Preparing for Childbirth

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Preparing for Childbirth

from Perry Robinson

Much can be understood about the value a culture places on life by how it views the creation and birth of a child.In the United States close to 6o million babies have been aborted since 1973, cheapening the valued experience of childbirth. Traditional Navajo culture teaches of the importance of preparing for a baby by the mother and father. The new life about to enter their family is a welcomed member blessed by the holy people and already learning its role even before it is born. Look at the values expressed in Perry Robinson’s account of some of the traditional practices of a family, anticipating the arrival of a child.

The creation of a baby is believed to be complete six month after inception, so that is when the whole family—mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents start to get excited.People are careful to watch their language around the unborn child, certain ceremonies might affect the baby and so are avoided, the pregnant mother has her relatives hovering over her to insure she is careful in how she talks, lies down, sits, and works.She avoids the sweat lodge, because too much heat can affect her back and other body areas. The father and grandfathers begin to talk about holding a Beauty Way ceremony and how to help the child grow in physical perfection. In the last three months of pregnancy, songs and prayers enter into the baby; this is when the holy beings step in to give guidance to the unborn child.

The mother receives special encouragement and is told: “You have to practice walking.Meet the sun, drink a lot of water, and bless yourself with the cool air of the morning.These are the four elements given by the holy people—earth, air, sun (fire), and water—and they are what make up our body and that of the child; they are needed to bless ourselves and the one that comes from you. Learn to breathe in so deeply that you will relieve the pressure from inside and reduce the cramps around the stomach and the walls of your body. Lie in a fetal position just as the baby is lying in you, and think about how the child will be perfectly formed, the birth will be easy and gentle, and that there will be no complications.Everyone should feel good about themselves and what is going to happen.”

In the meantime, the father will cut a piece of cedar wood that will be the “rainbow” over the child’s head as it rests in a cradleboard. He soaks the wood and buries it underground to soften and make it more pliable.He digs the piece up occasionally to shave off more wood and add more of a bend, but he knows if the wood does not break, the cradleboard and the baby will both come out fine. Prayers are also important. He is told, “You have to think like a rainbow, talk like one, walk like one, and act like one—it is who you must become through reverence and holiness, staying on the right path as the baby prepares to enter the world. The rainbow has many colors and your mind has to have them. Your thoughts and talk should be colorful so that your child can learn many languages and many things. The rainbow does not give out thunderstorms, but a delicate nurturing mist called ‘The Little Rain’ that is beautiful and peaceful. It brings good tidings, good feelings, and good thoughts. The child’s life will be this way and this is how people will view him.”

When the baby finally arrives, he or she knows it is welcomed.Its movement inside of the womb indicates that it is ready to enter this world. Just as family members sit inside a hogan, often referred to as a womb, and then venture out into the world for their daily work and experience, the baby also arrives in a strange place. The comfort of the womb is severed when the umbilical cord is cut and put in a special spot that will help bring the child back to this place of beginning. What that newcomer later experiences is left for life to decide, but it is in love and peace that its existence started.

I am Perry Robinson my clans is Edge Water born for Nakaii’dine. I am from Pinon Arizona born and raised there. I finished high school at Intermountain H.S. in Brigham City Utah in 1974 went to school in Utah State University for a year. I got inducted into military. I was in Marines for 4 years. Worked in construction, as a Boilermaker and iron worker for some years. I slowly worked my way back into schools to get licensed in counseling grandfathered in and a license to do traditional counseling- ceremony. I worked for Navajo Nation behavioral health for 25 years as a traditional practitioner. Retired last year. Started working with UNHS. Now as traditional consultant- practitioner.

Many articles in this section were adapted from, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth