Traversing the Worlds: On Being a Birth Vessel

A pregnant mother holds the entire world inside her.  She holds the Gods and Goddesses. She is seed, roots, and blossom.  She has become the source of all life, tapped into a well of ancient knowing and basic biology. Small universes fuse, expand, collapse, and transform inside her. At times this feels like pure ecstasy, at other times, terror. Almost always it is in quiet, internal isolation. Externally, her body blooms or falters, and other people feel free to comment on that. But the real magic is inside the mother, and few are able to journey there with her.

People don’t talk about this magic, but it is there for you. Everything is at once possible and unknown. It may be a rainforest: dripping, thick air, vines to carry you up or block your path, ancient trees teeming with fresh-born life. It may be a cave: a mother bear, round and furry, seeking the quiet darkness. It may be a clear morning with nothing planned for the day.

Birth is talked up to be the finish line of this journey. More accurately, birth is the threshold between the worlds.

A space between - not there yet. Not there anymore. Here, between, vibrating with unstoppable motion at all moments, infuriatingly too slow and too fast at once. Between is an actual space to inhabit.

This space is the only place we can come, we must come, we all come to birth our babies. A portal so grand as to propel life from our very loins. The only way across it is into it.  

But before we dive in or are pushed forward, we are asked to sit in the space between. It is a place ignored by those in a hurry, though a mother has no choice. She waits, impatient or not, entire universes spiraling within her and around her.

Outside, people try to name it, pin it with a diagnosis:

“She’s 39 weeks, 50% effaced, 1 cm dilated.”

“She’s a first-timer.”

“She’s high-risk.”

Or claim it as a toy:

“I can’t wait to count his little fingers and toes!”

“She’ll be so precious in those hair bows!”

Inside, her spaciousness remains unnamable. She is between angels and earth. Between known and unknown. Past and future lives collide in her present vessel.

An old wives tale claims that a woman’s labor pains serve to anchor her physically in this world so that she can traverse between worlds and heavens without floating off herself. What a mother finds is that not only is she birthing a baby, she is also birthing herself. She is the isthmus that she must cross.

Stretched between lives, the molten core of the earth becomes her, and with radical strength, she softens to her fullest and gives life to herself as a mother.  



Elisabeth McCachren Mitchell is a mama to three small children, a writer, and a postpartum doula living on a small homestead in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. Her studies in tantric yoga and psychology inform all aspects of her life and provide endless brain fodder.  Follow her as she finds beauty, makes meaning, and honors the work of motherhood @heartcenteredmamas.

Maria Borghoff