As soon as I completed the previous article, “Preconception Planning,” I remembered a great story that a sister doula – Amadoma Bediako – shared at a Health Conference. She recounted:
There are a people in West Africa where a baby’s birthday isn’t the day she’s born, but rather the day she became a thought in her mother’s mind.
The story continues:
Very Early Parenting: An African Model
A Child’s Song
There is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they’ve been born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.
And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing–for the last time–the song to that person.
You can read more about the author, Sobonfu Somé, here. I thought this was so amazingly beautiful, and made perfect sense to me. The moment we begin thinking about TTC, a connection is made.
As she told this story, it made me think of traditional Yoruba concepts of preconception. Two key principles of Yoruba traditional religion are the beliefs in reincarnation and destiny. It’s believed that, before we are born, our souls reside in heaven with a spiritual twin. When we are born, so enters our soul into the world with the first breath we take. The spiritual twin, however, remains in heaven awaiting our return (death). During gestation, our souls are in heaven completing specific tasks and rituals to seal our destinies before taking the journey to earth. You can read more about this process here.
What does this have to do with preconception planning? For those following the Yoruba spiritual path, it’s important to remember that our pregnancies are joint journeys. Understand that your baby chose to reincarnate into your family, and is experiencing spiritual development throughout your pregnancy.
I often tell moms that I believe birth is spiritual. No matter what your spiritual or religious tradition is, wouldn’t it be cool to know the beliefs around pregnancy while you’re TTC? We watch our health to prepare our bodies to house, protect and nourish our babies, but it’s equally important to watch our spirits.