We recently asked for stories from the bone closers in our community. We wanted to run a competition to celebrate our 200th member! We wanted their experiences of both giving and receiving. We had many marvellous entries and will be sharing the winning entries here over the coming weeks. Here is our first place winner Kal, talking about her experience, many years after childbirth.
My First Bone Closing
My four babies are now aged between 18 and 10. Not really babies any more. They all came into this world via Caesarian birth and like many other mothers I have locked away a fair bit of grief relating to my birth experiences.
Although my births did not pan out quite the way I would have liked, one wonderful outcome of those births was that I was nourished and cared for by the all the women in my family for a full 6 weeks after my babes were born. I was blessed to receive the kind of nurturing that all women deserve whist recovering from the rigours of pregnancy and birth. And the kind of nurturing that very few women receive in the UK. These experiences led me to train as a Breastfeeding Counsellor and then as a Postnatal Doula in a quest to offer women the level of support they need and deserve.
Not long after training as a postnatal doula I read about the Closing the Bones rituals. And what I read gave me goosebumps. Although it was years since my babies had been born I knew I wanted to experience this loving, powerful acknowledgement of all my body had given to my babies. Even after all this time I wondered if it might provide some healing from my birth experiences. On hearing this, a local doula offered to gift me the ceremony. She arranged for my bone closing to take place in a yurt where the local Red Tent group hold their monthly meetings. She turned down my offer of payment but invited me to make a donation towards the Red Tent instead. She invited another doula to work with her. I invited my sister.
The day arrived, shiny bright and sunny. My sister and I wound our way along the mossy, twisty Pembrokshire lanes and found ourselves at the yurt – snug, cosy and lovingly prepared by the doulas. The wood burner was throwing out heat and nettle tea was brewing in the pot. We sat sipping tea, chatting about acquaintances in common and the importance of women getting together in circles to share their “stuff”. In the centre of the yurt by the wood burner, oracle cards lay on a cloth. As we chatted my sister spontaneously pulled a card – “Nourishing” – which seemed pretty self-explanatory. I followed her lead and pulled “Synergy “ –the definition reading that things will happen in the way that they are meant to and will come to fruition within the fullness of time. I felt a surge of anticipation. I had kind of expected a sense of “Important Ceremony”. Instead it felt warm, comfortable and pleasantly every day.
With introductions and chat over, we stood in a circle and the doulas began smudging, using burning sage sticks. We went round in a circle each woman smudging the woman to her left as the doulas sang of sage, women’s wisdom, comfort and nourishment. I nipped for a pee outside (its important to be comfy) sheltered from the wind and any potential onlookers – although it was in the middle of nowhere – by the hanging branches of a large weeping willow. Returning to the yurt, I slipped into a cotton dressing gown I had brought. I lay down on cushions that were covered in blankets and soft scarves. Then I closed my eyes. My sister held her hands on my head. One of the doulas held onto my feet, giving me Reiki. The other doula massaged my belly and pelvic area with scented oils and gave me shiatsu.
Initially I found it really difficult to slow down my mind. My head was racing everywhere – remembering accounts I had read about Closing the Bones, waiting for my “profound” moment, wondering what I “ought” to feel. Would there be an outpouring of grief or relief? A sense of awakening? Would I feel overwhelmed? I was also trying to remember what was happening so I could take the massage away and share it with other women …… family members, my sister, postnatal clients. Suddenly I realised that my busy mind was stopping me from being fully present. Overthinking and blocking me from actually experiencing what was happening. I started focusing on what I was feeling in my body rather than what I ought to feel or what I might feel based on bits and bobs I had read and heard about the ceremony.
Everything slowed down as the doulas wrapped me in scarves, covered my eyes and began to rock me with the scarf that was holding my hips. I wondered if this was what it felt like to be in the womb. It felt right and comforting. Everything softened. Light and sound muffled. I’m not sure how long they rocked and held me. It could have been minutes. It could have been an eternity. In my mind’s eye I began to see flashes of the red and pink yoni bunting strung around the yurt. After some time one of the doulas placed her hands on my head and said “We honour these bones because ……..” The other doula and my sister placed their hands on my shoulders and my heart saying “We honour this heart because ……” They worked their way down my body honouring my ribcage, my chest, my pelvis, my knees , my ankles and my feet. Acknowledging and valuing all the things my body had done in nurturing my babies and all it continues to do when nurturing other women. Saying kind and loving words about who I am.
I had anticipated a release of grief about my births. Instead I felt overcome by hearing the kind and loving things being said about me. By hearing myself verbally valued and recognised. I was glad to have my sister there. It felt very intimate and personal to have someone so close to me also honouring me. A few shuddering breaths and I began to cry, tears being absorbed by the scarf around my eyes. I held back from sobbing and realised I do a lot of holding and sometimes find it hard to share my stuff. After working their way down my body the doulas and my sister began singing to me and soon I began to feel more peaceful. And a sense of acceptance that things were exactly the way they were meant to be. And then it was over. I unwrapped myself a little and turned on my side feeling spaced out and spent. The doulas busied themselves making more tea and chatting with my sister as I came back to the world around me. The conversation turned to how womblike and tomblike the ceremony had felt for all of us. How it had felt like a transition. How every ceremony felt different for the doulas who offered it. I found myself wishing I was still wrapped. The light was too bright, the sounds too loud. The air on my skin and the space around me felt shocking. I felt the loss of the tight scarves holding my body. I didn’t feel ready to be let go of, or to come out of my cocoon. I said this and the doulas re wrapped me. I was glad to be back in the scarves with muffled conversation going on around me.
Back in the scarves I pondered my own birth. My mum had been induced. I had been a forceps delivery. Pulled out before I was ready? Or stuck? Or both? I wondered about the emotional impact of being born before I was ready. Of getting stuck. I wondered if there was any research or thoughts on how our own birth impacts our lives – unconscious memories stored somewhere deep in our brains. And I pondered the impact of caesarean births on my babies – but with a feeling of compassion and acceptance rather than grief or judgement.
The doulas asked if they could take pictures to share in the local Positive Birth Group and we all chuckled at how helpful it was that I had asked to be re wrapped. Later I wriggled out of my cocoon in my own time. I still felt rather spaced out and a little tearful. My sister came to lie next to me, curled up around me and held me for a short time. Not long but long enough. When I felt ready we went outside wrapped in blankets to share lunch and I came quietly back to reality. I spent the rest of the afternoon with my sister as she pottered around her house, fed and watered me and wove baskets. I stayed in a warm reflective state all day.
Once home, each time I found myself alone I felt quiet, peaceful and nourished. During the night I woke in the small hours feeling intense cramping in my womb – strong period like pains. In the darkness and half sleep I felt lost and uncertain of what to do, a strange sense of unease which seemed odd. I took a few calming breaths and I told myself it wasn’t as if I hadn’t woken in the night with period pains before. I knew what to do. And I experienced an overwhelming sense that I was in a time of transition. That “all” I needed to do was to give birth to myself as a doula. It was time to stop worrying about outcomes and not being good enough. Time to value myself. My feeling of fear was replaced by the realisation that although this seemed scary, only I could do it. Nobody else could do it for me and that I was capable. With those thoughts I started focusing on my breath instead of the cramps and shortly fell back to sleep. I woke the next morning knowing that I needed to learn how to share this powerful, profound yet every day holding and nurturing with other women.
To find out more about Kal, see her facebook page