Shamanic Wisdom for Pregnancy and Parenthood is not so much a book on shamanism as it is a psychospiritual self-help book for parents and those contemplating parenthood. The title could be misleading because shamanic refers more to a world view than to shamanic practices. The closest it gets to shamanic practice is through prayers to the Great Spirit, relaxing breathwork, visualizations and meditations. Shamanic practitioners will likely find this book to be too basic and too much like psychological counseling. Look to this work as a guide to managing emotions and getting along with co-parents while exploring issues relating to fertility, adoption, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and early parenthood.

The author is trained in Shamanic Breathworkâ„¢ but does not feel that this is appropriate to do during pregnancy. This was mentioned towards the end of the book and I think I would have preferred to know that from the start. I kept waiting for there to be more shamanic practice and was disappointed. The spiritual element comes forth in discussions about sacred wisdomkeepers within, soul-body connections, inviting Great Spirit to be a collaborative partner, dreams and visions, inner knowing, elemental prayers, empowering guides and archetypes and the transition into parenthood as a form of shapeshifting. Religious influences are kept vague for broader appeal. The assumption is the reader accepts basic tenets of shamanistic thought about the interconnection of all beings and the need for respectful treatment of others.

A lot of care was given to writing this book with an inclusive language that honors parents whether they are male, female, gay, straight, transgender, mothers, fathers, stepparents, adoptive parents or biological parents. In addition to the thoughts of Anna Cariad-Barrett, there are short essays by other parents who discuss their own journeys with deciding to be parents, healing trauma, seeking spiritual meaning, bonding with children, coping with miscarriage, becoming adoptive parents or stepparents. The co-parent whether male or female is included and given voice. This inclusive guide offers words to describe the deeply felt beliefs and sentiments born when we embark into parenthood.

I appreciated the inclusion of miscarriage, difficult childbirth scenarios, the complications of being a stepparent and raising special needs children as these topics can be ignored or glossed over in many books. Generally the writing style tries to comfort and encourage the reader but the harder aspects of parenthood are given their due respectfully.

It would be impossible not to notice that this book was written by a family therapist. At times the writing while well-intentioned is so far from the way normal people speak in daily life that some people might hear it as psychobabble. The language is flowery and emotional. This kind of style tends to be loved or hated. You know which camp you fall into- the emotionally and verbally expressive person who needs to talk about these deep personal experiences or the person who laughs at self-help books as too serious versions of Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts. People in the latter category might take some benefit from the book but are unlikely to actually finish it.

Shamanic Wisdom is good for acknowledgment of the personal transition and emotionally charged experiences inherent in parenthood. It won't tell you how to journey to the other world or do energy healing or explain how shamanic awakening occurs. Nor is it a practical guide to parenting such as what to expect as a new parent or how to take care of your baby. Delving into the light and dark aspects of the emotional roller coaster ride of becoming parents, it offers acceptance of the exhilarating and difficult and often unspoken feelings associated with the initiation into parenthood.

Recommended especially for those who feel excluded in mainstream pregnancy, adoption or parenting books and for those with limited to no shamanic experience.

~review by Larissa Carlson

Author: Anna Cariad-Barrett, DMin
Bear & Company, 2017
pp. 274, $18.00