"There's a path you know. Good grief!"
|With thanks, Maithili Women's Centre, Nepal|
"Yeah, okay." And they strutted a bit, because they are my greatest creations, for sure.
But that doesn't really begin to cover what happens to us when we become mothers, does it? The complete paralysis when you see your child on the edge. Okay, there was a path. But from where I stood I could not see it and it stopped my heart.
I've often listened to a mother-to-be say confidently, "Oh yes, he's signed up at the nursery, I'll be going back to work as soon as my maternity leave is over," only to see that mother reduce her work hours, change everything she thought was true about herself, and eventually become a full time mother to the small person who rocked her reality.
I've seen mothers-to-be, all ready for full time attachment parenting, rethinking their plans once they become a mother, needing to carve a time for themselves, a craft, a small business... or even to go to work full time.
I've seen countless mothers on a sensible path of education or career, do a total turnabout and head back to school to study something new. Or search for a new and meaningful job in a new field. Or become obsessed with regaining a youthful body, maybe in an effort to raise the dead?
Many ancient societies had a ritualized death and rebirth ceremony for adolescent boys. Modern gangs often provide similar, violent, 'coming of age' traditions. Modern men don't have an accepted ritual, and maybe that is why so many of them cannot grow up. Maybe it takes a crisis, full of fear and pain and courage, to grow up.
The time when our babies are born is like entering a cocoon. We spend months or years, sleepless, perhaps having another baby, hibernating, feeling euphoric or depressed or anxious, missing our old lives, gradually metamorphosing into something new. Perhaps that is the reason so much native art depicts ghosts or images of death surrounding birthing mothers: Not because of the risk of death in childbirth, but in honour of the rebirth of the mother.
Which is why I want to say to all new mothers, feeling trapped in a weird new world: Yes, mourn the loss of your self. You will never know her again, truly. But look forward to emerging from the cocoon. It may take months or years, but one day, when you have had a full night's sleep and no-one is attached to your leg, you will notice that you are new. You will wonder who you are. You will be so new that you would want to change your name, but the world has done it for you already: 'Mother'.