The Liminal Space of Birth

Birth is the most transformative rite of passage most birthing parents can experience.


A rite of passage takes you to a place nothing else can touch because it is a shift in that moment for that one rite within life.


Rite of passage can peel away layers, through taking you to places out of your comfort zone.


You will never emerge from the rite of passage the same person, you will have found or grown into another aspect of self.


The rite of passage of birthing a new human is an experience no two people feel in the same way because we are different, with different life experience, different emotions, a unique inner self, a different body, and a different baby with their own uniqness. But, what is the same is the fact the birthing person, and the baby are walking through a rite of passage of life. I also ponder that the space of liminality that the rite of passage can take you to is also something most experience, or rather, everyone experiences to an extent.


Some can touch this space with ease, for others it is hard. The liminal space, the betwixt and between is that space of being at the point of the gateway of life being fully open for the baby, and the parent. (I do love the word betwixt, its an old word meaning between).


I am a doula and have sat in over fifty birthing rooms, I have felt the atmosphere thicken so much you can almost taste the liminal. I have felt it when supporting people at the other end of life too in my work as a care worker in a hospice. It is the same feeling. It's as if a layer of something I can't explain begins to slowly fill the room around the person, something more than the wonderful cocktail of hormones supporting the parent. It thickens at the point the gateway is fully open, the moment two worlds blend. It then lingers until the space is closed either by the birthing parent beginning to move around, eat, shower. For many parents it can linger for days.

Following the passing of someone, it can linger until after the room is cleared.


The moment of the midpoint of betwixt and between seems to start for the birthing parent at transition. The point the body is ready to birth new life. A moment of rest is often gifted the birthing parent, or a sense of fear because the senses are so open. But the sense of being in the liminal between surges seems to come over most people, not all are aware I know but most become glaze eyed, like theyre touching the space of god or goddess.

The quote 'if a birthing parent does not look like a goddess, then someone isn't treating her right' by Ina May Gaskin is so relevant.


Being in the liminal space is to be in touch only with self, which is just where the birthing parent needs to be to listen to their instincts, intuition, their baby. This enables them to know how to move for birthing in the best position for both parent and baby.


This is why the gift of an undisturbed birth, and supportive care providers is so important.


If you are lucky, whilst in that space of liminality you might reach a point of ecstacy, you might reach that space of feeling where all life is connected. Its important to have the safest of spaces so that rite is achiveable within your rite of passage, if you wish it to be.


I realise some people might not agree with me because that place wasn't reached. That's ok, we all differ. Each birth differs. I didnt reach it with all my births. However I do recall the liminal, the sense of betwixt and between with each. And I was never the same person after each birth. At times it took a year to realise and grow into myself but each child gifted so much to my life and my inner sense of knowing myself more.


To practise reaching the liminal, the best practises in my mind, from my experiences as a doula, a healing practitioner and parent, are to look to regular meditations, yoga, mindful walks, and practises that help you slow down and be with your spirit within, yourself.


I'll leave you with these words inspired by anthropologist in 19060 Arnold Van Gennep and reflected on by KD Farris, PHD.


In 1906, anthropologist Arnold van Gennep writes about his cross-cultural observation of tribal rituals, which he calls rites de passage, noting that they consistently contain three distinct stages: separation, limen (liminality), and aggregation.


Yet, when we can be supported and allowed to move through our liminal process (the coming apart before needing to come back together anew), the rewards are great for both parties.



If you are expecting a baby you might fancy my online experience Shamanic Preparation for Birth