Friday, August 15, 2014

the Loss in Becoming Mother

 I was honored to contribute as a guest writer 
My first post published since the birth of my son,
 I offer this up with love and anticipation for the new
and beautiful chapter unfolding in my life.

Transition is about loss first. Maybe we don't like that, but there it is. If something is changing, something is being let go of and lost. Maybe that's good but it is still loss.

I could tell you about my transition from maiden to mother.
Or about the transition from pregnancy to parenthood.
Or the literal transition during my labor and the birth of my son.

Each one of those things embodied loss in a way I could not fathom until I experienced it.

Regardless of the joy, the delight, the glowing-ness of what has become my new normal, I have been working through a deep and painful sense of loss; loss of Self as I understood Her to be.

Who I am is the collection of years of choices and experiences I've accumulated. But before baby, this was entirely self-propelled and motivated: Who I Want to Be. Who I Choose to Be. Who I Need to Be for Me.

Becoming Mother is entirely about Who HE Is, and Who HE Needs Me to Be for HIM. This means my body is no longer mine, but his. Ditto for my time, my energy, and any other resource in my possession that he can make any use of.

Honestly? There have been times it feels damn insulting.
But we don't talk about those feelings, because mothers are supposed to love being mothers.
And I do. I adore my beautiful boy, and I would not trade him for anything this world has to offer.

But there is pain of loss with such a transition. Grief for the death of everything you are that came before to make room for a new, gloriously tired YOU.

I grieved the loss of my pregnancy after the birth- that private, intimate joy of relationship with this cosmic, magical being growing deep within that nobody could hold but me.

I grieved the change in my relationship with my husband- stronger than ever, more lovingly wound with the tether of CHILD between us, but... changed, nonetheless.

I grieved the lost hours to write- to sit before my altar and meditate, to sit quietly as inspiration flooded me, igniting my heart with the words to put down on paper, in my journal, to share with others.

I grieved the loss of solitude in my home. No longer MY home, but HIS- where he is ruler; walked and rocked and nursed and burped and changed and loved and adored and shushed for endless hours, day after day, month after month...

My books and altar spaces and decorations remain, but are covered over with a thick layer of dust, onesies, diapers and everywhere the faint smell of milk. It hardly feels like the home of a priestess these days.

And yet, that is precisely what it is.

Becoming Mother is to move, clumsily at times, with the ebb and flow of night tides - 3am feedings when your beloved is softly snoring and it seems the whole world is asleep but you and this wildly new creature you're still learning.
Becoming Mother is a purpose-filled transition from What I Need For Me to What I Must: give, do, say, and be for the good and growth of my child.
Becoming Mother is moving in Isis energy- lover/mother energy that gives of herself, her body and time, her whole heart and soul for another because it's Who She Is, yes, but also because it's What Is Needed. Period. You're here, you're Mama, so get it done.

For me, this is what being a priestess looks like right now- I am midwifing myself into motherhood, and my son into personhood with each kiss, each hour holding up aching arms and every minute of so much tiredness I want to cry. It is my sacrifice- and it's nothing in comparison to what others have given- unremarkable, without extremes- but it is mine, a worthy offering for my own life, and my own becoming.

My transition into motherhood has felt like many things.
Loss is only one of them.
But it is powerful, and it is real, and it isn't going away.

It's something that will evolve as I and my baby do- morphing with each passing year into something beautiful and strong that can be looked back on with pride. And I do, already, because it is the hardest work I have ever been asked to perform, and I am doing it without knowing how, really.
But therein lies my work and initiation into the Mother mysteries:
the priestess-ing of my new Self as Mama- acknowledging and accepting the loss as sacred.

Loss is one thing shaping me for something entirely new- something I am beginning to see as quite lovely, something beyond the maiden years of rebellion against limitation and independence of mind. I am bigger now, more spacious for the giving, surrounded by the beauty of loss. May it be blessed.

Cain Anthony, born April 28

Thursday, January 30, 2014

in the belly

When winter comes to a woman's soul, she withdraws
into her inner self, her deepest spaces. She refuses
all connection, refutes all arguments that she should
engage in the world. She may say she is resting,
but she is more than resting: She is creating
a new universe within herself, examining and breaking
old patterns, destroying what should not be revived,
feeding in secret what needs to thrive.
-Patricia Monaghan

Womb by Jen Otey

We yearn toward the light. 
It is the yearning that keeps our feet on the path when the dark threatens to overtake our hearts and we feel faint with dread and soul-numbing fatigue. But before the birth time, the greening, leafing of spring and warmth, there is the time in the belly of a thing. 
This is the nature of the word Imbolc - in Celtic culture literally meaning "in the belly".

For years, I have honored and marked Imbolc, lighting white candles in the black night, setting out the offerings of milk and honey on my altar to Brigid, calling forth the spring and honoring the germinative, productive dark in myself. I have celebrated Imbolc as a breaking forth energy, the fertility of the soil and soul, and all that writhes beneath. Imbolc always felt anticipatory to me, a time to observe the tiny, creeping signs of new life to come in the weeks ahead in the land, and creatively within me.

But there is another layer; another truth in this season that feels particularly bittersweet and profound for me this year. As I await the birth of my son in just a handful of weeks from now, I am shedding and dropping and clearing out to make space for this new life. I am emptying out  life-as-I know-it, even as my body fills and grows larger than it's ever been. 
It's a strange paradox. I am drifting in a reality that is completely foreign to me, destabilized and free-falling into the unknown, while simultaneously contained within a process entirely out of my control. At times this process is thrilling and warm. And there are moments where I feel a keen sense of loss. Of anxiety- around the great unknowns to come, the changes, the inevitable altering of me. 
This is more than cosmetic change at the surface. The very pattern of the weave of my life as I have understood it is moving through a transformation that will leave me forever marked .

This is initiation. The dirty work.
The scraping away of old flesh - my own - to make way for something new, larger, louder, brighter. Bleeding, opening, cracking ground to make way for new shoots to spring up. Surrendering to an unknown outcome because there is truly no going back. And because even if I could at this point, I wouldn't. 
So initiation is a door I willingly, if humbly and sometimes timidly, walk through of my own accord- I am not forced.

Initiation is intrinsically cleansing. it is the most basic of purifications played out in profound measure for the stretching of us. Can you feel the pulling at every end, beloved? It always begins in the belly.

I fidget, I squirm, I resist, I curse and finally... I collapse, surrendering to the process of this birth-before-birth.

Moving through that birth canal is a team effort. 
The child struggles toward the light, turning this way and that, compressing and bending limbs and even bone to fit. The familiar warmth of amniotic fluid filling the soon-to-be airway is pushed away in his labor toward the light. All this happening in the belly and below as mama pushes and bears down. 

This is initiation, moving in the belly. Together. We. Our mind and our soul. Our experience and our Self. We who are today, and our potential fighting for life and clawing toward breath.

It is as much a taking-away as it is a giving-in-to. The emptying that comes before the filling up, and the aching arms that were pleasantly full of the weight of all that was; now required to grow accustomed to air and possibility.

We can accumulate knowledge, practices and truths that serve us well. Until they don't. We outgrow them. They must move through us, out, onward and away from us to new hearts waiting for them, as others travel toward us, waiting for us to invite them in and choose the initiation that will allow us to understand their language. They arrive in the belly first. A clenching in the gut - of faint but definite recognition. "Oh, there you are," we eventually say. "I was wondering when you would arrive."

Our mind, our ego tricks us into believing that there is security in the known. If we know it, if it feels familiar, if we are used to its weight and heat, it must be truth and true for us, always. But this is false, and holds us back from the growth we are meant for. It stalls the birthing process, stopping it dead in its tracks. 

Refusing initiation in any form, when it appears to us in the secret moments, the pained silences, the raging grief or quiet loss of a thing, person, or idea - is certain death to our evolution at some point along the way.

There must be movement toward the light, from the belly place of a thing. Where life stirs in secret darkness before it can be born. Preparation looks as much like clearing out and cleaning up as it does adding to. 

This is more than a quaint decluttering. This is cleansing on a life-changing scale. It cuts to the bone.

And it's time. Time to let go of what used to serve us that we are past now. Time to hold ourselves accountable to the deeper truths that have been growing in strength in the belly for the past weeks and months. 

What is familiar, what is known, is not better where abundant life is the alternative. 

To cross that chasm, to leap that imposing divide into an abundant spring requires a brave initiate and the map only you can read. It was written for no one else.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

the witch's new year

I open my arms to the sky and breathe in the night.
Into the dark moistness of my body, I receive the darkness.
- Patricia Monaghan

Catrin Welz Stein

Come to me, ending.
Remind me you
are rebirth
shedding her skin,
making room
for new blood, new veins,
new breath.
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