To my sweet daughter,
When I first became your mama, I thought that never leaving your side was the best way to love you. I felt that the world was full of too many sharp edges and that I alone was selected to soften them. I know others thought it was strange. The way we cocooned in our little nest of pillows and dim salt lamp light for those first few months. Invitations to go anywhere felt as though they were coming from another dimension. A dimension where breasts had to be crammed into Lycra and entire nurseries would need to be lugged to accommodate us. But mostly, I felt afraid. Afraid of what could happen out there to you, to us. We felt so fragile, you and me. Your skull hadn’t even closed to protect your beautiful mind and my body was raw, torn, delicate. I just wanted to stay in our milk stained sheets and hold you to my body where we could be safe and warm.
Eventually, we left. Our dear friend birthed her sweet boy and we would meet for coffee and chai and conversation and sisterhood. I would tell her about how things weren’t healing the way I expected and I didn’t know if I could go on without the sleep with your Papa traveling so much and she told me about how hard nursing was in the early days, how raw her own body felt, how labor was more awful that she expected. And her words were my words and my words were her words and we were no longer an island but a village. And our tiny village made me a bit bolder. Because when you cried loudly and inconsolably in public, she didn’t flinch. And with that gesture she gave me the confidence to take you, my mercurial, sweet, colicky girl, out into the sharp-edged world.
I thought I would go back to work in September when they air turned crisp and the leaves began to fall. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave you. My stomach would turn with discomfort and I’d become inconsolably anxious and bereft at the thought of you crying without me to soften the sharp edges of your new world. And you were not ready. No one could hold you, console you, help you reach the dream-filled baby sleep you so desperately needed. So for six months I held you for every nap nursing you when you woke too soon so you could drift back into that milky, hazy place where brains grow and dreams live.
But I began to change. I no longer connected in the same way to my friends, our family. Everyone seemed to be telling me with their eyes, their text messages, their kind words, that I needed space from you to be me again. I felt myself slipping into a strange place where I doubted myself in ways I had never imagined I would as your mama. And I drew back from that outside world into our little world. It was too cold out there in the fresh air for your tiny lungs so we never left the house and we had no village and I felt painfully lonely for sisterhood but didn’t have the energy to find it.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety but I knew this was something more than hormones. Yes, I was off balance but so was our world! Where were my sisters, my fellow mothers, the community I craved so desperately? And like a beacon of light, another dear friend began reaching out to us. She had her own two little girls but she made the time to call, to text, to talk to me about meditation and to hold space for me. I began shouting from my metaphorical rooftop, “Where are you, village?” And slowly, a village formed through my iPhone. Mamas around the world messaged me saying, “Me, too. I am lonely, too. I want sisterhood, too.” I reached back into the void and said, “I’m here. We can do this. We can be sisters across oceans and buried Internet cables. We are not alone even though it feels lonely sometimes.” And I connected to the stirrings of sisterhood and self. And slowly, I began to heal.
I began to dream about going to a retreat where I could have time to practice yoga, eatnourishing food, connect with a sisterhood in person. But I couldn’t leave you. It wasn’t a question rather it was just a fact. So I put the thought away in the files of my mind for a year or two from now when the impossible might feel less so. And then it happened. I had forgotten about a gathering. A gathering I felt connected to the previous year but my belly was full of you and I wasn’t able to join. That dear friend who reached out when I needed it deeply was going to this gathering. And I knew I would go. Without thinking about the sharp edges and the fragility and the fear, I sent her a message, “I want to come!” And she responded with what felt like pure light and goodness and I knew I would go.
But then the fear set in. I have never spent a night away from you. I’ve never spent more than three hours away from you. You are nine months old and I know to some this might seem strange but I’ve never craved that space. We are still one beating heart and distance from you feels uncomfortable and unnatural to me. But I also know I have to go. Because being your mama doesn’t only translate to protecting you. I have to empower you. I have to teach you. I have to be the woman I want to model for you. And although my instinct is to form a human-sized shield and protect you for as long as I can, I know that you need to learn that I will always come back to you. That life is full of sharp edges but together we can make our way across the jagged surfaces unscathed because we are strong and brave and up to the challenge. But mostly, I need to feel sisterhood so I can teach you what that is. Because it hasn’t been a very well-defined part of my life up until now. And I want you to feel held by the women in your life. I want you to be open to that kind of love and to receive it in abundance and give it back ten-fold.
So I am going rise and I am going to Rise. This verb and this noun, they are the same. Iam rising to the occasion of my womanhood, my personhood, my mamahood. I am going to Rise to seek a deeper understanding of what that means. I am on a journey now, a journey toward myself, and when we journey, we grow. And growth? Growth can be uncomfortable. Like leaving you for two nights to lean into me so I can lean into you. Like stepping into the light, even when it feels too bright and full of sharp edges. Because the truth is, the best way to soften those edges is to be in the world and to be that change we wish to see. So I’m taking my fear, my vulnerability, the lonely parts of me, the unsure parts, the changing parts and I’m going to heed the call to rise. For you, baby girl, and also, for me.
Your ever adoring mama
About the Author:
Natalie is a mama, writer, blogger, photographer and creative soul who strives to create a space for sisterhood, connection, and support on all her platforms. She is currently writing a book of personal essays about the birth of a mother.
And link her to theeverydaybelle.com