When the guru tells you to roll in the snow, you roll ~ and so it is with motherhood.
From the minute we allow life to conceive itself within us, we are called on to enter a path of deepest surrender ~ the path of motherhood. It is no simple calling, after all, it is both creative and spiritual and one from which there is no escape. Whether we chose to have the child or not, to raise the child or not, whatever choices we make, we are pulled into a crucible from which rising up through the ashes of transformation, is the only path. We are called on to walk through the fire.
If a woman decides to abort, she must grapple with that decision, not just personally but collectively, dabbling in the psyche of the family constellation. The abortion of life means something, even if we can shove it neatly into a little file called Women's Rights, it bears consequence, and it deserves due process before it can be buried respectfully in a woman's psyche. If she loses the baby, she must rip herself from the fantasy world in which she has invested and drag herself back to the devastating reality of loss and grief, pain and numbness. If she births a child she chooses not to raise, she must live with that decision and all its complexities. Will she be involved in the child’s life, will she be alienated? And how will she integrate these choices as she moves towards her future?
If she wants a child but cannot conceive, she must fight with that too, battling to change her biology as she grapples with the 'Why?' of it all. If she decides not to have a child, her physiology will demand she faces that too as she integrates her decision and directs her energy into a different birth of sorts - perhaps a creative work. Whatever choices we make around motherhood, they offer an opportunity to face parts of ourselves we may not want to face and to grow through that process of confrontation, surrender, and acceptance - there is a certain death to it all, as there is for the one who chooses the path of motherhood. It's a healthy death, a healing death, but a death none the less.
Like death, birth sucks us through a vortex and delivers us into a new dimension of existence. The mother, the co-creator is likewise pulled through a vortex as she labors to expel her creation completing the transformation from maidenhood to motherhood. The attending midwife at my cousin's birth was a robust African woman, who turned to my aunt after the delivery and said, “ Mrs. Miller, that was the easy part.” The breadth and depths to which we are called on as mothers are unfathomable and can only be tolerated if seen as spiritual work and I say this well aware of the profound blessings motherhood brings.
To commit to the care of another being is the highest calling. It requires daily practice, discipline, discrimination, faith, and most importantly Surrender with a capitol S. This is the work. Motherhood allows us to transcend our younger self-serving ego, and surrender to the demands of another. And through this path, we are afforded an opportunity for tremendous expansion and growth.
In that single moment when our infant child cries to be fed, no matter how deep our sleep, or compelling our conversation, we drag yourself away to attend to the needs of another, and surrender our ego. All spiritual work is founded in the practice of surrender of the ego to higher service. We can do it resentfully, or we can take the opportunity; observe our resistance, relax our shoulders, take a conscious breath and enter into the moment with awareness and with gratitude, transforming the moment and ourselves in that one simple action. But it’s not always easy, and it's not always about surrender.
Sometimes the work is about the practice. I am always amused by the power of that simple word. Practice is the work of doing the same thing over and over again until you become a master. Motherhood demands that kind of mastery. Sometimes the work is about discipline - giving yourself an hour a day to go for a walk even if your partner is a less skilled caretaker and watching your self-talk on the way. Sometimes the work is about discrimination - saying no to a five-year-old that still demands a feed when you have nothing left to give. Often the work is about faith - can you nurse your child through the fever? Are you strong enough to hold your child in his tantrum? Do you have the faith to allow your teen to experience his life without clouding his experiences with your anxiety?
Like all profound events, there is a process of breaking open, dropping into a place of helplessness and vulnerability, and then pulling ourselves back to wholeness ~ a place I call ‘the shattered whole’. This idea is based on a Kabalistic concept called the Shattering of the Vessels. The idea is that perfection Itself is unsustainable in a world of matter and that the inevitable shattering of perfection produces an opportunity for the scattered pieces to be re-collected, which is the shared human-Godly experience. (The tree of Life and the tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden give a biblical analogy to this concept). And motherhood certainly takes us there.
Inspired by a vision ahead we begin the arduous journey, catching glimpses along to way to keep us motivated. But these flashes are soon replaced by a hormonal tsunami, or lack of sleep, or challenges in our relationships, or illness or shock, or the insidious demands of daily life. Suddenly our internal experience of relationships, patterns, attachments, and beliefs are thrown into sharp focus and everything in our ordered lives begins to fall apart. This may happen during the pregnancy or during the birth, it may happen ten days after the birth at your infants first growth spurt or it may happen when your child is seven and still wets the bed. It may happen in a flash or it may be a small chipping away which takes place over years. Whenever and however it happens, you would do well to have found yourself a teacher, a mother who has been before, a mentor, a guide.
In previous times this was the role of the grand-mothers and the aunts of the tribes and villages, but modern ways have severed many of these relationships. So, if you have a special someone whose mothering-ways resonate with your soul, don’t be afraid to call on her. If she is the right one, she will welcome your reaching out and naturally sense that you are in need of some guidance.
Look for someone who is in touch with her wildness. By that I mean a woman who is in touch with the seasons and the cycles, connected to nature and her own creative, sexual, and sensual experience, one who has faced herself, and is not afraid to become unraveled, one who has collected herself back, integrated many parts of her self including shadow parts. Look for one who supports natural immunity, and one who knows when to turn to medical care - there is a line and it’s not always clear, especially in the throws of a seeming emergency. Look for one who walks the middle line between faith and fear with a leaning towards faith. Look for one who has and respects boundaries and encourages you to do the same. Look for one with authority in her voice. Not the high-pitched authority of educated neurosis, but the deep authority of ancient wisdom, a wisdom which resonates through generations. She makes no claims that it belongs to her, her wisdom does not come with a patent.
And then step into the journey with confidence. You are not alone. Generations of women stand behind you. Call on their wisdom and call on their strength. The path of motherhood is as great a spiritual path as any other, if not greater.
Rebecca Bermeister is a practicing Classical Homeopath and writer.
Contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org