Welcoming a new life
It is incredible what bringing a new life into the world represents: responsibility, unconditional love, nurturing, exhaustion, worry, excitement, joy. I can actually go on and on about my experiences thus far, becoming a mother – it feels like every hour I am in touch with a different emotion, riding the unpredictable waves of motherhood. Not only is my experience shifting by the hour in relationship to my baby, but also in every aspect of my life. All the relationships I have, and all the activities that have kept me busy and fulfilled before my daughter’s birth, have a different meaning – and, certainly, are ranked differently in importance. Of all the changes however, the most significant shift I have experienced in motherhood is the on-going need of being present, grounded, in the moment. My baby knows immediately whether my head has gone some place else, and she responds by doing what she does best to communicate: she cries.
I have wondered many times over the last six weeks whether a lot of the crying that takes place with our newborns are related to the lack of mindfulness so many of us experience. I used to think that I was able to stay in one place, present, at least a few moments a day, only to find out that my head, in fact, never stops. It is sad how often I miss the moment to moment, like the hours of breastfeeding, to thoughts that are in the past (regrets) and the future (hopes and wishes). And, then, I am brought back to the present with a scream, a cry to remind me to be back here, right now. Mia, my daughter, has become the best gauge of my lack of presence. She has also become the most effective alarm system to help me cope with the jumping monkey, the incessant thoughts that have governed my mind.
Along with this experience is the fact that her purity, her light, brings up my own innocence, the early childhood memories of myself. I have travelled into memory lane quite often, arriving at some particularly sore spots of childhood – the memories of feeling unsafe, not heard, unloved. I have re-experienced some painful moments, and touched an unshakable sadness that so vividly still exists in my heart, and body. I recall being 5 years old and holding my mother, looking for comfort, at the end of the day, when she got home, and being pushed away or dismissed – a complaint about a headache being ignored and told that I needed to stop wining and eat more. Or, memories of my father, who arrived late every night and always seemed to block his hearing to my sister and I. We would excitedly share things of our days to be met with an inquisitive look, and ‘I am sorry, what did you say?’ Not that these things affect my relationship to my parents – these memories, buried deep within my subconscious, color my relationship to myself, and that, in turn, if not checked, color my experience with my partner, and will certainly color my relationship to my daughter.
Learning to let these memories surface, and be ok with whatever feelings they bring, and then trying to tell a different story about these events – one that has the outcome I would love to experience, that is safe and loving, is the only practice that makes me surrender, rather than fight these ghosts. It is also the only practice that can help free myself from the thick protective walls I have built against the wounds of early childhood.
Being a mother is the most demanding job I have ever taken upon myself, and certainly, the most important reason to shut off the useless thoughts that repeat old stories that no longer matter. I believe that each of us are given the exact opportunities we need to achieve our personal growth. The issue is that these opportunities show up as unbearably painful challenges. I have wanted to run from my own a few times, but nothing like a screaming baby to keep me here, and to keep me wanting to move forward.
With love, Karen