The last lesson of my new Home Study Program – “Birthing a New Mother: A Roadmap from Preconception through the First Year to Calm Your Anxiety, Prevent Postpartum Depression, and Babyproof Your Marriage” – is called A Mother is Born. This lesson focuses on the idea that although there are tremendous sacrifices involved in becoming a mother, there are also unquantifiable gains. We have a tendency in this culture to focus on the losses and sacrifices – or, rather, to complain about the losses and sacrifices. This leads to a perception that motherhood is martrydom and doesn’t serve the process of birthing a healthy new mother. While it’s essential to acknowledge and grieve the losses, it’s equally important to recognize the ways in which these losses, when approached consciously, make room for “gains” or expansions of the new mother’s personality and character. As I write in this lesson:
“The following nine losses and expansions appeared repeatedly in my interviews as well as in my own story. Some of the losses are obvious to the eye – such as the loss of the prepregnant body – while others exist on the emotional, intangible, and spiritual planes. What is essential to understand, especially for a new mother in the throes of a multitude of losses, is that every loss points to a possibility of an expansion of an aspect of herself, a birth of a new part of herself, or a deepening of a well or internal resource. Contrary to the one of the prevailing archetypes of mother as a sad-sacked, empty martyr, when motherhood is approached consciously and with gratitude it becomes a spiritual path where we are honed, through daily challenges, into wise, patient, and magnificent women. As I discussed in the previous lesson, the losses need to be grieved, but after the grief has washed through it’s time to become still and find the kernel of opportunity that sits like a speck of gold sand in the middle of the loss. It’s always there, if only we can find the time and a moment of quiet to listen.
The losses and consequent expansions, births, and wells are:
Physical Losses and Expansions:
1. Loss of Sleep – Well of Endurance
2. Loss of Prepregnant Body and Regular Exercise – Birth of a New Body
Identity Losses and Expansions:
3. Loss of Youth/Childhood – Well of Adulthood and Reliance on a Greater Source
4. Loss of Work-Self – Expansion of Work-Self
Relationships Losses and Expansions:
5. Loss of Undivided Time with Friends – Well of Perspective
6. Loss of Husband as You’ve Known Him – Birth of a New Marriage
Time Losses and Expansions:
7. Loss of Free Time (Unstructured Downtime, Spontaneous Emotional Releases) – Wells of Surrender, Perspective, and an Open Heart
8. Loss of Efficiency, Achievement, and Completion – Wells of Surrender, Perspective and Patience
Spiritual Losses and Expansions:
9. Loss of Control – Wells of Faith and Prayer”
This is an excerpt from the section called:
The Loss of Efficiency, Achievement and Completion – The Wells of Surrender, Perspective and Patience
September 26, 2004 – 10 weeks
Being a mother means letting go of the way things used to be.
It means leaving things half- finished: a pile of clean towels left unfolded on the bed; clean wet clothes half in the laundry and half in the dryer; a salad bowl, dirty, on the counter.
It means being late sometimes, even when I’ve always been a person who’s on time.
It means not knowing how to do many things, but being willing not to know, to make mistakes, and to learn.
It means being flexible, which means it might take me three hours to do my grocery shopping, or I might have to leave a cart full of food in the middle of an aisle and come back later.
It means that I don’t always answer the phone when my friends call, or that I may have to end a conversation mid-thought and call them back later.
It means spending less time reading, and when I do read, it means that I often put the book down mid-sentence.
It means less time spent alone, in solitude and silence.
It means less time spent with my husband: less time watching movies, less time cuddling, less time going out to dinner, less time talking about topics other than our baby, less time…
Being a mother means it took me three hours to write this, because I have a little one on my chest, then at my breast, then over my shoulder, and finally asleep… and right now, his needs are more important than mine.
So with the dishes half-done and the laundry half-finished, a journal entry half-written and a phone call half-completed, I attend to my son, trying to learn his language, trying to love him as best I can, knowing that this time when his needs are paramount is finite, and before I know it he’ll be off to kindergarten, then borrowing the car keys, and finally moving out of our house and onto his own. And then I’ll have plenty of time, as I’ve had already, to do the dishes and laundry in one sitting, to write in my journal and talk on the phone to my heart’s content.
But for now, this is all there is, and it doesn’t matter if I’m late; it doesn’t matter if I don’t write anything for a year. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to go to the grocery store with a baby and I don’t always know how to soothe him when he cries. The only thing that matters is that I love my son. I love him like I’ve never loved anything on this earth.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions. Since 1998, she has counseled thousands of people worldwide through life transitions via her private practice, her bestselling books, and her website, http://conscious-transitions.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. She is currently in the process of completing her second Home Study Program, Birthing a New Mother: A Roadmap from Preconception through the First Year to Calm Your Anxiety, Prevent Postpartum Depression, and Babyproof Your Marriage. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons.