Reconciling the Fantasy of Motherhood

Photo by Alison Winterroth

“MOTHERHOOD is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.

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And it requires a whole lot of selflessness and a capacity to forgive yourself over, and over again, if I may extend Howard W. Hunter’s quote. To add a pinch of honest down to earth reality, grounding the daydreamers who get lost in the fantasy of motherhood.

I’m not judging. I was one of them.

No one told me how hard it was going to be or how much it would challenge my beliefs. I was crumbling in a million pieces of utter confusion and feelings of inadequacy, watching my old life slip away. All while desperately trying to cling to it as I slid into the jaws of motherhood.

I was unprepared emotionally, spiritually and mentally for the fourth trimester, our dear postpartum phase. I struggled those first months.

After all, my fantasies were based on all the wonderful family films carefully crafted by Hollywood. Having children looked like “so much fun”, even amidst the chaos and the conflicts. It had a romantic flare to it. I was sold at a very young age.

As a Mother of two, today, I can now look back at my naiveté with a compassionate sense of humour. My experience led me to a rude awakening. But before I paint you the picture, I need you to know that yours might be very different than mine, if you haven’t yet given birth. In a much better, kinder and easier way. Or, you might be in a place to sympathize with me today, or down the road.

Either way, motherhood is a transformer. Within the chaos lies the opportunity for growth, expansion and change. Embrace it for what it is. It gets easier as we settle comfortably into a new life rhythm.

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Now back to my rude awakening.

I was given the perfect formula to lead me into a twilight zone for the first six weeks of postpartum and beyond. Having given birth to a boy who weighed 6lbs 12oz, and was considered underweight, I was instructed to feed him every 2 hours to begin with. Eventually, I was able to space it to every 3 hours as he continued to gain weight.

The worse part? He was colicky for 5 months until I changed my diet. I barely slept for the first 6 weeks, breastfeeding around the clock, as prescribed.

He was also a slow eater, which meant we could easily spend up to an hour snuggled up together next to a plate of pineapples and strawberries lovingly prepared by my beloved. Oh, and that giant glass of water!

While nursing him, I would pray that once asleep he would not awaken when placed back in his crib. Otherwise, I could easily spend another hour in the midst of the night, trying to put him down to sleep inconsolable and in pain. If I was lucky, I would sleep for 45 minutes after tossing and turning, wake up, feed, console and repeat.

Needless to say, the experience brought me back down to earth at lightning speed after a home birth that sent me into an altered state of blissful consciousness.

This was very different than the pretty little fantasy of motherhood I had concocted in my mind’s eye. I imagined us strolling along the river, taking picnics while bathing in the sun. Mama reading a book while baby sleeping. Walking back home, stopping at a coffee shop or maybe at a gelato parlour for a change. A very beautiful and pleasant leisurely life. A sort of vacation for a whole year, with the happiest baby on the block. (Yes, I’m from Canada and exaggerating just a little bit.)

The fantasy of Motherhood was a dream of The Maiden; who thought she could have her way with The Mother. You know, the freedom and time for Self to explore life as it was.

This created enormous tension within me. A very real struggle between both that eventually led to an identity crisis.

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Today, when I speak with new mothers on the verge of tears, I often hear:

“I just don’t have time for myself anymore…”

Recognize that those are the cries of The Maiden.

The Mother archetype is happy within her role, taking care of the child/ren, nurturing them and dedicating all her time and energy in raising her family.

When you have this strong desire to break out of your role as Mother and reclaim your old life back, or some form of freedom and room to breathe, it is the Maiden taking up space.

I have come to realize over time that without the demarcation of ones transition into Motherhood, there is a very real unrest that ensues in a woman’s life. A tug-of-war between The Maiden and The Mother.

I believe that a simple ceremony to mark the symbolic death of The Maiden is vital. The role that she has played in your life needs to be acknowledge and honoured with love, as you cycle through Life, Death and Rebirth, making room for The Mother to bloom into her full expression. We need to treat this delicate time in a woman’s life as a rite of passage, supported by a community and family.

Once you have honoured The Maiden, take the time to reflect on what traits and qualities you would like to embody as The Mother. Welcome her in your life. Dream with her your future.

With love & light,

Sanja

SACRED CIRCLE: Tell me, how did the reality of Motherhood differ from your fantasy?

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