Motherhood is amazing, truly. I love my son more than I ever thought possible, so much so that at times I think my heart will burst. I could start writing about the joy and beauty he brings to my life and I would probably never stop. But, there is ample space in my life to share my happiness and glee as a mom; the seemingly limitless number of photos I post of him is proof of this. Rather, I want to write about the other side of things. The parts that are much harder to share and few really want to hear.
Throughout my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience I was awestruck by the magnitude of what my body and spirit were/are called upon to do as a mother. Many times during my three day, sans-medication labor I felt I was surely looking death in the face. Then came my painful physical recovery which I am still in the midst of, one year later. I kept thinking to myself "this is what every mother I know has been through?!". I wanted to give every mom I knew a giant hug. I couldn't believe there wasn't a parade or ceremony for every single woman after she gave birth. I kept asking my husband why soldiers get medals and public acknowledgement for their service and postpartum women do not. "Because", I told him, "I feel like I went to battle." And I had been. Motherhood is a kind of battle, it is different but also inexplicably comparable.
It is the richest, deepest, most beautiful experience of my life. It is also the hardest and most painful. In our culture, there is a lot of room to share in the beauty and joy of motherhood, but it is rare to find support and acknowledgement for the challenges and grief. For every day of perfect smiles there is also a night of crying without sleep. For every exciting new development there is also a new challenge to go with it. It is made even more difficult by how invisible the work of mothering can be. It is giving every single second of your life and every single cell of your being, and so much of the time there is no one to witness it.
As I learned to mother my son, I often found myself yearning for someone to mother me; someone to meet my needs and to hold me as I cried. Not only was I giving more of myself than I even knew I could to another person; my partner, my support, my rock, was giving all of himself to parenthood as well . It is such an intense time for new parents, especially those first months. It can be hard to find room to support each other as you are learning to care for a new being and your family dynamic is shifting so drastically.
Enter Kerry Ingram and the Mothering Arts circle. This incredible string of mama/baby circles, started just a few years ago by Kerry as a new mom, is a a revolution for women that is long overdue. There is such a need for this special space, a place where the invisible work we do can be witnessed, acknowledged, and celebrated. It is a beautiful rebirth of how we have traditionally seen motherhood. In naming it Mothering Arts, Kerry has allowed us to see the work we do as the creative art form it is, and ourselves as the artists. I myself am an artist, although since I became a mother I haven't made very much art in the way that I used to. Before I joined Mothering Arts, when people asked me if I still had the time to make art since my son arrived I would sheepishly tell them no.
These past weeks as I met with Kerry, grandma Daphne, our wise women, and my fellow mamas, I have seen the epic creativity that is motherhood. I have watched heroes emerge in each mother and now I can see I am a hero too. We are warriors, us mothers. It is not a war against anyone else, and there are no weapons. But we have given of our bodies, souls, minds in every way possible. We have endured unimaginable sacrifice and pain to bring life into the world and every day we give everything we have to our children, fiercely loving them into each new phase of development.
In every circle, we have listened to other mama's truths, and they have illuminated my truth. My tears and laughter have become theirs, and their fears and triumphs have become mine as well. I was drowning in a sea of invisibility and overwhelm and Mothering Arts has saved me. It has brought my breath back into my belly and joy back into my heart. I feel inspired by every woman and child I have met in this group. In hearing their stories and seeing their strength, I feel empowered to continue my mama journey with a newfound sense of courage and hope.
With each gathering, I have been seen and validated in what this experience has been for me. As we have shared and listened, our babies crawled and squealed and exclaimed in contribution. in our being nurtured and honored, they have been too. When a babe wanders and fusses another mama is there to comfort and hold them. When they sing with joy or reach a new milestone we are all there, a circle of pride and excitement to appreciate them. It has connected us so richly to each other and given me a glimpse of the deep roots of motherhood that unite every woman.
This group has been, in a sense, the parade I so desperately needed; the ceremony of honor and recognition that was sorely lacking during those first months postpartum. I think about how many women, my own mother included, have gone their entire lives as mothers without ever feeling that sense of genuine appreciation and true witnessing of what they have done. They have never had their "parade".
How lucky are we?! We have the chance to create this sacred space for ourselves and, in doing so, shed light and healing on the past wounds of the mamas who came before us. I feel so grateful to be a mother at this point in time, and am in awe of the community Kerry has formed. Now when people ask me if I am still making art I answer yes, and proudly point to my most priceless work of art, my son Emmett.
*If you are interested in learning how to create a nurturing circle for mamas and babies in your community, click here to learn about our group leader training.