A Burst of Emotion: Kukaniloko Birthing Stones Sacred Site

13 Aug

(We recently cruised around the Hawaiian Islands.  This is the first of five blogs about my favorite spots.)

Fertility, pregnancy, healthy births, all topics that are important even today.  Childbirth is, at times,  life threatening for the mother and for the infant.  In ancient Hawaiian times, women went to sacred spaces in an effort to safely give birth.   In Oahu, there is such a space dedicated to the women of the royal family.

Fertility for those who cannot conceive is also a painful topic.   At the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones Sacred Site, these two quests: a safe and pain free birth, and the request for a pregnancy come together.

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Before we arrived at this sacred site, our guide pointed out part of the Wai’anea Range on Oahu.  As you drive along the Kamehameha Highway, part of this mountain range looks like a giant sleeping pregnant woman,  the “Wahine Hapai.”  You can see her head, then breasts then pregnant belly rising to the sky.  She embodies fertility and health.

He told us that Wahine Hapai overlooks a sacred site that many tourists do not go to but thought we would like to see.  (Perhaps because my husband is a pediatrician.)  The  Kukaniloki Birthing Stones Site is unmarked and is not easy to find.  There is just a small indentation of an  entrance off the highway, with a gated road.

Before we walked down a bright red dirt road to reach the site, we read the warnings that this was a sacred site and we should respect it. “Do not sit on the stones. Do not move or wrap the rocks. Do not trample the plants.” These were the top three rules.  I thought I was ready to visit.  But in reality, it was much more emotional than I thought it would be.

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It is a quiet spot, an oasis of trees and stones in the middle of a field. The first indication that you are entering the sacred site, is two stones standing by the entrance.  These were two of the birthing stones: One to sit on and one to lean up against. They have been moved from their original place in the grove of trees.  Just past these stones are two parallel lines of smaller stones, leading to the tree-shaded main site, where the trees surround a group of large stones.  Behind the site, watching from above is the Wahine Hapai, the pregnant woman, helping those in labor.

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In my effort to know more, I looked up information on line when I returned to the ship.  I read that the two line of stones were for the chiefs to sit on, while a royal woman gave birth.  The chiefs came to help her through this time. It is also said that women who gave birth here felt no pain.

My husband and I were not alone in our visit.

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Walking along the two lines of stones, I noticed a woman squatting by each stone, touching her forehead to the stone and praying.  She went down each line, holding the stones between her two hands, resting her head, then moving on.   I was not close enough to hear what she said. I tried to give her space, but I knew in my heart what was happening.  I could almost hear her prayers for a pregnancy and for a child of her own. And my heart opened.  I began to pray silently with her.  Sending my positive energy to comingle with hers.  Hoping perhaps a stranger who knew her pain could add to her prayers.

Do Not tell me this is a ridiculous quest. 

I too suffered from infertility and prayed to become pregnant.  I spent days, weeks, months and years wondering why everyone else was able to get pregnant but me.  I hated family gatherings, where all the new babies would be the center of attention and people would ask me when I planned to start my family.  Little did they know of the emotional pain I was in just being there.  I lost my faith for a time.  At the high holidays when we read about Hannah, I left the service.  It was just too difficult to bear.

Although I am now way past the age of giving birth, and I do have two children, I carry that black hole of pain in my heart.  I keep it covered.  I try not to visit it.  I moved on, I believed.  But watching this woman in her prayers removed the cover I keep over this abyss of pain, and I felt tears rise to my eyes. No one could truly help her.  No words can ever make that pain go away.  Watching your friends and relatives get pregnant is a slap. Each month a new cycle is just a reminder that you failed once again.  It is an enormous, deep black hole of grief.  And I saw that grief on this woman’s face.

She was not alone.  A young man squatted close to the square enclosed area where the trees and many birthing stones were assembled.  You cannot enter this sacred area.  But he sat just outside the roped off area, watching.

I felt the spirit of their prayers around me.  It would be hard not to feel it.

We did not spend too much time at the site.  I took a few photos, and then told my husband it was time to go.  I wanted to give them the privacy they needed. (I learned later that although tourists might not visit it, the site was well visited by locals who celebrated the birth of their children or who were wanted to have children.)

As we walked away, my memories and my prayers rose up.  I hope that the Kukaniloko Birthing Stone Sacred Site, and the energy of life and birth within it, helped her move forward.

This was my most memorable spot in all of Hawaii.

4 Responses to “A Burst of Emotion: Kukaniloko Birthing Stones Sacred Site”

  1. Amy August 14, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    I am sorry for her pain and for yours. I’ve known many women who have suffered with fertility issues—not getting pregnant or having multiple miscarriages or having a stillborn baby. Although I was fortunate myself not to experience this, I understood the pain and heartbreak. Fortunately for many women today, modern medicine has been able to provide solutions, though at a substantial cost financially, physically, and emotionally.

    • zicharon August 14, 2018 at 8:13 am #

      Modern medicine can solve and cure much now. But unfortunately not for everyone. And the emotional pain cannot be eased for all.

      • Amy August 14, 2018 at 8:19 am #

        No, I think even with a medical solution, the pain of struggling and frustration and disappointment must linger.

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