Posted on in On Our Radar by Susan Bradford

The Original Vision Quest


Can you imagine how mundane life would be without taking the time to acknowledge and express our gratitude for the important rites of passage in our lives? There are many beginnings and endings according to our gender, culture, and personal and spiritual beliefs, but giving birth is a universal rite of passage throughout all cultures and time. This significant event becomes meaningful if we take the time to savor it, express our appreciation, and give thanks for the opportunity to take part in the continuum of life.

When we become pregnant, our priorities in life naturally change. In our culture we are pulled in by a fast-moving world of responsibilities, obligations, and distractions. Yet isn’t slowing down and “dropping in” what we need for our lives to feel meaningful, to savor and honor this rite of passage, the birth year? This momentous chapter in our lives asks us to give ourselves the gift of time to be focused, centered and grounded, present and grateful, able to connect to our baby in utero and then in our arms.

From my years involved in birth, I believe it is the original, quintessential vision quest, the archetype from which all other vision quests are based. A vision quest is a life-changing spiritual journey wherein a person goes out alone into the wilderness in search of some deep personal wisdom and guidance. For a vision quest to be the transformative initiatory experience it is intended to be, three parts must be completed: The Preparation, The Journey, and The Return.

The Preparation is the foundational time for the seeker to do all that needs to be done to feel confident, knowledgeable, trusting, excited, and ready for whatever might lie ahead. Being as prepared as we can be is what will allow this journey to be positive and meaningful and more importantly, transformative instead of negative, disappointing, or even traumatic.

Most childbirth professionals agree that wholehearted, in-depth preparation for birth is the best way to have a deeply fulfilling birth experience without regrets. Because the birth experience affects the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—the holistic approach is an ideal way to prepare for birth. This kind of preparation is invaluable because it has also been shown that a fulfilling birth experience allows for the successful transition into the postpartum and early parenting time.

Whether looking at birth from a physical, hormonal, psychological, emotional, or spiritual perspective, what a woman needs to do is open and surrender to the process. Trust is needed for giving birth because without trust, one cannot surrender. To surrender to birth, the pregnant woman and her partner must first develop deep trust in her body as well as in the whole birthing process. In our culture we have a lot of obstacles and “garbage” to clear out of the way before we can ever trust our bodies and birth. We need time to go through our personal fears, family histories, and cultural inheritances as part of the preparation. Trust is not something we can “logic” ourselves into; it isn’t enough for the information to be in our brains. It needs time to sink into our guts, bones, hearts, and souls, where we can really “get it” as body wisdom.

The Journey is the adventure one has been preparing for. The Journey is very much like walking a labyrinth. How to get to the center of the labyrinth is the quest or the question. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no wrong turns. If we enter it in trust and just continue taking one step at a time, always willing to take the next step forward, we will come to the center.

Labor and giving birth are The Journey. A woman consciously giving birth in her power and integrity creates a transformative experience she and her partner will never forget. How it unfolds can affect a parent’s well-being and sense of self-empowerment. This majestic and often ecstatic peak experience shows parents they can take on parenting challenges because of what they now know about them selves and their capacities. A couple going through the birth process together creates a strong birth team that takes them to a deeper level of connection and intimacy than ever before. Giving birth is part of the extraordinary and often challenging initiation into becoming a parent, where mothers and fathers learn about themselves and each other in a new way. This is the way that shows parents how strong, focused, vulnerable, courageous, loving, nurturing, flexible, patient, determined, committed, and compassionate they really are—only some of the qualities needed to be a conscious parent!

The Return involves processing and inte grating the experience. It is the time to contemplate the treasures we have brought back with us from our Journey. The Return is when we step into the new role and identity of who we have become.

The Return of the birthing vision quest is known as the Fourth Trimester or the true BabyMoon, the postpartum period and early parenting time. It is a time to welcome our baby, give thanks for a safe passage of mother and baby, and to receive support from family and friends. During this Fourth Trimester we need to rest, recuperate, lovingly bond with our baby, and acclimate to this new chapter in our lives. Once again, taking the holistic approach by attending to our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves during the BabyMoon can be one way to help prevent postpartum depression. Parents often require much more time and support to process a negative birth experience and therefore feel challenged in being present for their babies.

These three elemental aspects of a vision quest are equally significant, for without any one of them, birth as a transformative experience might not feel as complete, meaningful, or empowering for the mother and her partner. It takes time and intention to feel deeply confident and prepared for birth and beyond. What is your highest vision for giving birth to your child? Deep in your heart, how would you like to prepare for it? Whatever way that is, you and your child deserve that.

Susan Bradford, LVN, CCE, CHT, doula, birth ceremonialist, supports new families throughout the Birth Year. She offers holistic classes, childbirthrelated hypnotherapy and private consultations.

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