It is with a wide open heart that, now in my fourteenth week of my first pregnancy, I begin a new section on the blog dedicated to honest explorations of pregnancy and motherhood in all their mysterious magic – and all their many challenges. After three months of internal inquiry and a strong inward process, I feel happy (if a little fearful) to start sharing the journey here; I hope that all my sisters out there might find some insight, support or companionship here, whatever stage of the cycle they are at.
I am one third through the journey to birth, and yet still so far away… if I write my experience of the first trimester too soon, perhaps it will feel too fresh and what is such a highly personal journey will hold little resonance for anyone else; and yet if I wait too long, I will be swept away with whatever the next weeks bring me on this fast-moving ride, and the things which I feel it is so important to share here will fade. I have been journalling – albeit with some resistance – and find the exercise so helpful, both in recording thoughts and memories but also in giving form to and thus somehow rationalising the powerful fears, anxieties and at times overwhelming sadness that have passed through me so far alongside the excitement, gratitude and awe.
Because this is my truth: after some deep preparatory womb work and inner healing, the first month and a half following conception were not all smiles, celebration and unbounded joy as the apps and book covers would have us expect. And even the word expect is such a dangerous one on this mysterious path – surely every mother in the world can assert that expectations of pregnancy and motherhood only serve to show us we cannot be sure of anything that is coming our way. A deep fear of loss, which I have known all my life but became intensified when this new journey began, coupled with experiencing the core imprints of my three-month premature birth at 27 weeks, are strong seas to navigate – and ones that require ongoing awareness, presence and courage to move through in all their fullness. And whatever the backstory, added guilt at not feeling purely positive emotions requires its own steely set of tools to undo and send back to where it came from. Transforming from women to mothers, we need unending stores of courage and willingness to take each step toward labour and beyond with the resolve of the warriors that we truly are.
In my experience and from the mostly disappointing and overly prescriptive pregnancy books I eagerly gathered around me – only to discard in a pile by my bed upon discovering with more aloneness that they do not even touch upon the emotions that can beset a newly pregnant womb-an – the intensely purgative and cleansing side of the first trimester (and very possibly the next two) is largely disregarded, and becomes medicalised, whittled down to the physical manifestation of morning sickness, and the rest attributed to the effect of heightened hormones. And while both of these physical truths are undeniable parts of the process, in my heart I know it’s clear that there is a far wiser, more healing and ancient force at work as we prepare to bring forth new life: a deep and intelligent purging of our bodies and our inner skies; a sacred and divine cleansing that allows us to let go of what will no longer serve as mothers.
One of my teachers told me, at a time when I needed to hear it the most, “the baby will push out all that is not love”. These words gave rise to such relief and surrender – not only to know that a deeper sadness is nothing strange or to be feared or shamed, but also that there lies great healing potential in this journey. The physical nausea is surely the most recognisable form of this and in her book, Excited, Exhausted, Expecting: the emotional life of mothers-to-be, Arlene Modica Matthews has her own name for it: mourning sickness. “… if indeed some part of a woman’s nausea is unconsciously inspired, it is likely because there is something in her life – perhaps some aspect of a relationship, some pattern of behaviour, or some now outmoded way of thinking – that will no longer serve her as she readies herself to give birth and to mother. Subliminally she may know this, but consciously she may not…. In talking with someone you trust, you can unburden yourself. And in unburdening yourself, you can “mourn” – without literally throwing up – whatever it is you need to relinquish.”
And this need to speak with someone we trust is so vital as we navigate the process. It may be our mothers, grandmothers, those closest to us – or it may be those who know us in a different capacity and with whom we share different ground in common. For while we used to grow and birth our children in tightly knit communities of women from all generations, we have become so isolated and detached from the birth stories and experiences of even those who are closest to us. And this loss trickles down to be felt in our own pregnancies in many different ways. We often arrive at the gates of pregnancy confused, overwhelmed, with so much mystery and nothing but modern medicine before us. And yet our community is always there: slowly but surely I have been gathering my tribe of guides around me and their support, insight and kindness has been invaluable in those moments where the power of the process has felt just too overwhelming. Finding our women and mothers, who know where we are coming from, respect our own individual path and our unique way of navigating life, and leaning on them when we need it most is vital if we are to navigate this with the fullness required to truly let go of what is no longer needed. For if we do not, it surely stays buried within us – and what new mother needs more stones in her shoes?
For me, a mixture of sound healing, nature immersion, writing, yoga, massage, deep breathwork and allowing myself the time and space to simply be present with what is coming up (and whatsoever I feel like eating) have allowed much surrender, release and exploration of old patterns and beliefs. And of course, days of urgent sleep. For every woman it is so wildly different, and there lies the beauty of this unknowable experience; but one thing is as clear to me as the full moon, and that is that a deep primal instinct and sensitivity are awakening, and a sacred intelligence is at work – whatever it may give us or take away from us – and these require an abundance of space, respect and surrender.