By Claire Cardno, Co-Founder or Empowered Parenthood and Doula.
Motherhood is a spiritual rite of passage, that in our society is commonly overlooked. You’ve read about the sleep deprivation that is so intense it’s incomprehensible. You’ve read about postnatal depression and the importance of self-care. You’ve read about all the sleep regressions and you are pretty much sure of the ‘parenting style’ you align with. But have you considered the spiritual transformation that occurs in motherhood? Have you considered the evolutionary leap your soul makes from going from maiden to mother?
Maiden to mother > a sacred rite of passage. A death of one and rebirth of another. In many cultures around the world, the labor and birth women process is the sacred transformation. The woman's body is being stretched and pulled apart to bring forth life - a process that is not guaranteed. Both the child and the mother are at risk of losing their lives. It is often said a woman will go into an altered state of consciousness when having an unmedicated birth, she will visit the stars and bring back the soul of her baby.
Whether or not you have that experience through birth, one thing is for sure. When you birth your baby, you are rebirthed yourself, into this new role. One massive shift that has taken place, is the shift of your focus. From a maiden with an inward, self-focus, to a mother with an outward, child-orientated focus. Even women who do not hold their babies in their arms, the shift of focus has already occurred from the moment of conception. Conception can occur in the mind, long before in the body. Women who struggle with infertility can still feel this shift.
Put a group of mothers in a room together, and they will not be able to help but resort back to talking about their children. The very cells of their being have shifted. So if this is a process so profound, why is this not talked about in pregnancy? Why are we not prepared for or initiated into this sacred life transition?
Well some cultures do, so I’ve put together some ideas below that can help your spiritual transition into motherhood - whether you’re pregnant, a new mother, or been a mother for some time.
The Expecting Mama
Self-care - this is easier to implement if you are pregnant for the first time, and a bit harder if you have children to care for already, but taking these weeks of pregnancy as a chance to slow down from the fast-paced culture we live in. Tuning in to your body through meditation, yoga, massage, long baths. Even learning to eat intuitively and satisfy your cravings to meet your body's needs, this is all part of self-care. Honoring your changing shape and taking the time in pregnancy to acknowledge every change your body goes through start priming your mind for the shift that is unfolding.
Blessing-way, Mother’s blessing, baby shower alternative - a Navajo tradition is intended to prepare women to transition into motherhood. Surrounded by a group of women, you can expect to create a birthing necklace with a special bead bought by each guest and blessed, make birth art, be pampered, decorate your belly with Henna or do a belly cast, and share a nutritious meal together. This is a sacred ritual to fill the expecting Mama’s emotional and spiritual cup before her big life transition. This is a time women who are already mothers can share their birthing or motherhood experiences (empowering and supportive, not fear-based) to welcome the expecting mother into her new role.
The New Mama
Honour the first forty day tradition - Many cultures honour the first forty days postpartum. You can modernise this tradition by implementing what best aligns with your needs and values to support you during the postpartum phase. I personally followed the 5/5/5 method: 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days near the bed. This allows you recovering time in the first 5 days to deeply rest and recover from your birth. Followed by time of slow days sitting on the bed with your new baby and napping, and then the final 5 days “near” the bed just means staying close to home and not committing yet to outings or appointments if it doesn’t feel good to you. Some women feel they are ready to get up and out of the house. Make sure you are listening to your body and doing things from a place of what works for you and not out of obligation. Remember that the fourth trimester is an important time for your baby to integrate into out of womb life, it is new and scary, so your baby will want to stay close to you at all times. Lots of skin to skin and avoiding any stress where possible.
Processing your birth - an unfortunate reality it, in today’s day, it is less common to have the transformational birth experience of our ancestors. We are so lucky to have modern medicine, and I know many women, myself included, that owe the survival of our babies to modern medicine, but we can also objectively look at the statistics and see that birth interventions are increasingly common and most, not all, but most hospital births will be with some kind of medical intervention. Some women are left feeling less than satisfied, even traumatised, by their birth experience. Whether or not you are happy with your birth experience, an important ritual is processing your birth. Writing down your birth story and your feelings surrounding it can help with the processing, as can talking with supportive people who can hold space for you to feel how you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly raw from the experience, a postpartum doula is a fantastic tool to have to get the emotional support you may need. Birth experiences can sometimes take a while to recover from, emotionally and physically. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the time to possibly grieve the loss of the birth you wanted, or just integrate the life-changing experience you just had.
Mourning the loss of your past life - A realisation will come that you are no longer the same women. Your perception and experience of yourself will be different. Your body will be different. Your hopes, dreams and desires will be different. It is important to allow yourself time to grieve the loss of the person you were, in order to welcome in this new chapter in your life. Your career goals may change - whether that is wanting a career, not wanting to return to work just immerse completely in this new role, or changing careers down the track. Only you can choose what is right for you, so tune out the influence of society and what you think you should be doing, and allow your new self to feel into what is right for you now.
A perception that can be common is the expectation that you will immediately feel different, like a mother or have the instantaneous love for your baby the second you give birth. This is not the case for all women, and motherhood is a continually unfolding journey which you travel for the rest of your life. Your heart will grow, your transition will unfold - motherhood is a flower, that needs to unfold in its own due course. Allow yourself time and space to feel and process, without judgement, the experience you are having.
The Tired Mama
Journalling - if you did not get to experience the integration and initiation into motherhood in a spiritual and ritualistic way, you may find that several years down the track you are still feeling lost and a sense of something missing from this new life path. Many mothers will experience some sort of ‘identity crisis’. Everything has changed, and without an emphasis in our culture of the sacredness of this transition we can be left feeling hollow. Journalling your emotions, thoughts, dreams and desires can help you to connect with your higher self and seek guidance from your inner wisdom. Asking questions and writing about the complicated emotions that motherhood can stir, can bring you clarity and some grounding into your life path.
Connect with a tribe - having mum friends is great, and vital for solidarity in this new experience, but you want to connect with women who you can be vulnerable with. Not everyone who has a child will fit the bill of being your tribe. Exposing your human emotions and talking about the transitions you have all experienced can really help bring some clarity and compassion to your new path. Openly discussing the spiritual transformation and how you are truly feeling can be so healing.
You are walking a road that has been walked by women from the beginning of time. Open up to that power and access your inner wisdom and strength, and know that you can and you will. Take the time to find balance for yourself, and ask for help. Be brave, be true and you will, with an open heart, guide the next generation to walk this Earth at a higher vibration.