Make a birth altar

Last June I was getting ready to what I call ‘welcome birth in’. It was my third pregnancy, my third birth, and each time before I’d found myself facing birth with focus and dogged determination: demanding and all as I found the experience, I always said that I loved birthing! This third time though, compared to the previous births, I was actually a bit scared (of the pain and the physical effort of labour mostly: like, do I HAVE to go and do this thing called birth now!) I had all the knowledge I needed, I had support, I trusted my own body but I was tired and sleepless and wary.
I knew I needed focus.
Cue my great friend, and my doula, Shakti. She bounded into my house one day a couple of weeks before my due date, arms laden with gifts and sprigs of lavender and rosemary from her own garden.
She told me:
“You need an altar!”
And we set about making it. She went outside to get more flowers from my garden, whilst I cleared books and toys and other detritus off a funky stone ledge I have in my house that nobody seems to know was for. I washed it down, which felt like a ritual in itself, and gathered some momentoes I’d been hoarding for this very purpose: photos and images that I’d admired, of birth, or family, of the feminine; also thoughtful gifts and items to inspire me, focus me, like a vision board for a project.
This was project birth.
Making the birth focus a project like this really helped calm and prepare me. Much of how we prepare for birth involves calming the mind, surrendering to the body: there are only so many practical things we can take care of in advance: we learn that by and large, how to let birth take its natural course. Making an altar space like this felt like another practical thing I could do.
It is also a lovely way to help you get in the zone and *welcome birth in*. The making of it was is as important as the end result: in fact it doesn’t ever have to feel finished. Sourcing and resourcing it is part of the process and the fun!
Whenever I felt unsettled or uneasy I sat with it, lit a candle on it, fussed about it, rearranged it, added to it. My baby was so overdue (13 days) that flowers died off and got thrown out and replenished as the weeks wore on. I continued to play around with it in the weeks following the birth too, and my kids came and went to it in their own time as well (it became my son’s job to light the candles on it *under strict supervision*). By the time I gave birth, the space had gotten fairly substantially added to! The night I went into labour I kept the candles burning on it all night. It felt beautiful, relaxed, ambient.
I always say to my mamas coming to pregnancy yoga: from 36 or 37 weeks, whenever you’re collecting newborn baby grows and nappies and getting yourself ready for the practicalities of birth – even if you’re beginning to go long overdue and you’re wondering if you’ll ever actually give birth (like I did!) – think about making a birth altar.
If the word *altar* doesn’t resonate with you, be like an interior designer and call it an vignette instead! In interior design, a vignette is a small, pleasing view or vision formed by grouping several objects — like a table arrangement that tells a story about you and your life and home, and in this case, your impending birth.
Here’s an idea of how:
Clear a little space. Or a big space. Whatever you’ve got!
A tabletop, dressing table, coffee table, shelf, ledge, window sill.
Even just flowers and candles and a photo are enough to make an altar or vignette! Or you can be elaborate as you like with the following ideas:
  • Find something to represent motherhood.
  • Find something to represent your relationship
  • Find something to represent family
  • Find something to represent the motherline / ancestry (photo – object)
  • Find 4 objects to represent earth (flower, stone, twig) air (feather), water (holy water, water from a nearby well) fire (candle)
  • Find something that inspires birth. I used images of birth and I made my own birthing goddess out of clay
  • If you’re creative, think about making something for your altar/vignette. Even if you don’t think you’re creative, make something anyway: find a nice stone at the beach and paint it a relaxing colour, or buy a chalk marker in the office supplies shop and write a word or a name on it!
  • Write your own birth affirmation
These are just ideas. You can keep it plain and simple and subtle, or big and expansive and elaborate.
Remember, you can add to it as you if you are so inspired, and it doesn’t ever have to feel finished. Its your story.
Have fun with it and ENJOY