I have always known that the transition to motherhood is a potent time in a woman's life.
I have been blown away at how powerful and useful Re-imagining Ourselves has been for a recent participant, Lily-Rose* (not her real name).
Lily-Rose is in her mid 30's. She's intelligent and smart. She started Re-imagining Ourselves when she was around 20 weeks pregnant. She knew she wanted to honour her transition to motherhood and mark the shift with her partner from being a couple to a family. 1 + 1 = 3!
It has been the most wonderful process to witness. It has been humbling and affirming to see that the Re-imagining Ourselves framework is as applicable to a woman at this point in her life as it is to a woman transitioning through menopause or dealing with loss after divorce or death.
When we first talked, Lily-Rose was so aware of how her body was changing; her tummy and breasts swelling. She was experiencing a mixture of feelings: excitement and awe, for sure and, also a sense that she was being called to trust her body in a way she hadn't before. All sorts of feelings were bubbling up which she hadn't expected. Painful feelings about puberty (another transition not usually well marked in our communities), of not being acknowledged and seen in her changing body back then. She spoke of the embarrassment of her breasts growing seemingly overnight; the shame of wanting to hide them, how running was horrible and her mum not noticing she needed a bra.
She decided she wanted to let those old feelings go so she could accept and enjoy the miracle of growing a baby inside her body.
Lily-Rose chose to write down all those yucky feelings: "My body is fat", "I am ugly", "My breasts are too big", "I am too hairy", "Periods are yucky", "I hate my blood", "This is scary", "I don't know how to be with my brothers / boys" and so on ....
What are the messages you received as a young woman during puberty?
Lily-Rose wants to be a conscious mother. She has delved into the neuroscience of infant brain development and understands what secure attachment looks like. She wants to be attuned to her baby and respond to this little person rather than imposing a set of beliefs about what a baby needs.
In her words:
"I was someone who would have said that I had a good childhood. And in many ways I did, so I was a bit surprised to be feeling anxious. Talking with Jacquie, I realised that in fact I don't want to do mothering the same way as my mother had. I am scared that I will repeat her patterns because they are so deep and unconscious."
Working together we explored the framework of transitions:
In preparation to release those old messages, again Lily-Rose wrote them down. Writing is a powerful way to tell herself that she wasn't going to repeat those child rearing practices, that there wasn't a 'Right Way', or a set of rigid rules that needed to be imposed on a child.
Lily-Rose asked her partner to be with her when she made a little fire to burn - and thereby transform - those old beliefs and ways of being. After she had put the pieces of paper on the fire, she spoke aloud what she did want:
"To be a mother in my own way. I want to be attuned to my baby, holding the questions: Who are you? How can I know you?"
(I have a short video on using fire safely, even if you don't have a big outdoor space)
I can't emphasize enough the power of being witnessed, as Lily-Rose was by her partner.
" As I was writing the old stuff I wanted to release, I wasn't feeling very emotional. As soon as I started to read them out loud and be heard, I had such a strong visceral response. It was so powerful. I sobbed and my partner said later that he was so moved watching me. He really got how important this ritual was to me, our baby and our family. The whole experience has brought us even closer. I hadn't imagined that might happen. I just knew I needed to do this for myself. I hadn't realised there would be wider effects. It felt so good to say clearly and powerfully how I did want to be as a mother."
Thank you, Lily-Rose for sharing your experience. You have spoken your insights and reflections so honestly and poignantly.
Simple rituals to mark transitions can be transformative way beyond ourselves ... like ripples on a pond.