Brittany was kind enough to share her insightful talk given at her daughter’s recent baptismal service. We have blogged about the connection between baptism and birth before but I love how she connected each element together in her thoughts. I am looking forward to my son’s baptism in a few weeks so this talk was so timely for me. Thank you Brittany! —-Robyn
Eight years ago, you were born. That day was a special day. Today is another special day, because it is the day of your rebirth. In John chapter 3, Jesus taught that everyone must be born again, born of water, which is baptism, and born of the Spirit, which is receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
On the day of your birth, you started a new life. Today when you are reborn, you will start a new life as a covenant follower of Christ. In Romans 6, we learn that baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when you go under the water the rebellious natural woman in you symbolically dies along with Jesus. Then you come up out of the water symbolizes Christ’s resurrection, which gives us new spiritual life today and someday, our own resurrection.
On the day you were born, you became part of our family. Today, you will become part of Christ’s family, which is His Church. In Mosiah 5:7, it says that when you are baptized, you become a Child of Christ because “your heart has been changed through faith on his name.”
When you became part of our family, we named you, and we gave you the same last name as us to show that we were family. Because you will now be part of Jesus’ family, you also take upon yourself His name, and will be called a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In Mosiah 18, the people Alma taught were ready to be baptized, and they were a lot like you, he saw they had faith in Jesus Christ, were willing to love their neighbors and willing stand as witnesses of God–they were ready to join Jesus’ Church family. So, like you, they were ready to promise to serve Heavenly Father and keep His commandments. When you are baptized, He promises to give you His Spirit and eternal life. The great part is, that these same promises are also part of the sacrament, so every week, even when you make mistakes, if you keep your heart open to change and following Christ, taking the sacrament is like getting baptized all over again.
I’m so proud of you for your choice to be reborn, to make covenants, and to become part of Christ’s Church family. I say this in the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.
But this morning I felt impressed to write about something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, and I’m not really sure why it has taken me so long to get around to it. What I want to talk about touches on some statements made by a couple of speakers last weekend:
Nothing relative to our time on earth can be more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth, the two prerequisites of eternal life. –D. Todd Christofferson
To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being “born again; yea, born of God.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf
During my senior year at BYU (2002, holy cow that was thirteen years ago), I completed an internship as a managing editor for an on-campus student journal Studia Antiqua. The journal was the brain-child of Matthew Grey, who was a student and editor-in-chief, and was supervised by S. Kent Brown, director of Ancient Studies at BYU. As part of my “training,” Matt gave me copies of the journal’s first issue, published before I joined the team. I still have my copy of that issue and treasure it. Truthfully, I only really treasure the last article in the issue, containing information I wished I had known before I attended the Provo temple to receive my endowment the previous year. The article I’m referring to is called “Becoming as a Little Child: Elements of Ritual Rebirth in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,” by our editor-in-chief, Matthew Grey, now known as Dr. Grey, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU.
As D. Todd Christofferson reiterated in conference, God has commanded us to teach our children what it means to be reborn and all of the symbolism involved in it. Until I became acquainted with Matthew Grey’s Studia Antiqua article about ritual rebirth, I didn’t realize that baptism wasn’t the only rebirth ritual we participate in as members of the Church. In ancient Israel there were specific acts performed each time a child was born. Matthew Grey outlined these in his research. These include: 1) a washing with water, 2) an anointing with oil, 3) clothing in a garment, and 4) receiving a name.
Matthew Grey shared excerpts from Ezekiel 16, where the Lord spoke to the people of their original “birth” and the elements that were missing: “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all” (vs. 4). Then the Lord described how they had been “birthed” of Him through their covenants with Him and how He had provided the important birth rituals they originally lacked: “Then washed I thee with water; yea I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work” (vs. 8-10).
The scriptures outline a similar ritual rebirth process for High Priests before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement each year. At the door of the temple, a priest would be washed with water, anointed with oil, and clothed with sacred attire. This sacred attire included a cap/mitre, also translatable as “turban” (Mitsnepheth in the Hebrew) or “crown” as described by Myers in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (see footnote 35 in Matthew Grey’s article). Following the washing, anointing, crowning and clothing, the priest was consecrated to the service of God with the the Divine Name inscribed on a plate of gold fitted on his head: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36-38).
Referring specifically to the anointing aspect of these rituals, Matthew Grey explains: “In most cases, the act of ritual anointing serves to empower or enable the person to do what he was made worthy to do through the washing. In its most common application, anointing with oil was used in the coronation of a king or in the consecration of a priest” (p. 68).
These words from an Ensign article (published two months before I was born) seem particularly pertinent: “In the temple men are prepared for their roles as kings and priests, and women are prepared to become queens and priestesses” (Carolyn J. Rasmus, “Mormon Women: A Convert’s Perspective“). President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive . . . authority and power as queens and priestesses” (Daughters in my Kingdom).
Nothing is more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth Elder Christofferson told us. Our mothers have given us the gift of birth and our first naming. Christ gave us the gift of rebirth through baptism and offered us His name. We may experience other rebirths in our journey upward, but none is more sacred than the rebirth our Heavenly Parents offer to us: a rebirth as kings and queens, priests and priestesses, and the sacred naming given only to those who have overcome the world:
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written , which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Revelation 2:17).
Perhaps the essential purpose of all relationships is to create the laboratory in which we uncover our own divine nature and encourage theirs. -M. Catherine Thomas
In perusing the journal I wrote during my first pregnancy, I chuckled to myself when I stumbled upon these words (written September 10, 2003, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth):
Sometimes I almost wish for a trial or challenge to come so that I can be refined by its fire. . . . I almost hope that motherhood will be a challenge—Well, I know that it will be a great challenge. But I hope I will look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow every day. Because I do want so much to develop and become a better, more loving and more Christ-like person.
The very next entry wasn’t until two months later, November 21. I wrote this:
I said last time I wrote that I sort of wished for a trial to come. Well, it certainly came. The first few days and weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult of my life. I didn’t get any real sleep until after we came home from the hospital—which was two days after her birth. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the new role of mother. I was having difficulty breastfeeding—which made everything more difficult. . . . Plus I was trying to recover from childbirth (which left me with multiple tears and lots of pain). It was hard for me to do virtually anything because it hurt to move.
The remaining pages of that journal include a lot of venting about the challenges of caring for a very high-needs baby (who turned into a wonderful young lady, by the way). She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat well, she wanted to be held constantly, etc. etc. In June of 2004, I wrote down a passage from a book that helped me put things into perspective: “One of the greatest surprises, and greatest joys, comes as you realize that those have-to’s in your life actually got you where you wanted to be all along” (Emily Watts, Being the Mom). Indeed they have. My four children, and all the have-to’s that come with them, have done exactly what I hoped for as a soon-to-be mother: they have made me into a “better, more loving and more Christ-like person.”
Back in February I started Kundalini Yoga teacher training, so naturally I’ve got yoga on the brain. What is yoga? Here’s how Yogi Bhajan describes it:
Yoga is essentially a relationship. Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This originated from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean “to join together,” or “to unite.” Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has totally leaned on the Supreme Consciousness, which is God, until he or she has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self. That is all it means (The Aquarian Teacher, p. 14).
So the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. How do we unite with God?
Last weekend in teacher training, our instructor said: “Confront your ego/shadow self until you get to I am, I Am.” After saying this, she shared a story about her early years as a yogi in Brooklyn, NY, living in the ashram. Every morning before sunrise, she went to group sadhana [daily yoga/meditation practice]. She had grown up as an only child, so it was quite an experience being with all of those people. She said that life in the ashram was: constantly having people pushing your buttons, triggering your stuff. As she said those words, I thought: sounds like a family. Isn’t that why God gave us families? To help us confront our egos, our shadow selves, until we get to I Am?
Byron Katie has said:
The people we most need are the people we’re living with now. Again and again, they will show us the truth we don’t want to see, until we see it. Our parents, our children, our spouses and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves yet (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 165).
And Richard Rohr has said:
So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot or track our shadow self. They [others] are our necessary mirrors (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, The Godseed, p. 168).
Yogi Bhajan called marriage between a man and woman the highest yoga: “Male and female make a union and this complete union is the greatest yoga” (The Master’s Touch, p. 138). Indeed, marriage provides ample opportunities for confronting our shadow selves, refining our behavior, and drawing closer to God. Perhaps it’s because I married a very kind, easy-to-live-with guy, but marriage hasn’t been my highest yoga. For me, it has been the yoga of motherhood that has tested and refined me most of all.
Yogi Bhajan taught that it was the job of a yoga teacher to “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate.” If that is the case, no one has been a greater teacher to me than my children. No spiritual practice has done more to purify my soul than motherhood. Yogi Bhajan said: “The ocean is a very calm thing, but when the winds are heavy and high, then it’s very choppy. The wind represents your ego—the higher the ego, the choppier is a person’s life.” Clearly I came to this world with a whole lot of ego to process through. My teachers have had quite a job to do, and they have done it very well.
Being a mother has required more discipline, patience, endurance, sacrifice, strength, selflessness, service, intuition, love, and reliance upon God than anything I have ever done. Mothers partner with God in a way that no one else can. I put this slideshow together as a tribute to the divine yoga of motherhood.
One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”
True. Dogs are lovely companions. But we’re in this life to be refined into godliness. Yoga is the “sacred science of god-realization.” I thank heaven for my four excellent yoga teachers who “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate” me daily.
Faith In God, My Gospel Standards, and The Gift of Giving Life
“That they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”
I was recently released from serving in Young Women. My new calling is to teach the Valiant 10/11 year old girls. In addition to that I am also their Activity Day leader. I have been studying the Faith in God program with new eyes, looking for ways in which it prepares a girl (or boy) to give life.
The entire purpose of the Faith in God program is that each girl and boy of the age of accountability is set on a path that will bring them to know God and Jesus Christ.
The program is split into four sections: “Learning and Living the Gospel,” “Serving Others,” “Developing Talents,” and “Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.”
All of the requirements are identical for a boy and girl until you reach the section on Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood. The choice of scriptures for these sections is not a coincidence:
For the soon to be Young Women: “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” D&C 87:8.
And for the soon to be Young Men: “The Priesthood of Aaron . . . is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances” D&C 107:13-14.
Did anyone else catch the significance of comparing these two scriptures next to each other? These young priesthood holders administer in “outward ordinances,” which begs the question, what about the “inward ordinances?” Inward ordinances happen inside a holy temple, in “holy places.” There are the washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings we have all been taught about that take place in holy temple buildings. But we are also told that our body is a temple. If you have read Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” you are aware of some of these inward ordinances: intimacy, conception, pregnancy and birth. I would add to that list, menstruation and lactation. These girls are preparing to shed blood as did the Savior. They are a holy place where ordinance work will take place beginning with menstruation and continuing through other the other inward ordinances.
As our girls become young women we must teach them the sacredness of their bodies and that they are places of holy ordinance work symbolizing the mission of our Savior. (Boys need to be taught their bodies are sacred too. This could be a whole other post. I’m just concentrating on the role of girls preparing to be young women.) The point I am trying to make is that if we do not teach them what that means they will be confused as to why and how to express the power they hold within them. Why be modest? Why avoid harmful substances? Why keep the Gospel Standards?
It is easy to misunderstand the importance of inward ordinances. It is easier to understand outward ordinances and their significance because of their apparent visibility but that does not mean they are more important than inward ordinances. The fact that inward ordinances are so misunderstood speaks to how sacred they truly are.
As a girl becomes a woman she experiences changes in her body that are symbolic of the Savior’s life giving properties. Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life. The curves she develops give her body the strength and shape to carry life within her and bring it into this world. Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life. Her breasts grow so that they may eventually be filled with living water to nourish her baby just as the Savior’s living water is meant to nourish us. Her body begins to ovulate and shed blood as did the Christ. Whether inward or outward we should always, ask ourselves, “in what way does this ordinance testify of Christ and His Atonement?”
Each of the sections within the Faith in God program is preparatory to coming to know God and Jesus Christ. In order to truly know God we become like our Heavenly Parents. Part of that is reverencing inward ordinances. We must help our boys and girls keep baptismal covenants, learn and live the gospel, serve others, develop talents, and prepare for more ordinance work in the young women and priesthood programs.
How do we help our boys and girls understand inward and outward ordinances?
Utilize A Parent’s Guide. It is a manual by the church for parents to help with teaching our children about their bodies and intimacy according to their understanding and age.
Participate in Faith in God. Attend scouting or activity days.
Celebrate and teach them about the inward ordinances. Consider a coming of age party for your daughter as she nears puberty.
Put together a special binder/book of information for your daughter about the changes she will experience.
Attend the new General Women’s Meetings with your daughters (or boys the General Priesthood Meeting with their fathers). It seems God has much in store for our girls and we must be ready to help them understand what is coming. Study both the Women’s and Priesthood sessions. Teach your daughters and sons what was discussed at both.
Listen for those informal, spontaneous moments when you can talk about these topics and bear testimony of their significance. Don’t have this conversation just once. Leave the lines of communication open for questions.
Go on “dates” with your child. They need not be extravagant, they just involve one on one time.
Be aware of how you talk about your body, motherhood, and fatherhood, etc. Our children tend to mirror our insecurities.
I have already been learning a great deal from these powerful girls who are on the cusp of becoming women. They are smart. I have to prepare for their lessons studying not only the primary manual but the adult Sunday school lesson as well. Their questions are thoughtful and reflective. I feel a great responsibility to give them what matters most. I seek the spirit every week as I prepare to teach them.
I would love to learn from you. What have you done to teach your children or primary kids the significance of inward and outward ordinances?
Last week I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my birth into motherhood. It kind of boggles my mind that I’ve been a mother for a decade. It also boggles my mind that this baby…
…just had her 10th birthday. Double digits?!
For the past couple of years, I’ve been pondering what I want to do to help her prepare as she nears the milestone of menarche. Over the years I’ve taught her little by little (through casual conversations) about her body, her reproductive organs, how they work, what will happen when she starts to bleed, how babies are made, etc. Being the daughter of a birth junkie has its perks! She knows more about women’s bodies than most girls her age, I’d wager, and certainly more than I ever knew before I reached menarche.
I wrote a bit about my own journey into the world of menstruation and my hopes for my daughters in my post “Red and Powerful” HERE. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted my daughters’ experiences to be more positive than mine was. So a month or two ago I started creating a book for my daughter.
It’s not so much a book about periods or vaginas. It’s a book that I hope will prepare her to be an empowered and courageous young woman with profound respect for her body and the beautiful things her body can do.
It includes seven rainbow-color-coded sections (coordinated with the seven chakras) with values I hope my daughters will develop. The values may sound familiar to some of you…
Choice & Accountability
Faith & Knowledge
Divine Nature (white)
With each section, I have given my daughter a…
Value and color
Description/definition of what the value means to me
Woman from the scriptures who exemplified the value (most of the text taken from Heather’s blog)
(For those who are familiar with the LDS Young Women Values, in most cases the colors, symbols, scriptures, and descriptions I’ve chosen are different from those used in the Young Women Personal Progress program. I won’t go into all the reasons I did this, but I think this book will help my daughter to become familiar with the values and prime her for the Young Women’s program.)
Interspersed I have also included some poems I wrote about Eve and menstruation. At the end of the book I included a revised version of my “Red and Powerful” essay, diagrams of the menstrual cycle, and a print-out explaining the various menstrual product options so she can start thinking about which type she wants to start with. In addition to the binder/book, I am giving her a c.d. with all of the songs/mantras for each value on it. And I made her a charm bracelet containing charms of each symbol and the coordinating colors.
My plan is to sit down with my daughter and go through each section of the book together a bit at a time (over the next several months) so we can discuss the topics and so she can ask any questions she may have. I think it will be a special bonding time for us, and by the time we get to the end of the book, my hope is that she will feel confident and prepared to face the coming adolescent milestones with grace and joy. Maybe she’ll still be awkward, embarrassed, and moody. Maybe that’s inevitable? But a mom can hope for the best, right?
If you’d like to do something similar for your daughter(s), I’m happy to share what I put together. Let me know in a comment below, and I’ll email you my file(s) and sources so you can make it your own.
What is a red party? No, I’m not referring to a tailgate party for Utah fans. It is a celebration in honor of menarche, or the onset of a young woman’s period. You can read a little bit more about that in Lani’s post, Red and Powerful. One of our readers was willing to share with us how she prepared her daughter for coming of age and how they celebrated it together. She asked that I not share her name in honoring her daughter’s privacy. – Robyn
“I remember when I started my period. Luckily, it was during Christmas break. No embarrassing event at school marked by red thankfully. But I was still horrified. I thought I would start when I was 15, like my mother. But there it was, right before my thirteenth birthday. I told my mother who reacted so positively. She gave me a hug and asked me if I wanted to tell my dad or if she could tell him. I was so distraught I blurted out, “you better not tell dad and I’m not telling him either.” She helped me navigate the world of pads, tampons, and cramps. Looking back, I’m grateful I had a mother that I could go to and who was happy for me. In her own way she helped me embrace something I didn’t understand.
Fast forward many periods later. My daughter was trying to grow into her body. I could tell how uncomfortable it felt to her for it to change. I knew that within the next couple years she would likely begin her period. I wanted her to embrace this essence of her womanhood and not be horrified by it. I wanted her to feel how wonderful it is to be a woman. I ran across blog posts on the subject and determined to have a fancy little red party for her when the day came. Throughout those few years we talked about periods and how she would recognize it. I attended her maturation class at school with her. We talked more. We even discussed the symbolism of shedding blood, the Atonement, the Savior, and the gift of giving life. We talked about pads, cramps, and the realities of mensturation. We made sure she had a stash of supplies. I told her we would have her own red party someday. She was ready to go.
So when the time came, I was grateful that she felt comfortable enough to come to me. I hugged her like my mother did me. I was excited for her like my mother was for me. She didn’t act horrified but not exactly excited either. I was looking forward to inviting other significant women/girls to her red party. I was ready to plan a fantastic little red party. Only, I had forgotten one important factor, it was her party. She didn’t want some sort of big celebration or even a medium one. She wanted it her way without a lot of to do. I had envisioned decorating the house in red, making a red velvet cake with other decadent red treats and giving her a beautiful red dress all while surrounded by significant women in her life giving her their love, wisdom and support. As I talked over my plans with her she quickly stopped me, ‘no red dress mom!’ Of course, I should have known that. She was never a sparkly pink bedazzled kind of girl, of course a red dress and big froofy party would not be her thing. And most of our family lives far away so when her favorite aunt was visiting we opted for her favorite pizza place and carefully navigated the essential womanly topics related to puberty, sex, and boys. Instead of a red dress, I found her a red shirt with her favorite sports team. It was the perfect red party because it was perfect for her.”
I’m grateful that this mother would share this experience. I have four young daughters myself and know that I will soon be trying to help them navigate through the changes of womanhood. I think what I take away from the story above is that it really is about planning an event that is comfortable to your daughter. Here are a few more ideas you can suggest to your daughter when planning it together.
Who do you want to invite? Your daughter should only have people there she feels close and comfortable with discussing this passage. That likely means a smaller list of women in the family or close friendships.
Where do you want to celebrate? At home, at a favorite restaurant, at a park, grandma’s house? It is good to have privacy if you think she would be embarrassed by the theme of the party.
How do you want to celebrate it? Your event might be small and intimate like in the story above or a larger gathering of women. It can be informal or formal. It can be nice to assign a matriarch that she looks up to give a short talk about womanhood offering advice. Another idea would be for it to be like a mother blessing with each guest bringing a wish and bead for your daughter to be shared at the party. Lani’s post suggests wearing red to the party and making a quilt or red dress together. You can also present her with a special scrapbook, read poems, and even share scriptures. Maybe she would prefer a more fun approach with a game like pin the pad on the panties blindfolded. Even better, make it a mixture of both. What kinds of things does she like to do? How can you tie that in? One of my friends and her daughter enjoy letterboxing so they plan to make a letterbox stop with a special stamp as part of their celebration.
This is just the beginning. Hopefully, her red party is just one of the times in which you discuss this kind of stuff. The door opens at this rite of passage and should continue to be open as she comes to you with her ups and downs, hopes and dreams, and questions and answers.
I would love to hear how you or someone you know celebrated this rite of passage with their daughter. Please share in the comments below.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about preparing my oldest daughter for menstruation and puberty. She will be turning ten next month, so I know these milestones are quickly approaching us. This past week I started compiling a book I intend to give her for her birthday in September. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning several nights ago, planning and writing. I can’t wait to share the book with her.
Included in her book will be some poetry. I’d like to share some of those short poems with you. “The Fall” and “Sacrifice” I wrote earlier this week. “Menarche” I wrote tonight. It was inspired, in part, by my visit to the temple today. I was able to see the new endowment film, and (as friends had told me I would) I loved the portrayal of Eve.
Dear First Parents, I honor you. Your courage is awe-inspiring.
By Lani Axman
She fell from Eden-womb,
All the temples on Earth
Would be built,
Pulsing through her
Waiting to be sung,
Whispered in the language
Of her Mother.
When the first blood appeared,
Did you scream,
Fearing that you would surely die,
That the fruit had opened your eyes
Only to close them for good?
Or did a familiar whisper
Call to you,
Embrace you with
Love, made audible:
“Fear not, Eve,
For I bring you tidings of great joy:
The Mother of All Living
By Lani Axman
Adam spills blood
On holy altars
Where lambs and doves
Bleed hope of reconciliation
Again and again.
And he waits.
Eve spills blood
From the temple
Of her womb,
Where life and death
Mingle in sacrifice
Again and again.
And she waits.
When Phoebe was 18 months old I realized that I still had her placenta in my freezer. I had just started to date (I was a single mom through most of my pregnancy), and a boyfriend found the placenta box and asked, “What’s this?” That’s when I realized it was time to do something with it.
I had always planned on burying it under a tree, but I wondered if there was some sort of ceremony I could perform. With a little help from Google I found that yes, this type of thing is well written up. So I found a template and made up my own ceremony from that. As I am preparing to move, I found the papers I wrote for the ceremony.
The whole point of the placenta burying ceremony is that it is a strong way of “closure” to the time of immersion mothering right after a birth. It can be done on it’s own or in conjunction with some milestone, such as a blessing, first birthday, return of menstruation, etc. Though I thought 18 months was a long time to keep it in the freezer, I think I did it at just the right time for us.
So here is the outline and some of the words from my ceremony.
1) First I prepared the place I would bury the placenta. I brought a candle, the placenta, a cup with some red juice and some bread.
2) I poured the juice in the cup, lit the candle and held Phoebe and told her the story of her birth. [Tell your child their birth story including any unresolved feelings. Express those.]
[If the birth was in any way traumatic for you or your baby, make sure you have a support person there with you through the process and look for other resources on line to make a part of your ceremony.]
Here is a small excerpt from my words to Phoebe:
Phoebe [or insert your child’s name] I’m going to tell you the story of your birth. [insert your story] “On the day you were born I was so anxious to meet you…. I got in the birth tub and labored. We called Ken Carabello to give me a blessing, then Davi made me walk for an hour…I kept saying is she here yet? Then when it was time for you to be born auntie Lisa came and I breathed you down, but you were having a hard time, so after a while Davi said we should go to the hospital, so we drove fast… and you were born 20 minutes later at 3:19pm. You were tired. You nursed right away through and snuggled up with me. We went home and you didn’t leave my side the whole time… I was sad about…. But I was so happy that you got here safe and beautifully. You were born naturally and without any drugs and we were both empowered by the whole experience. For a long time afterwards I felt like I could do anything.
And I didn’t like to go anywhere without you. I wanted everyone to know that I had a baby! And I wanted respect. For a long time everyone does help you and give you reverence and respect. But then you get wrapped up in being a mom and life just becomes normal. But it’s important that we don’t forget what a miracle you are and how you got here.
3) At this ceremony when we are about to bury the placenta is a time to heal from all of the things that were unresolved and let go of things. [make eye contact with child]
-We are letting go of the organ that held us together and nourished you.
-For 18 months now you have been nourished from my breasts,
-As you grow and become independent, you will be nurtured by the Earth Mother, God, and your Heavenly Mother.
-Just like the earth is going to nourish this tree.
4) Next we buried the placenta and tree. We ate a little of the food and juice.
[Name and celebrate the ways in which your experience of being this child’s mother has enriched you and made you stronger.]
Today I am celebrating being a mother:
The joy you have brought me
all the friendships
The closeness with our heavenly father, who is the preisethood holder in our home.
The whole pregnancy, birth, and mothering experience has made me so strong. I can do anything, and it’s all because of you.
5) Then I mixed some juice with the soil and put it on her bellybutton and said:
You will always be my baby. But motherhood is a journey and the end goal is surrender. I have to raise you to leave me and become independent. So with the burial of this placenta I now release you to grow into the person you were born to be, setting aside my own fears and expectations that I may have for you.
Although I hope that you can always rely on me, like the Mother Earth for Life long nurturing, I wish you never cease to grow in strength, love, wisdom, gratitude, your whole life and into the eternities.
6) Then I used the juice/mud to draw a heart around my own belly button and said:
I bless my womb and reclaim it as a private place belonging only to me. I am moving forward with creative projects like my pregnancy/birth book and a novel.” [Bless and thank and reclaim your women and celebrate your creativity: name any creative projects you are working on.]
Next I got out some lip gloss and put it on to symbolize the return of my sex appeal and interest in sex.
I would like to close by declaring my willingness to conceive again and my openness to all the love that the universe has to offer me.
Next, I poured the rest of the juice onto the earth and scattered the bread crumbs for the birds.
If you want to have your own placenta burying ceremony. You can search the net for ideas or copy this outline and insert your own words. I invited a close friend to video tape it and help me with Phoebe. The dwarf mandarine tree we planted is still thriving.
Recently, I started reading Windows to the Womb by David Chamberlain. As I read his beautiful description of the conception process, I couldn’t help but recognize some familiar archetypes and symbols within it. I found it so beautiful that, once again, the words of the family proclamation rang true: “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed.” The journey that brings the seed of a man and the seed of a woman together as one flesh is sacred and symbolic of the divine missions of men and women on this earth.
As Heather has so beautifully outlined in her “Two Veils” essay in our book (along with other LDS writers), the primary mission of women is to bring premortal spirits through the first veil (by partaking of the first tree), opening the pathway into the progression provided by mortal life and separation from God. Likewise, the primary mission of men here in mortality is to guide us to partake of the second tree (the tree of life) and to pass through the second veil which brings us to eternal life and reunion with God.
Lehi described the mission of fathers and the journey to the tree of life this way:
And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit. (1 Nephi 8:8-12)
He also described the other souls journeying toward the tree of life:
And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost. (vs. 20-23)
The path Lehi (and others) walked to fulfill his divine mission sounds very much like the path taken by the millions of sperm entering a woman’s body in their effort to fulfill the measure of their creation.
David Chamberlain describes their difficult journey this way:
The epochal journey of sperm, once launched, stretches . . . from vagina to uterus to fallopian tubes. . . . Along that pathway sperm will face both barriers and blessings. . . . Only strong sperm can negotiate these narrow straits. Beyond the cervix, the uterus contains endless folds and recesses in which a sperm can become hopelessly lost. Weak or imperfect sperm tire and drop from the race. . . . Along this rigorous course in foreign territory, sperm are expected, perfected, and screened! The trip may take hours or days and require as many as twenty thousand tail strokes. (p. 18-19)
Just as Lehi took a dark and difficult journey along a strait and narrow course with mists of darkness and many dangers threatening to tempt him off the path, the sperm entering a woman’s body must also traverse a narrow course through inhospitable terrain. These numberless concourses can also become lost in strange roads as they seek the “most desirable fruit” of the ripe ovum waiting for them at the end of their journey. Though the analogy is not perfect, I found the similarities beautiful and meaningful.
The ovum’s journey to that point is also beautifully symbolic. I particularly love this part: “Within the ovaries, a group of nurse cells surrounds female germ cells. Collectively they form a follicle that embraces a developing egg cell . . . and turns it into a nearly ripe ovum” (Chamberlain, Windows to the Womb, p. 20).
What a beautiful object lesson. Just as the ovum is embraced, prepared, and ripened by a group of tender caregiving cells, ideally a young girl is embraced by a group of loving women who tenderly prepare her and assist her as she matures toward the threshold of motherhood. I rejoice when I see a new mother receiving this kind of sisterhood preparing her to partake of the first tree–as did Eve–and fulfill her mission to bring children through her body (the first veil) from premortal to mortal life.
If you view the conception process through the lens of the two trees and the two veils, the ovum within a woman’s body can be recognized as symbolic of both of the trees. The ovum is the fruit of the tree of life for the sperm seeking that most desirable above all other fruits. And the ovum is the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for the daughters of Eve who beckon for the sons of Adam to partake and thereby become one with them.
David Chamberlain writes: “Generation after human generation, we have been participating in this passionate reproductive drama . . . based on largely invisible and unexplainable physical processes–and with scarcely a conscious thought of what it might have been like for us to enter, dwell, and exit that incomparable inner sanctum” (p. 2). In our modern world, we have the rare opportunity to see photographs and ultrasounds of the procreative process. We know more about how life is formed than any generation before us. And the more I study and ponder that procreative process, the more awe and reverence I feel for it, all the way from preconception to postpartum. The entire process is sacred, symbolic, and stunningly beautiful in every detail. What an honor to be among those given the gift of housing within my body that “incomparable inner sanctum” where the entire creation of human souls occurs. What a gift.
My oldest daughter is eight years old. For the past several months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the rite of passage she will soon be passing through as she leaves her girlhood body behind and transforms into a woman.
For me, that transformation was frightening. The only place where anyone talked to me about puberty was at school. The only peer I knew of who had experienced “it” herself was an awkward girl people made fun of. I wasn’t eager to follow her footsteps.
When I started to bleed the summer before I turned thirteen, my whole heart and soul cried, “No!” I was horrified. I felt like my body was dragging me forward into a future I wasn’t ready to embrace. But there was no turning back. I was now one of them whether I wanted to be or not. And my attitude toward my monthly cycle for the next decade+ was a reflection of that shame.
I kept my new status a secret from everyone but my best friend for several days. Finally, after much fearful stalling, I broke down in tears and told my stepmother I was bleeding. She held me while I cried and told me about when her period had started. She had been in the shower when blood started coming out of her. She screamed because she thought she was dying.
Horror. Shame. Crying. Screaming. “No!”
I refuse to let this menstrual legacy continue. I want my daughters’ experience of crossing that threshold from girl to woman to be everything it wasn’t for me but should have been. Triumphant. Celebratory. Joyful. Peaceful.
Blood is loaded with meaning in the scriptures. It is life. It is death. The middle of each cycle demonstrates the body’s deep investment in the continuation of life. Sometimes that investment continues for nine months. Sometimes that potential for life passes away, and the body cradles that fallen egg in a brief embrace before letting it go to make way for new life again.
Several months ago, we took a road trip north to Prescott, AZ, and hiked Thumb Butte, enjoying the cool air so foreign to us at that time of year. As we hiked, we encountered many prickly pear cactuses and prickly pears strewn on the path below them. One of those prickly pears was stepped on while we trudged along, and we were all able to see, for the first time, what the inside of a prickly pear looks like. When a prickly pear bursts open, hundreds of plump crimson seeds spring forth from its cracks. Seeing this stunning display for the first time was powerful for me. The only way for that mature prickly pear to reach its glorious potential is to leave its “mother” (and its girlhood) behind and be willing to face “death” to allow those hundreds of potential lives to spring forth, in the process opening the gateway for endless potential rebirth.
So much of what happens to and through our bodies, as women, is a strange mixture of the life/death dichotomy. When I think of this dichotomy, I think of Eve. I personally believe, as she crossed the threshold from Eden to Earth life, she too began to bleed for the first time. She broke through that red “caution tape,” bringing life and death simultaneously. And it was good:
And Eve . . . was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5:11)
When my daughters cross their thresholds, I want them to be glad, like Eve. I want them to rejoice. I want them to feel honored to follow in the footsteps of the women who have come before them. The path of womanhood (and the womanly cycle) is certainly a balance of sorrow and joy, life and death, pleasure and pain, but I want them to move forward into that future confident in their ability to weather those highs and lows with grace, surrounded by support from the people who love them. I want them to hear from their female elders:
You are no longer a girl. You are a woman. Welcome. You are strong. You are brave. You can do hard things. Impossible things. Beautiful things. Magnificent things. Powerful things. Rejoice!
Robyn has written a beautiful essay in our book about mother-centered baby showers or “mother blessing” celebrations. These are special events where soon-to-be mothers can be surrounded by love and support as they prepare to give birth. I would like to have a similar type of celebration for my daughters as they experience the menstrual rite of passage. When my father served as a missionary in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama, he witnessed many such celebrations. There is no grander celebration among the Kuna people than the celebration honoring a young woman as she experiences menarche. This transformation is held sacred. Sacred.
Some ideas I have considered for celebrating this rite of passage:
Putting together a quilt with squares from special women in her life.
Making her a feminine red dress.
Having a “Red Party” with red foods (including prickly pears!).
Singing songs and reading scriptures and poems, such as this one.
How was the transition to womanhood for you? Have you honored your daughters as they experienced menarche? Do you have any other ideas? We’d love to hear your thoughts.