This morning as I sat with another mother at our children's community play group, I saw the reflection of confusion and loss in her eyes that often resides in my heart.
Our children are the same age and we have both chosen to care for them full time for the past 3 1/2 years. She began to tell me how she wants to start working again as she feels that she has lost herself after becoming a mother. I could relate with deep empathy to her and many other mothers in this similar situation.
Death is a related aspect of birth. For women the birth of their children mirrors a birthing of themselves, but with it comes a death of their former selves. This experience is inseparable. She will undergo a fundamental transformation of womanhood. Maiden to mother, princess to Queen. The passage is a solitary journey and she cannot predict what self she will meet on the other side.
I vividly remember at the birth of our son the moment he emerged from my Yoni, watching my former self in full spirit form drift off behind me, separating from this new being. It was one of the most personal moments of my life.
Yes, there is death in birthing. Not only have I experienced it personally, but I have seen it with my own eyes in the women that I support in birth. As a Doula I am honored to support women through this process of birth and death, as well as create a bridge for ancestors transitioning from the other world. It is a powerful experience for me, one that breaks my heart open a little more into the experience of love every time. I witness women over the course of our pre-natal visits come face to face with their deepest fears, confront them and move through them. I stand in awe when they are at the gateway, required to surrender into total unknowing in order to lay down a passage of transport for the soul of their child. Death is so peaceful and beautiful when there is surrender. At other times it can be a viscous battle that leaves a trail of blood and trauma, in these instances the death in birth bears an even stronger footprint in the lives of woman.
After birthing she/woman now stands in strength and awakened Womb energy, having crossed over to the land of the ancestors to guide her children through. There is no going back from this point as it stands as a monumental shift in the souls existence. The woman that existed before, the princess or maiden now lays in rest and memory as this WOMByn now gathers all the courage within her and steps forward to claim her crown.
It is an unspoken code, a language and rite of passage only understood by other women that have traveled this journey in birth.
You now have strength that you could not express before nor did you know existed within you. You posses insight that vibrates well beyond the realms of this reality, and there is a fierceness akin to that of a lioness when it comes to the protection and well being of your children, that could verbally or physically mangle any man or woman that attempts harm. This energy rests in your chest, filling the space of your lungs ready end all bullshit. Having a being pass through the most sacred parts of a woman joins them in the deepest and wildest union.
With all this expansion in nature there must be contraction as mother nature always establishes the most precise balance.
After birthing, stepping back into this world now responsible for the LIFE of another human being, feeling shifts in your energetic, physical, spiritual and mental bodies. The stresses and challenges of raising your child in a society that does not encourage community parenting, and the uncertainty of how to express yourself is overwhelming. Should you try to fit back into your old life, friends, work, style of dressing and way of being even though every fiber of it feels wrong and forced? Or should you step unknowingly into your new self with wobbly legs and fear? Many women choose the first choice which causes deep levels of anxiety and post partum depression. However, the second choice also leads to much of the same result - what to do?
The fear, anxiety, post partum depression, anger, resentment, grief, loss and elated joy is all necessary. This period 'post partum' is simply an opportunity for us women to morn the loss of our former selves. To give her a rightful passing, to honor that yes she existed, and yes she is now gone. The full and open allowing of all emotions is what will support us in welcoming in the Queen. Tears need to fall. We as a community need to embrace women in the passage after birth, it is what will allow for a strong foundation for the wombyn and mother that is needed.
Recognize that this is a process that will take time, years to integrate and there is no one way it should look. Every woman has a different passage, and women must respect each other and our experiences, pain, challenges, strengths and triumphs. For one woman who chooses to return to work after three months - her challenges and triumps are vastly different than the mother that chooses to stay home with her child for four years. However, without a doubt they are both being deeply challenged to be the best mother they can be while aiming to be their best womanly self, which at times can pose great conflict.
We all have our dreams, passions and goals for ourselves as women, and when we become mothers - these become a smaller part of the picture. We put them in a box for a short or long period of time because we know that it is necessary, to be fully present with this joyful responsibility of motherhood. But every once in a while we open the box and remember. Dream a few more dreams and try for a minute to see if/how we can fit it into our lives without taking away from our children.
I remember feeling with naive arrogance before our son was born that I would be back at work in six months - with him in tow! ha! Something happens when you experience love like that - the love that is present when you meet the eyes of your child. All else falls away, and all you are left with is blinding intimacy. There is no place like the space shared between you and your child, and I did not want to leave that for the outside world that I felt could not hold a candle to this experience.
Little by little things change, learning to give to ourselves each day whatever is needed becomes easier. Sleep, dream time, writing, dance, slowly turns our eyes back to ourselves. We learn to return to the box and dreaming begins once more.
Have no regrets. Your story is just that, yours. Love the time and experience of it all as it is short in the grand scheme of things. As mothers we know that our children are our greatest gifts and wisest teachers, ancient sages packaged in small bodies. How we integrate our death, birth, and experience of raising them within ourselves is the most passionate expression of our living.