My daughter was born at home. I had planned it all down to every detail. I was going to be a warrior-birthing-mom, doing it on my own terms in my own way. I had the birth tub ready, the towels stacked, snacks in
the fridge. My doula and midwife and her apprentice were a phone call away. I had taken birthing classes focusing on both the physical and spiritual aspects of birth. I had music planned, and perfectly dim lighting. I was ready.
The night was warm and beautiful. And the experience was pretty much exactly as I wanted it. In the presence of my birth team I laughed and screamed and pushed and cried. And at 3:29 am after only eight hours of labor, this perfect little being popped out.
"I did it", I thought. I wanted to celebrate! To call my friends! To revel in the hormonal surge that had me cresting on waves of ebullience! And then I wanted to sit and drink coffee and tell my friends all about it before running to my favorite Thai restaurant for a quick bite.
This was when I realized that the awesome-warrior-birthing-woman I had envisioned had done her job, but now there was someone else in the room. A mother. With a big, big job to do. For the rest of her life. With this tiny, fragile creature whom I had never seen before.
I had worked so hard to prepare for the birth, I had pushed aside the details that came next. Like - babies don't really sleep. And my life is no longer my life. I am now at the beck and call of a tiny, pooping creature who communicates through some kind of cryptic - and very loud - language.
I'm not going to lie: the first few years were hard for me. I was a single mother by choice, so it was up to me to do, well, everything. I had worked for years for my baby to join me, and it was not a decision I had taken lightly. But I was so tired. Even with my community and dear friends, and I thank my lucky stars for that, I really struggled to reconcile the woman I had been and this new life I was thrown into.
When my kiddo was a few months old, I started to work again. One of the early things I did was to create my Visioning Mama series, where new mamas came together to talk, support, and make process art, exploring their new identities. I led the group, yes, but I was also an active member. And honestly, this group that I planned for others, saved me.
We came together every Wednesday evening. We threw ourselves into each week's creative process, unsure of what would emerge, but trusting that what came up would guide and teach us something about who we were and who we were becoming.
We created a space where all feelings were allowed. We talked about the sides of motherhood that were overwhelmingly hard. We let down the veneers of beaming, perfectly joyful mothers that others expected of us. We drew, played with clay, made collages, and witnessed one another as we navigated the fears, anger, sadness, and yes, joy, that came up as we created.
Everything was welcome, everything was acknowledged. And through our weeks together, through the creative work and the community we built, we became women again. Women who were mothers, yes, but also teachers, and lovers, and explorers, and friends.
Motherhood is absolutely wonderful. And it is achingly hard. We need spaces to acknowledge and explore both of those realities. When you become a mama, everything changes, both in ways you expect, and in ways that knock the breath right out of you. And all of that is ok. But if we keep the hard parts locked inside, we lose the chance to become the whole women we are.
I'm so grateful to the women who came on that journey with me all those years ago.
And I encourage all of the mothers out there, new or experienced, to find a tribe. Find a community to explore who you are and allow all parts of yourself to exist. Everything you feel is valid and is part of this next phase of selfhood you are in. I promise that moving through this with intention will serve you well.
If you want a gentle start to exploring yourself through the lens of motherhood, I am offering a Creative Mama online workshop on April 23, and I'd love to welcome you to it. You can read more about it HERE.
I also love to work one-on-one with mothers looking to unfold more of their identities. Please reach out if you would like to explore what that might look like for you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.