“I’ve been wholly and completely changed since you came into the world. Different entirely in body, mind, and spirit… It’s hard to describe this change. I’m no longer living in one body – my soul has split in two. I guess I feel a bit like a child myself. Lost and present and living in wonder.
… I can’t wait to learn about this new woman. I can’t wait to learn about you, my love. We are making magic together already, the three of us, your father, and you, and I. Children again, growing older, living in constant wonder. Watching, waiting, holding our breath.”
from ‘Mama Bare’, Kristen’s story
It is now thirteen weeks since our baby boy came into this world and I feel called to share some of the insights from the experience in this space. But this is no place for details, and for the most part I feel that the process is far too sacred and individual to be crafted into a linear narrative and relived step by step in circumstances far removed from the alchemic moment in which it decided to unfold itself. In our lives lived online, so often we are in danger of oversharing, and for me to try to share the experience outside of an intimate dialogue does not feel right. For one thing, it is a story I’m only just getting to grips with myself – it seems in labour (as life) we are rarely dealt exactly what we want or expect; for another, the birthing journey is not a retreat in the hills or a trip to the organic store: it is an initiation of the most profound nature, the greatest ceremony and medicinal journey of all, born from within and all those who came before us, and to put something so complex and mystical into a blog post is to cut it down and reduce it into something replicable and comprehensible. To me this doesn’t feel right, however it unfolds.
Yet, in the process of bringing a child from womb to earth, it is not only the babe who is born: Mama is birthed too, and that is something worth exploring. From our fertile wombs and our aching yonis or abdomens, to our swelling breasts and galvanised hearts, we pass through infinite shifts and adaptations in those first hours, days and weeks – we are not who we were before, and we will never be the same again. Each beautiful moment as a new mother, we are reborn and rebuilt, and this divine process is surely one of the most powerful transformations a woman can pass through.
I know many of you are curious, expecting your new babes, hoping to be calling them in soon, or on the other side of motherhood and open to tips and insights from a conscious, holistic point of view – so often lacking in our highly medicalised view of pregnancy and birth. And you might be surprised to find that western medicine played a large part in Sasha’s journey earthside. It wasn’t what we expected; but the greatest moments and teachings rarely are.
Our time in labour, from waters breaking to holding our precious babe, was three days, and in the end we needed all the interventions (apart from a C section) to make it to the other side. It may take a lifetime to integrate, and the details do not serve here. What I have in common with every other mother is that I birthed my child and it was a piece of magic; what I have in common with a large proportion of mothers is that the experience was complicated, far from what I expected and full of difficult decisions that I didn’t want to have to make; what I have in common with many other mothers is that I emerged with some physical trauma and drugs to process alongside the miracle of new life. My trust in my body was placed under strain, but with the alchemy of breastfeeding and the realisation that this perfect being emerged from within me, I know it is as much a miracle as the next woman’s.
Alongside the unimaginable tidal wave of love, awe and wonderment, birthing Sasha (and figuring out breastfeeding, combination feeding and my feelings around that – more of which to come) has been by far the greatest test of surrender and adaptability that I have ever met with… fight and struggle though I might. The absolute loss of control is what so many of us battle with in our day to day lives and pregnancy and birth, and parenting, it seems, force us to hang up our reins and forego any illusions of power over what is happening. For me, this has been the most profound lesson, which continues each day. A new mother is on a crash course in the truest form of presence, and response-ability. It is this constant need to respond to ever changing needs and demands that makes us who we are. Whether in the throes of labour or back home figuring out this tiny new being and what he requires in the moment, we truly learn responsibility in its most profound sense.
And yet we are so vulnerable. Born again, yes, but overwhelmed with a love so strong it can leave us giddy, broken, exhausted, overflowing with emotion and feeling. It is this vulnerability that we need to respect so deeply. We are babies ourselves, learning life with no handbook and doing our best in each and every moment. Because we are doing our best… and nothing less. It might not feel perfect, it might not look perfect, but we always do the best we can. Voices of self judgment can come shouting from the shadows but we are just raising the bar as high as we can for this new and instinctive role.
And it is also vital to respect our bodies in this tender new incarnation. Perhaps we have cuts, stitches, surgical wounds and battered sacrums. Perhaps we have been stretched within an inch of our capabilities. And our breasts are raw and swollen. Perhaps we are full of drugs and medication – wherever we are at, we need time to heal. Not to make dinner for visitors, run to the shops, hop up and down from bed as we busy ourselves with hoovering and washing. But to really heal, recover and rebuild, tissue by tissue, as we sustain new life and grow a new being cell by cell. Just as our babes settle slowly into their new existence, eyes closed, breath by breath, feed by feed, so must we. We must stay in our cave as long as we need, and surround ourselves with people who recognise that and support us there. Especially if there is physical trauma to process – this takes time, space and the freedom to express where we are at with it as we begin to make friends with it and allow the dust to settle. As my teacher reminds me, you can’t change history, but you can change the story. An intervention-heavy birth will stay with a mama forever but the more we reach out for ways to integrate and process it, the less it will define our motherhood journey. For me, somatic therapy and cranial osteopathy (this for Sasha also) have been two of many great resources over the last few months.
They say it takes a village to birth a child; in one way or another, it does. We have lost our villages… and yet we are still in need of vital support and strength during this most awe-inspiring rite of passage. Growing new life and giving birth is the most blessed opportunity for expansion and renewal. All that no longer serves is slowly squeezed out of us; each moment more space is made for the mothers, nurturers and warrioresses that we know we are becoming.
We can only rise up, with fearless open hearts, and let go completely.