By Linda Buzogany.
I have friends (not just acquaintances — friends) who have been through one or more combinations of the following.
Circle three of them and you will have mine:
Not being able to get pregnant when they wanted to be
Being pregnant when they didn’t want to be
Not wanting children and being judged for it
Stillbirth at due date
Child with fatal childhood leukemia
Children with illness or disability
The creative energy of motherhood encompasses more than the fruition of actual live births, and for many, the road has been a long, painful one. I have seen much art born from these experiences.
Underneath these life experiences is our commonality… the creative potential of all women because we are women. These occurrences break open a channel, let’s say. The woman is in an open, emotional, truthful state by virtue of any of the feminine scenarios above (and many more).
What advice do you have?
I’ve had the pleasure lately of being able to watch as my nieces and several younger women I know are beginning to have their first babies. My niece, Sara, is a wonderful mom. But I’ve seen that look, just under the surface, that a little wide-eyed asks, “Am I still here?”
I see how incredibly hard these new moms are on themselves, trying to do everything so perfectly, and I see my younger self in them. Often separated from their own female line, they look to their peers who surely have it more together to make sure they’re up to par, consequently leaving it up to practical consensus to determine the definition of good mothering.
From my position of an older mother, I know it’s an incredible waste of this emotionally open, honest state induced by having babies, or losing them in any myriad forms.
I want to tell them to be honest with each other. They are in a unique position to provide understanding. If you’re scared and completely overwhelmed, say so. You’ll give another permission to do the same.
Stay away from the moms who talk loudly and often, who say labor didn’t hurt them, and that they are having no difficulty adjusting to a new baby; those who have three practice runs at the birthday cake before the big party. They frighten me. Listen through them for a truer voice.
Don’t try to impress them. Impress your child (which you do already, by the way). Keep your environment calm. Make them smile in the morning. Give them cake. Carry them around on your hip. Stay close.
And women, look for, recognize, and point out creative gifts in your sisters. Encourage the practice of creative urges, however impractical that may be. Be the midwife to whatever creation a womanly experience produces, each unique in its expression. Nurture something other than guilt and comparisons in each other to give our babies.
Career aspirations change/Forced career change
At the time my daughter was born, 17 years ago, I was a therapist in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. I had studied for years to get a Master’s degree and never thought I’d want anything other than my work. I consider the day I returned to the hospital after her birth as one of my worst.
Surprised at how wrenching the separation from her felt, I walked into the brightly lit, fast-paced, loud hospital after two months of quiet and softness with my newborn; and after ‘welcome backs’ and short chats where I acted like I was fine, I fell into tears just before I reached my office door. I knew I was no longer meant for the hospital world. My work didn’t mean much to me anymore.
Then I got pregnant again, much sooner than I would have preferred, and I stayed at work for benefits and security and because I thought I had to. Long before I started to practice and understand the benefits of breath and yoga, I regrettably put both pregnancies through a constant bath of stress hormones in that crisis environment, trying to pump breast milk for a couple of minutes between suicidal patients. You can imagine how that worked.
But when my son was 2, it all came to a halt. He was diagnosed with a heavy, lifelong disease that requires loads of daily care and energy. I reached my physical and mental breaking point, and I quit.
Disease in my child forced me deeper into myself to survive, back to my creativity. In early marriage and motherhood, I’d nearly forgotten that I used to write all the time… through my teens, during college. I returned to it with a fiery passion paradoxically right during a time one is most hindered from finding the space and time to do so. But clearly, my life was being moved in a direction beyond me, and I followed readily.
Through a facile twist of circumstances, I became a psychology instructor at a local college which offered wonderful new creative freedoms that were actively squelched in my past work. I studied yoga philosophy, began practicing the asanas, prayed with fervor. I wrote daily, even for a just a little while, which evolved into longer sessions.
It took me about a decade to write a book — it was published last Fall. But the process along the way is what saved me.
None of my current life would have been born without having my babies, or the ‘mother’ experiences above which preceded them, or the psychological pain of disease (which is what the book is about). Without experiencing womanhood, I would not have even known what my dreams were, much less the joy of coming into them.
And now I’m at a unique juncture of motherhood where my daughter is 17, just coming of age into womanhood, sex, babies, etc. I feel responsible for a whole lot and feel protective on a new and scary level. The stakes seem higher now; the potential for bad things to happen that can impact a life and cause great pain seem greater.
Do I want my daughter to have any of the experiences listed at the top of the page? No. Do I know that it is precisely these types of experiences that bring women more into themselves? By nature, she will have them. It’s a universal phenomenon associated with being female. I hope she is helped, understood, and led into a creative world by the powerful women around her.
And I hope she if gifted with babies if that’s what she wants, because I have plans as a grandmother that involve a lot more of being in the moment.
Linda Buzogany is the author of The Superman Years, about caring for her young son with Type 1 Diabetes. A professor of psychology and a licensed professional counselor, she currently teaches classes on neuropsychology, dreams and consciousness, and abnormal psychology. Prior to teaching, Linda worked as a therapist in inpatient psychiatric hospitals. You can contact Linda via email.
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