My son is about to turn 5! I wanted to use this milestone as an opportunity to reflect on what motherhood means to me. When I was pregnant with my son Ali -6 YEARS AGO, WHA?! Geez, times flies, I was already learning- and unlearning– so much about myself; my rapidly changing body, bladder? what bladder! My life goals- maybe being a workaolic wasnt worth it? And especcially the way I saw the world. But it wasn’t till the weeks after giving birth when I truly felt a dramatic shift. My reflections below are my attempt to document and reflect on the various stages of my evolution as a mama ( or Dada, as my son calls me…)
“Pregnancy is a numinous and magical state. It is a time when the barrier between the conscious and unconscious realm thins. It is a time to feel the presence of another soul developing alongside your own. It is a time when inner voices offer wise counsel louder and more clearly than usual, when we become aware that life is a continuum, when a woman may experience a bodily sense that everything around her is alive.http://www.mysticmamma.com/pregnancy-is-a-numinous-state
“One of the most fundamental changes that will occur is that your gaze, your focus, will shift”.
I often bring up that had people met me before I became a mother, they might not have recognized me. They might have thought I was a different person. But this isn’t completly honest. It wasn’t simply motherhood, but everything after that unfolded parts of myself that needed to bloom but were only seedlings, (strong personal boundaries, self-love and self-care). As well as expanding already existing parts of me (My creativity, my ability to advocate for myself, my lack of patience for dishonesty, my loyality).
I understand my case is extreme because it wasn’t just birth, but the subsquent divorce, loss of a best female friend, rearrangment of my community of support, and strong focus on my writing life that furthered my mama-evolution.
After birthing my son a noticed a sudden shift in focus. I distinctly remember the feeling that my vision had changed physically. The world outside my window became suddenly clearer…colors and sounds were vividly, painfully sharp. Sirens outside become defeningly loud, the smog from busy intersection traffic felt chokingly dense… the air harder to breath. Everything took on a sharper, denser, harsher quality. I couldn’t shake the unmistable notion that the life I had built thus far and the world in general, was not good enough for my baby. Everything, the dust motes in the corners, the squeky door hinges, the slice of bread that toasted a little too dark- made me feel that I already failed as a mother.
I know many first time mothers feel this in some degree in the first few weeks and its natural, but at the time, it felt like I was touching on the tip of something that lay much deeper. Suddenly there was no room for gray area, it was either black or white, acceptable or not, for our new lives together. So imagine how I felt when I was the only one doing the cooking, cleaning, bath and bed times…or when my then husband told me he didn’t want to be with me any more after months of sleep deprivation, excuslive nursing, arguing nonsensically about silly things… I knew this life, this frazzled, emotionally charged energy did not belong in the same world with my baby.
“As mothers we become the nurturers, the caretakers, and the ones that have the ability and responsibility to heal the past and create a new future for our children. Through our choices and our willingness to become more aware, we open to the possibility of healing and transmuting what has been with what can be.”
The past five years of motherhood has been an incredible journey of awakening and refocusing…the most important part of the above quote for me is about “our choices” No where else in my life before motherhood have my choices taken center stage. The fact that my choices and willingness to revise old patteren opens the possibilities of healing deeply entrenched ancestrial wounds ( spanking, yelling, unhealthy parent-child or intimate partner dynamics ) and charting the course for a new way forward ( honest, gentle, healthy communication with others as well as my child) has simultaniously been the most challenging and rewarding aspects of parenthood. It certainly was not easy transitioning to single parenthood or putting emotional hurts or ego aside for the sake of healthy co-parenting arrangements, but it was worth it. It was worth it to keep an eye towards the big picture of ensuring that my child was surrounded by people who loved him and who respected each other.
“[mothers] have the ability and responsibility to heal the past and create a new future.”
What a heavy statement, and yet very true to my experience. This was at the very core of my decision to shift and redefine my relationships (though the world was already shifting them for me), I am fairly certain that I had been faced with the same relationship and friendship challenges pre-motherhood I could not have made the same healthy choices ( of forgiveness, restortative justice, and an openess to change myself) that I made due to my son’s presence.
From Maiden to Mother
“As a Maiden your gaze is inward on your inner world, your thoughts, feelings and desires. As a Mother, your gaze shifts outward toward your child, as they become the center of your focus and attention. This is what truly marks it a Rite of Passage, for your experience of yourself will change. “
Yes, my experience of myself has changed, I no longer find it acceptable to judge myself shallowly, or from the eyes of others- I now try to make descions from my inner gut instict core of knowing that has been activated by mothering my son…. activated by the late night feedings, by caring for him through illness, (by that same unique inner alarm that signals that nap time has approached and now is the moment you should high tail it out the park before your kid flings sand in the other well rested kid’s eyes.)
So, while the maiden me might have been concerned by gaining a few pounds in the winter, or whether or not my curls were frizzy, the mama-me has learned to let that go. Its a balance, that dosn’t mean that I am suddenly living in sweat pants (though for the first few months of motherhood, I totally was), on the contrary, it has shifted from feeling guilty that I wasn’t running enough and eating too much ice cream to a more gentle acknowledgment of what I have accomplished that day. This holds true for non-mothers as well. Whether folks around us recognize it or not, you are enough.
In fact, we run this
Say it with me: I am enough. We are more than enough.
Secure your oxygen mask before helping to secure others…
“During this transition be gentle with your self, and realize that as you grow into your new self, into your mammahood, you will find your inner strength and power emerging”
It wasn’t long till I understood that taking care of myself made me a better caretaker. In fact, care taking is only made possible after caring for myself. Like they say in those emergency training airplane films: fasten your oxygen mask before helping others.
I am brimming with gratitude at being chosen to perform the artful task of raising this child (and possible future children). I know I still have so much to learn, and I look forward to the next stage of motherhood.
Happy Birthday Letter to Ali
At this momentous occasion, (your 5th birthday!!) My wish for your future is something I’ve actively pursued myself; not to merely survive as our ancestors did (though they did it with honor and courage), but to live! And live fully in each moment. I recognize that integral to my journey of mothering you is imagining, creating, and fighting for a world worthy of you. A world that is worthy of your tenacity, spirit, courage, and love.
I recognize that shielding you from this world’s sometimes harsh realities is not the path, but the rebuilding of it from the bottom up, is. I have a deep affirmation that you are already much better suited and naturally prepared for this new world than me. It is already clear to me and everyone you meet that you were born a fighter! I know that mothering you is intricately connected to mothering myself and making sure that all the relationships in my life are loving, healthy, and fun. I also know that supporting and caring for you requires being fully present to you. I recognize this presence needs to be shared and that I must create space for the others who love you (whether it be your dad, step-dad, numerous grandfolks or aunties,) to share it.
As we approach our 5th year together, I promise to teach you how to ride a bike, to garden and identify herbs, to continue to fly kites with you at Colt State Park in the spring, to hike and climb rocks with you at Lincoln Woods, to read and create new stories for you, to bake, to keep your art supply stocked, to find the best future school, family, and home environment for you, to always be flexible, hopeful, courageous, and most of all joyful.
Your mama Dada