadness; by replacing the painful memories of that date with something meaningful and healing on the same date, a little bit of the birth-related-sorrow will subside. There are many other suggestions that can help when there has been a traumatic birth, but for today, I can only tell you that everyone walked out with as much of a full heart as they did full tummies.
Happy first birthday, Kaya! What a beautiful and blessed day this was for everyone. Thank you for being born.