“[T]here is a tribe in Africa where the birthdate of a child is counted not from when they were 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.” —Attributed to the Himba of Namibia
Since I first heard of this birth story, I loved the intention behind it. Calling in a soul, inviting a child into your life, actively creating a family with your partner – these ideas intrigued me and ignited a question in my soul.
My own parents talked of how they “planned” for me and I loved growing up with the thought that not only was I wanted – but planned for. In today’s world, intentional conception is common and usually is centered on what to eat, how much to exercise, and how to best take care of the physical body. Most of this focuses on the mother-to-be; only recently has it begun to include the role of the father or partner.
However, as the story above illustrates, conscious conception is more than just the physical body. It includes the emotional, mental, spiritual, career, financial, and relationship components of family life as well. I find many couples are completely comfortable addressing the physical demands of getting pregnant and supporting the pregnancy and starting a family. Some discuss the emotional, financial, and career aspects of family life; very few discuss all. These discussions are vital for a new, young family. In my opinion, bringing a child into the world is the most transformational event in a human’s life. Nothing prepares you for the love, responsibility, and frequently overwhelming change to life as becoming a parent. From my perspective and experience, typical American culture focuses on the getting pregnant and tends to ignore the new family once the baby is here. Americans tend to parent in isolation – whether by choice or by default. And many feel shocked at what parenting and family life are actually like.
Many parents are angry, sad, and overwhelmed. And while there are many contributions to these feelings, I believe one is that we as a culture do not discuss the actual soul work required in parenting. A well-known adage about parenting sums it up: The quickest way to enlightenment is to have a child. Why? Because no one will push your buttons or make you ask the hard questions like your child. Knowing this going into parenthood can make some of those hard times a little easier. Beginning the conversation before conception with your partner makes it easier to continue the conversation once the family has begun. It’s one of my favorite topics and one that I find a lot of my parent friends enjoy as well. Who is this little soul? How can we best support it? What lessons do we have to teach each other? Why do they push my buttons so effectively? The creation of family is a dance. One improvised second by second by all members of the family. It’s a dance that warrants discussion and thought before pregnancy – as it will be continually fine-tuned and tweaked for the rest of your life.