by Lisa Berman, Mikveh and Education Director
When I have occasion to mention to people that I work at a mikveh and also happen to be a birth doula (a trained labor and childbirth support person), some of them chuckle and say, “You certainly are drawn to individuals in transition.” And they’re right. I am someone who, in the face of others’ emotions, feels a sense of calm strength; my senses are heightened and I feel eminently present and ready to serve and support.
Last Sunday morning at 4:00am I received The Call from my most recent doula client. I drove alongside the sunrise to meet her at the hospital. Less than five hours after our arrival, a beautiful baby girl made the ultimate transition from womb to world. During those five hours of labor, mom-to-be Andi was never alone. She and her husband’s silhouettes could be seen down the long hall, walking slowly, pausing often. They would return to her room and now as a trio we would confer and stretch, stroke and breathe. A nurse would join the gathering, saying “Slow, slow” and we would all inhale deeply in unison. As the intensity of the journey grew, so would our numbers, with Andi surrounded by midwife, doula, nurse and husband. And yet, as the gathering grew, Andi’s visible connection to us diminished as she withdrew into her own world to manage the powerful experience, eyes closed, arms stretched out to clasp the nearest helper.
Is this not the role of our mikveh guides and the waters we provide? To allow a person to move from a state of awareness, consciousness, of thinking and talking about details and process – to a state of visceral, liminal being that is achieved through a belief that one is fully and completely supported in every possible way? That one is safe – safe enough to close one’s eyes and sink under the waters — even at the peak, most intense moment of an experience. And when we close our eyes and go there, to that place where we cannot stay and live – under the waters, face to face with our deepest emotions, on the brink of birth – what is our release? It is the return to this world, breaking the surface of the waters, face-first, eyes closed, water streaming, followed by the rush of air filling the lungs, adding to the buoyancy that reminds us that we are of this earthly, air-filled world. Just like that newborn baby girl this past Sunday morning.
Mayyim Hayyim offers a number of Ceremonies for Immersion related to fertility and child-bearing, including Preparing for Conception, Ninth Month of Pregnancy, After Giving Birth, Mourning a Miscarriage, and During a Time of Infertility.
Lisa Berman is the Mikveh and Education Director at Mayyim Hayyim, ensuring that all immersions are facilitated with dignity, respect and modesty, and supervising the Paula Brody & Family Education Center.