The story of Inanna’s Descent has been told in my Birthing from Within series since I became an Advanced Mentor. This story is over 6000 years old, and relates to the universal human experience of going through a Rite of Passage. I believe it to be one of the most important elements of my class, as it is as honest an account as I can give about what it takes to get through the birth process.
The story is about Queen Inanna, who hears the Call to journey to the Underworld, the unknown, the dominion of her long lost Sister, but refuses the call until she no longer can. She closes the Temples of the things that matter to her in her day-to-day life and gathers items of protection and self identity for the road ahead. She creates a tether to the Upperworld by telling her best friend to get help if she’s not back in three days.
As she journeys to the Underworld Inanna passes through gates, threshold moments. At each one she loses a part of her protection/identity and is asked each time “Who are you without this?” She does not have to be a regal queen to be worthy of love, she need only be her bare, stripped down, raw self. And that is enough. She is enough.
When she meets with her Sister, the dark side of herself, she falls dead on the floor. The old self is gone, the new self still in formation. Her best friend goes for help, and sends allies to bring her back to the upperworld, encouraged and loved by those who have gone before “beating the drums,” calling her home.
This, of course, is the abridged version. With my first two births I refused the call to birth in a certain way because of self-judgements I had. This time, I couldn’t NOT answer that call. I closed the Temples of People Pleasing, of Putting Others’ Needs Before my Own, of Doula Work, of Unnecessary High Standards of Myself.
I gathered items of protection and identity – Birth tub, rebozo, birth ball, midwife, doula, clean house, knowledge, and skills I practiced. I made arrangements with allies in case birthing the way I hoped wasn’t meant for me.
As I passed through gates in labor I had to do things that were impossible and more impossible, and just so damn hard. I had to become someone else – my long abandoned sister – someone I didn’t want to be, because that was the only way to get through it. I had to dig for deeper truths about my own self worth even when I didn’t believe them.
As my baby came out of my body I fell down and died a psychic death. I shattered with relief and gratitude that it was over, and that I had been surrounded by loved ones (physically and otherwise) who supported me along the way no matter what.
Why are these four short paragraphs my story? Because it is the universal story of initiation. The same story of preparation, loss of self, and finding my way back that I experienced the first two times…just falling into place in a different way. The same story of every mother, regardless of how she gives birth.
The other reason is that birth stories are sacred. Words cannot ever really express the incredible things that happened that night. It is an embodied experience, a labyrinthine journey that can only be known inside my own heart. While the other people in attendance were at the same event, the internal journey is mine and mine alone. Only I could walk those steps, and only I will hold that story.
Nikki Shaheed CD(DONA) Certified Birthing from Within Mentor