Visualizing “Jelly” in Alison Serour’s Ecstatic Birth
A teacher of spiritual wisdom and meditation at the Kabbalah Centre for over 20 years, Alison Serour is also the author of My Spiritual Birth: Connect to The Soul of Your Child During Pregnancy and Birth (Amazon Kindle, 2021). The book provides readers with a unique guide to a number of exercises and rituals, including visualization practices, that others may utilize for empowerment during their own births as a rite of passage.
Through our correspondences, Alison offered to provide the Visualizing Birth website with an interesting excerpt from her book. The excerpt pertains specifically to visualization and birth. Birth stories are always wonderful to read when pregnant. Renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin has discussed how pregnant women become empowered when listening to others tell their stories of birth. Stories that describe birth as a natural process, albeit sometimes a difficult journey, that one travels in order to make it to the other side as a mother, help to normalize our understanding of birth as an experience shared by women and people across time, history and culture (See Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, for example).
Alison’s own birth story includes a fascinating description of how her experience of visualization contributed to the ecstatic nature of her own birth as a rite of passage. I first present Alison’s excerpt from her book and then discuss the powerful image of visualization with which she provides her readers:
The very evening of my due date, I tried to go to bed but my body was wide awake and beginning to contract once every hour or so. These mild contractions, continued throughout the night as I floated in and out of sleep. I woke up the next morning, got the kids off to school and hesitantly stopped my husband Yehuda as he was walking out the door to work; I asked him if we could walk outside explaining to him that my contractions seemed like they were starting to become more regular and suggested we go on a walk around our neighborhood to see if the labor progressed. I filled my belly with some avocado, and brought along a bottle of water, instinctively knowing I wasn’t going to be eating again before the baby was born and wanting to bulk up, so I wasn’t hungry during the labor.
As Yehuda and I began our walk, we entered into another dimension which started with a very deep conversation about his dreams for his life’s mission, his work, our family life, his dreams for the world, and specifically brainstorming about political ideas he had that can bring world peace. Having never heard Yehuda express himself so openly and freely, my heart sang and aligned with him as he poured out his pure yearnings.
Now this may seem like a funny conversation to have during labor, but for me it was actually helpful! It was fascinating to hear Yehuda’s dreams and visions and to hold the space for him to express himself and allowed me to be laser focused on Yehuda, desiring to hear the beauty of every word he was verbalizing. In truth, I wasn’t paying as much attention to what was going on in my own body – and a lot was going on! My mild contractions had now progressed into an active state of labor! By the time we had been walking for about an hour, I realized my contractions had become more regular. Every time I felt one, I had a vision that my entire womb was turning into soft, fluid jelly so my baby could come into the world. I didn’t feel pain but rather excitement! Between my husband’s engaging conversation and my body’s desire to visualize jelly with each contraction, it felt more like ecstasy, as I was fully connecting to the awesome power the Universe was sharing with me in order to bring a new soul into the world.
About an hour and a half into this experience, my best friend Elisheva called me. I had asked her to be my birth doula, she knew it was my due date, and hadn’t heard from me yet that day. As we spoke, I shared with her that my labor had started, that I wasn’t feeling any pain, so I wasn’t sure how progressed I was, and I would keep her posted. As I hung up the phone with her a teeny tiny voice inside of me told me to get to the hospital right away. Thank God I listened. Yehuda and I drove about 10 minutes to the labor ward of Cedars Sinai and as soon as the maternity nurse checked me we were all surprised to find out that I was almost fully dilated!
At this point we told Elisheva to drive over and also join us in the birthing room and I was so excited that every time I had a contraction I now began to vocalize “jelly”, breathing from my belly, expanding my breath as I sang out and chanted for my baby’s arrival! In the birthing room, I moved my body around, and chanted jelly as Elisheva squeezed my hand throughout the short and intense contractions that were building up to Miriam’s birth. All I really wanted to do was push her out into the world, yet my water had not broken, and my doctor had yet to arrive to break it, so I continued to sing and move and chant and visualize… MY SPIRITUAL BIRTH 7 until I just had to push her out.
Elisheva asked the hospital, since the doctor wasn’t there, if a midwife could come help me break my water. They brought the midwife in, she was the sweetest sight to see and told me, “If you feel like pushing — push!”. Relieved and excited, I got ready to push! And in that transition I felt my body tense up and try to tell me it was impossible to push her out. My husband came behind me and kissed the back of my head and reminded me how our spiritual guides were with us. In that instant Miriam “swam” – well more like flew out – with one push and without any serious pain or prolonged pushing on my part – with her embryonic sack fully intact!”
During her labor, Alison found a word and a corresponding mental image that helped her enormously during the process of birthing her baby. The word, “jelly,” relates to the image of that which she has described to me as a soft or mushy material that is of a liquid or fluid nature. Vocalizing the word “jelly,” enhanced her visualization of the mental image of jelly, which in turn influenced the physiology of her body, softening and dilating her cervix.
In her work with the Kabbalah Centre, Alison has explained that many women have had similar visualizations, all of which empower them during the process of birth:
in the past several years I have helped many women visualize during their births and they come up with their own visions of their wombs become the entry to the world for their babies – they have come up with visualizing their wombs becoming everything from waterfalls, waves, rivers, concord grapes slipping out of the skin, lychee fruits, melting candle wax, a baby tiger licking whip cream, jello, a door opening and many more!
Alison’s experiences with others in the birth community, including recounting the many images they have used to visualize birth, provides other pregnant women approaching labor and birth with a helpful record of how visualization has worked for others.
To contact Alison or read more about her work, please visit her website. She also has a helpful Facebook Live interview and recording called Meditation and Spiritual Birth, which is available here. Check out her book on Spiritual Birth here.