"So, if marriage to a good man still leaves me longing, if a new baby isn't everything I need, if a $400 pair of shoes doesn1t do it, if the thrill of a Suburban won't last very long, if a 21-day cruise isn1t enough, then what?" --Angela Thomas Guffrey, "Prayers for New Mothers"

"I think that we are collectively suffering from a loss of soul in one way or another, for our modern civilization with its scientific and technological advances demands a price." --Benig Mauger, "Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth: Healing for Mothers and Babies"

Even some of the most committed atheists feel it: Pregnancy, birth, and motherhood have an intrinsic spirituality. From the beginning, we feel the awesome power of creating new life, and soon we are inspired to prayer. With our hearts suddenly walking around outside our bodies, we are all but forced to take refuge in something bigger than ourselves--bigger even than our bond with our children. Whether we deepen our spiritual practice, return to the tradition we were raised in, or embark on a brand new religious journey, motherhood changes thing, deepens things; it requires faith. As mothers, we learn the art of comforting others. And as mothers, we learn to seek comfort where we can find it--and often we find it in God.

Two new books explore this faithful journey: "Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth: Healing for Mothers and Babies" (Healing Arts Press, 216 pages) and "Prayers for New Mothers" (Honor Books, 208 pages).

In "Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth," author Benig Mauger takes on our culture's over-medicalized and over-anesthetized treatment of pregnancy and birth and presents a visionary hope for a future in which we can all reconnect with the natural wisdom of childbirth.

There isn1t much "news" in this. The themes here are timeless. Brave writers and activists have been urging a return to soulful motherhood since we burned our last wise women and midwives at the stake 300 years ago. Notably, the spiritual-birth movements of the 1970s led by the likes of Ina May Gaskin ("Spiritual Midwifery," 1990) and Susan Arms ("Immaculate Deception," 1994) brought to light the limits of modern Western obstetrics, revealing that medical intervention and the view of childbirth as a sickness rather than a natural process had done mothers and babies as much harm as good. But given the ever-rising intervention rates at hospitals around the world, we do need reminders, reclamations, returns. We need to revisit these questions and ask, again and again, why the soulfulness of maternity has been denied, why fear has trumped instinct in what might be a woman's most transformative initiation. And for the millions of mothers who have been traumatized in birthing rooms around the world, we need a road map to healing our birth wounds, our soul wounds.

And that, ultimately, is what Mauger gives us in "Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth." Based on her experience as a Jungian psychotherapist, Mauger offers a new reading of mothers' and babies' experiences in childbirth, using stories from parents, dream sequences, and recent research in pre- and perinatal psychology.

Mauger claims that because our modern approach to birth separates mothers from their primordial knowledge of natural delivery, many people suffer from lifelong birth wounds and suggests that through a connection to nature and the spiritual world, we can prepare for a holistic birth or come to terms with difficult births in our pasts. She reasons that all mothers can reclaim control of the birth process, experience a satisfying delivery and an abiding spiritual connection with her child, and celebrate the full transformative glory of new motherhood.

Does violence and addiction later in life stem from traumatic birth experiences? Is postpartum depression the result of an incomplete initiation? How much does a fetus hear, see, and feel? These are some of the questions Mauger explores in this at once arresting and hopeful tome. Without abandoning the useful and sometimes lifesaving tools of Western medicine, Mauger suggests a natural approach to childbirth, one in which the creative, spiritual, and physical needs of mother and baby are honored.

Moving from the theoretical and the universal to the personal, "Prayers for New Mothers" by Angela Thomas Guffrey chronicles one Christian woman's path through the early months of her daughter1s life. This is a journal, a compendium of prayers that Guffrey wrote for her family. The prayers here are Christian, the scriptural references are biblical, but no matter what tradition our own prayers are rooted in, Guffrey1s words can inspire us to create maternal prayers of our own. The book reads like a journal, blending the often mundane daily tasks of motherhood with the transcendent spiritual highs. The result is a sweet collection of nearly a hundred prayers that have an unexpected power.

"As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you." --Isaiah 66:13

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