Eight Years Postpartum: on motherhood and the medicine of time

Mar 3, 2020

 

Oh, sweet mama,

I know.

 

You’re wondering:  so, when does it end?

When do I feel like myself again?

 

When do I feel just a little less like

there’s a thread tied to the ventricles of my heart and fastened so securely to this tiny being

a red thread that tugs and pulls and opens and sometimes tangles

a dance of joy and sorrow and skinned knees and sleepless nights

tender

– tenderizing, too –

 

I know.  They said forty days.  They said two years, maybe.

 

That other mother, around the corner from your house,

or the one with the Instagram colour theme

(I know)

she’s in Costa Rica or skiing in the Pyrenees with a baby strapped bravely to her chest, or snug at home with an idyllic grandmother figure

and you’re scraping crusted oatmeal off your shoulder and serving snacks on a bed of Goldfish crackers.

 

Mama, can I say?

 

A few months ago, I dropped both of my children off for their first day of school.  Tuna sandwiches, crusts cut off; brand new lunchboxes.  A tiny plaid shirt on my boy; my girl, with her hair brushed, much to her chagrin.

Sliding the door of the minivan shut behind me, I walked up my front steps and pulled the cool early Fall air into the deep part of my lungs,

and had no idea how to begin.

 

I chuckled to myself:

 

“Eight years postpartum.”

 

 

I chuckled, but the truth was there.

Five hours of time, alone, in a silent house, lay ahead of me.  Five hours of going to the bathroom by myself, and drinking my coffee hot.

Eight years of longing for this day, if I’m being honest.  Of course, there have been milkdrunk smiles and astounding Lego towers and sweet, soft little heads against the skin of my breast

and also

longing.

 

As I traipsed from room to room, picking up the occasional stray stuffy and listening to the laundry chug in the basement, I felt an urge to metabolize everything that had changed since that day eight years prior, when I brought a spindly-legged preterm baby home

and had no idea how to begin.

 

Here I was:

 

~ In a house by the ocean and in the woods, carefully selected with scavenger hunts and vegetable gardens and beach days in mind.  This house went from being a luxury to a necessity one day when I was walking my children back to our suburban home from daycare, preparing to cross a busy six-lane road, shouting over the din of passing cars to ask them how their day was and realizing:  I don’t want this.

 

~ Still navigating the sometimes choppy waters of being in a marriage whose requirements of devotion and connection and occasionally sleeping in the same bed without a child between us were often antithetical to the needs of the very humans our love created.  Eight years in, some counselling, and a good many fresh starts later, we’re finally figuring a few things out.  We try, as often as we can, to draw a circle around just the two of us for half an hour and tell the children not right now, so that we can remember who we are, together.

 

~ Always walking the thin, gray, wavering line between being a mother and being a woman.  A woman who happens to be a mother, but also loves great swaths of time alone, reading a book in a sushi restaurant, writing by candlelight in the morning.  Many days, I feel the tension between wanting to be with them all the time and desperately wanting to escape.  Many days, it feels like a perpetual grass-is-always-greener:  flashing memories of eyelashes on freckled cheeks as I complete monthly expense reports; dreams of completing monthly expense reports (or just peeing by myself) while they fight over who-said-what or who’s-first.

 

~ More fiercely dedicated to the care of my own heart, to the thriving of my relationships, to the tending of my own longings because: they’re watching; because: they need a well mother; because: the need to plant my feet in the ground of my own selfhood has never been so necessary, or encroached-upon; because: as they say, the days are long but the years are short; the time is now.

 

I’ve caught myself more than once, from the vantage point of five hours of a silent house and hot coffee, saying to the new mamas I work with

“This too shall pass.”

But I know how trite and unsatisfying that feels sometimes.

 

This is the truth I’ve learned:

 

~ Time is a medicine, yes, and also:  motherhood will continue to change, and change you.  You will have many a postpartum time – times when you feel like you’ve released (or have had wrenched from you) a part of your mothering identity as you evolve and grow alongside your children.  Breastfeeding will transform into bullying and into boyfriends as the source of your midnight worries.

 

~ It’s normal.  The complexity of your feelings, your joy and ambivalence interwoven.  The feeling lost, the renegotiation of relationships and values.  It’s all a part of this, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

 

~ It’s not easy.  Trust me.  No one else actually has this figured out.  Despite what you see on Instagram.

 

~ Everything else is going to change, too.  You might move to the suburbs or start volunteering or find a new job.  Your values will be tested and you will learn to draw a circle around what’s most important, be it organic Goldfish crackers, taking yourself on sushi dates, or always being there for bedtime.

 

~ This is an opportunity to become more yourself.  More whole.  To start saying yes to your life because: they’re watching; because: they need a well mother; because: the need to plant your feet in the ground of your own selfhood has never been so necessary, or encroached-upon; because: as they say, the days are long but the years are short; the time is now.

 

Sweet mama,

 

you are doing brave work.

 

May you journey well.

 

 

The 2020 Season of the MotherSHIFT program

begins April 14th and completes on June 30th.

  Registration opens on March 24th.

 

MotherSHIFT is a three-month program (yes, a full trimester of support) for women in the first 2-3 years of motherhood who want support with the deep identity shift that becoming a mother represents.

 

MotherSHIFT is where you turn when your postpartum doula has packed up her magic Mary Poppins bag and your neighbours have stopped delivering casseroles…

 

MotherSHIFT can help you make sense of who YOU are, as a woman, now that you’re a mother.

It’s a place to receive guidance through the unknown, to be mothered as you mother. To know that your experience is real, meaningful, and okay.

MotherSHIFT will help you learn the skills and traditional wisdom that are your birthing-right as you traverse this rite of passage

and it’s a place to grow real friendships and receive wholehearted support.

 

 

Find out more by clicking the image below:

 

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes

 

Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging

 

Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!