A soon to be mother asked me what prayers she could do for the child in her womb. It brought me back to my days as a pregnant lady. There was a sensation of something incredible on its way, a challenge greater than any I had undertaken; childbirth! I remember as my belly grew, I looked towards birth with great expectation. So much so, that I do not think I saw much beyond the actual process of the birth itself. It was as if I would face every fear, for they were deep indeed, within those moments of labor. Then my baby would be born, and all would be well.
My good friend, who had already had one child, looked at me with kind eyes and a smile, after I told her, that I felt that I had so much work to do to prepare for childbirth. Gently she put her hand on my shoulder and said,
"Yes, childbirth is an incredibly huge experience. But the work continues and gets more challenging after your child is born!"
I believed her and began to focus my energies on how I could prepare myself not only for childbirth but the act of being a mother as well.
I began to recite a sacred poem or Shabad from the Sikh tradition called Pootaa Maataa Kee Asees. In this Shabad, we are guided to pray for our children. Instead of asking for worldly accomplishments for our children, we ask for the gift of remembering God's Name, the gift of the love of sacred community, and the many joys of spiritual life. My husband and I would walk at least three miles every day, while reciting this Shabad. I remember the sheet that we held with the words getting rain drops and dust from the New Mexico desert wind. I also took to singing this Shabad and wrote a tune and recorded it. To this day when I hear it I am brought back to the sounds, the feeling, and the sensation of being pregnant. It was in this time that I began to weave my life long tapestry of prayer for my child. I began to feel a sense of her soul's deep devotion.
In my great anticipation of childbirth, the time finally came, and it was not an easy experience. I had about four days of pre-labor, with no sleep. We had wanted a natural childbirth, but my husband and I realized after extensive dancing sessions in the kitchen, and driving up a bouncy dirt road to try and stimulate more contractions, that we had better make our way to the hospital. I had not really gotten much sleep and was physically exhausted. Finally the long awaited act of childbirth occurred as I pushed out this little being. The feeling of my beautiful daughter finally resting on my chest after she was born, and the look on my husband's face, was worth every minute of struggle. It was the worst, and the best of what I had imagined and prayed for.
In the first days of recovery when I was too tired to recite Pootaa Maataa Kee Aasees, I remember my beautiful mother who had come to care for us in the first forty days of my daughter's life, holding my daughter in her arms and chanting it. As my daughter's eyes began to open and focus, I would often see grandmother and daughter looking at each other while my mother sang to her, each with dancing eyes in the rhythm of the great unfolding of our lives. Then as a toddler, I remember her chubby hands dipping into red paint, and in the silence of the house, as she joyfully smeared the vibrant color across a large piece of paper, I softly sang it. On her first day of kindergarten, where her class was gathered in a grove of redwoods, I remember leaving her with her teacher to make a fairy house out of the sticks and pine needles that covered the ground. She was happy, and didn't need me. Surprised and relieved all at the same time, I walked away towards our car once again chanting this Shabad.
Indeed my prayers have continued as I recite this Shabad for my daughter every day. In fact, my spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan taught that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to to recite this Shabad eleven times a day. When I recite it for my daughter, I am feeling her vibrant and strong heart in the present day to day, and also envisioning her in her bountiful beauty as her future unfolds. At other times, I am reciting these words for my own heart. As mothers, because our hearts create the atmosphere of our homes, this kind of healing work is important. Still other times, I am praying for all children of this planet, not only as a mother of one daughter, but as mother of all children. As women, whether we have given birth to a physical child or not, we, in connection with the One Divine Mother, as Guru Nanak said, the "Aykaa Maa-ee," can pray for all children.
I have watched how these sacred words, like threads of light, have woven a beautiful environment for my daughter. She dances in the joy of the words that seem to float in our home, she bows to the Divine with the devotion and love that I could not teach her myself. She is resilient above and beyond my imperfections, and she is a being full of light and love. I will continue on, chanting and reciting in this way, as long as there is breath in my body. The power of this Shabad is incredible.
Here are the words to this beautiful Shabad, and you can also find a recording of it called "Pootaa Mataa Kee Asees" on a CD called "Divine Birth", and a version in Spanish on another CD called "Liberation's Door", called "Mother's Blessing." You can find the links to these songs at www.snatamkaur.com.
Pootaa Mataa Kee Asees
Goojaree, Fifth Divine Channel, Guru Arjan
Jis simrat sabh kilvikh naaseh pitree ho-ay udhaaro.
Remembering God, all mistakes are washed away and one's ancestors are redeemed and saved.
So har har tum sad hee jaapahu jaa kaa ant na paaro. ||1||
Always chant God's Name, Har, Har. God is inside you, God is infinite.
Pootaa maataa kee aasees,
O my child, this is your mother's blessing,
Nimakh na bisara-o tum ka-o har har sadaa bhajahu jagdees. ||1|| rahaa-o.
May you may never forget God even for a moment, worshipping forever the Lord of the Universe
Satgur tum ka-o ho-ay da-i-aalaa santsang tayree preet.
May the True Guru be kind to you, may you love to be with the Saints.
Kaaparh pat parmaysar raakhee bhojan keertan neet. ||2||
May your clothing be the protection of God, may your food be the singing of God's praise
Amrit peevhu sadaa chir jeevhu har simrat anad anantaa.
Drink the nectar of God's Name and live long, may meditation on God bring you endless bliss.
Rang tamaasaa pooran aasaa kabeh na bi-aapai chintaa. ||3||
May love be yours and your hopes fulfilled. May you never be worn by worry.
Bhavar tumaaraa ih man hova-o har charnaa hohu ka-ulaa.
Let this mind of yours be the bumble bee, and let the Lotus Feet of God be the flower.
Naanak daas un sang laptaa-i-o ji-o booNdeh chaatrik ma-ulaa. ||4||3||4||
O Servant Nanak, link your mind in this way. Like the sparrow hawk finding a raindrop blossom forth.