My experiences of disconnection and connection in MotherhoodMay 12, 2021
Motherhood is a lived experience.
You can read a book and understand the theory behind what you ‘should’ do to feed a baby, soothe a baby, care for a baby, care for yourself. Between the literature, media and ones community and wider community, there’s a lot of advice out there; ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ ‘rest’ ‘drink plenty of water’ ‘ do your pelvic floor exercises’ ‘don’t co sleep’ ‘ do Co sleep’ ‘bottle feed-breastfeed’ ‘sleep train’ ...it goes on and on. So many opinions, so much noise and interference that it’s hard to know if it’s your intuition or someone’s advice.
Simply there’s me and my baby at the centre of things. And in theory I should feel connected and in synchronicity with him, as his life depends on it. But we are not raised to trust our inner guidance and for most of us, we are conditioned by society and our family throughout childhood, to fit in, adapt to survive, fit into the model of success at the time. It wasn’t done out of spite, it was done to protect us, to ensure a ‘successful’ life. But what it actually means is that there are a lot of people, that are adults, that don’t know who they are, what their true values are, what they really want and how best to be themselves and make a living. So in motherhood you may be tuned in to your inner guidance, intuition, authentic self, or you might not be, instead feeling very anxious, very unsure and not trusting in your instincts.
For many of the women that I work with and myself included, it was when we became mothers that self-care became non negotiable. ‘Doing the work’ became non negotiable. It was when we became mothers that we saw all of our beliefs, values and behaviours through a magnifying glass. Exposed, vulnerable, “the stakes are high now” you think. “ This bit’s great...but I don’t want to pass that …. onto my child/ren”.
So you take a breath, you try and see and accept yourself honestly, as you are, and recognise how you’d like things to be different, so that you don’t have to live in fear, or shame about yourself, worrying about passing your shit on to your kid, on top of all the other things that you worry about as a parent.
I feel as a mum that you are continually transforming alongside your child/ren going through the physical change to grow a human, and then one has the physical experience of birth and then the continual physical , emotional, spiritual transformation of one's entire life. Nothing is the same, or stays the same, not your body, not your thoughts, your relationships, your sleep, your time. This is true of life before parenthood but for me personally, I never fully appreciated or felt fully conscious perhaps of the perpetual changes and transformations that I went through before becoming a mother. You are dealing with all of these huge identity and lifestyle shifts whilst being the primary source of everything for a tiny person that depends on you entirely. If you then add any post natal anxiety or depression, breastfeeding issues, relationship issues, financial issues, social adaptation- community changing....it’s a lot to manage and process.
For me I was aware of all of this, how my identity before I was pregnant no longer existed, what was possible before was never going to be exactly the same again, but I was lucky in that I had been doing a lot of self-development work pretty consistently since I was 17, when I began this work to navigate depression and bullying through a movement and breath practice, so during the transitions of motherhood I was able to engage with my thoughts and feelings as they arose, communicating to my friends and family and process it as I went along.
This helped me to do what I needed to do with Rowan. All I had to do was be present with him. All he needed from me was to be attentive. And if I was aware of him then everything felt easy. No matter how hard things got with his dad, for me, being Rowan's mum has been easy and was the focus that led me through every moment with a sense of clarity that I had never known before becoming a mother.
I was someone before I became a mother but through being a mother I have evolved in ways that nothing other than becoming a parent could have made possible. Being present with him always felt easy as it was beyond me. I had to be responsible and be accountable as my needs, my actions, thoughts, behaviours, energy, affect him. My responsibility as Rowan's mother to nurture and provide for him, is at the core of everything that I do. At the beginning it felt easier to give completely to him, to support him entirely than take care of myself specifically. But in caring for him like I did, I took care of my emotional, physical and mental health.
Feeling worthy, deserved and enough are keywords. We generally don’t treat ourselves as well as we treat other people, being aware of his physical, emotional and mental health meant I had to become acutely aware of my own and tend to my needs in a way that before becoming a mother I could have gotten away with not being so diligent.
My needs weren’t aesthetic needs in the early days postpartum and during pregnancy. It was all about taking care of the body, nourishing and nurturing the body. Trying to get enough sleep, eating healthy and nutritious food to make breastmilk and to take in what my body needed for me to feel healthy. To eat to not feel grumpy and depleted. It was like eating and drinking were done to sustain the body, my body for the baby. I took care of myself to serve my child. If I didn’t nourish my body or rest my mind and slow my heart, lessen anxiety, he would have suffered. I became acutely aware of feeling noticeably worse and finding things significantly harder on the days that I didn’t practice self-care; stretching, eating well, connecting with friends, writing, present playing with Rowan, reading, researching...things that increase oxytocin and lower cortisol and adrenaline.
I have always been aware of the body-mind connection but it wasn’t until I became pregnant that I really practiced ritual and routine consistently and then when my son was born it evolved again. He was the catalyst for the deepest and most integrated self-development work I had done thus far. There was a symbiotic relationship between us, there was a synergy and so even though there was all the noise and stimulation around us of life and family break down, life also felt quiet, small, simple, contained. It was just me and Rowan at the centre and it was that connection that made it feel easier to navigate the disconnection and difficulties of life when they arose. I kept things simple, I kept coming back to my truth of what was most important to me right now, and let it guid me and support me in enforcing my boundaries.
I felt disconnection and connection with my body as my relationship with it had changed and it didn't feel so familiar to me postpartum. I certainly didn’t feel confident or strong in my body or seen as an individual. I was a mother now. I dressed frumpy, I subconsciously dressed to not be noticed. I think that when things were really difficult I didn’t want to share that chapter with anyone, I found it really hard to make friends or tell those that I already knew, what was going on. When I felt like that, I reflected those feelings out into the world in how I dressed and felt within myself. It was a difficult moment because although I was clear about what was most important to me, with Rowan things felt crystal clear, but my identity outside of that felt very much in flux. No longer a partner, no longer available, a mother, but unsure of who I was as an individual and my boundaries and values were being dismissed by someone that I had trusted. I believe it was that confusion that made me feel most disconnected from my body and not confident in myself outside of my role as a mother. Although that experience remained for nearly a year and half, I felt I could handle it because everything else about my life felt clear, felt consistent, felt healthy, felt nourished. By focusing on being Rowan’s mum, working on myself, my business and my friendships, over time I regained self confidence and connection with my body and in myself. It took time to establish a new normal, it took time to believe that things could be different and better. It took time to rebuild my self-belief, self-acceptance, self-compassion. I used everything that I had known and experienced in my life and with my clients to become the most resilient version of myself. From disconnection, to connection and then contentment.
But I kept on coming back to my new centre. Rowan and I, what served us, what did he need, what did I need? Even though the relationship that was abusive had ended I continued to allow myself to be isolated because I believed that it was too complicated to share and I did not want my experience to define me or my life. In the beginning I didn’t know how to speak about it and share it. Figuring out motherhood alone and recovering from abuse felt like too much to share but I needed connection so I connected more deeply with my family.
The older Rowan got the more confident I became in my role as his mother and the more he grew with confidence I felt more able to create physical distance from him.
The transition of him spending more than 2 minutes to 1hr to 2hrs to 4hrs, with other people doing nap times, each moment has been a process of letting go and coming back together, learning and evolving each time.
It’s like falling in love and breaking up over and over again, each time they develop and change; from newborn to baby, sitting to walking, walking to running and being a toddler, talking to describe feelings. They become more and more independent and I feel close and connected to him in an entirely different way. I used to say that he needed 9months to grow in my belly to be ready for the world and those 9 months were the beginning of preparing me for birth and parenthood. I feel with each chapter that Rowan went through developing his independence and complexity of language and movement, I too was transforming as a mother and as an individual recovering from trauma and connecting and creating a new life for us both.
Disconnection and connection with my body also felt influenced by breastfeeding. I breastfed him until he was 21 months. My boobs were his comfort and although it was lovely, sacred and special, as he got older, although I felt sad about it ending, I also was excited about this next chapter of cuddles and comforting him without needing a boob and reclaiming my body as my own.
As I breastfed him less and less, my relationship with my body changed. At first I was proud that my body had grown and birthed my boy, then I felt proud of sharing it with Rowan but also I felt disconnected and weak, I was the skinniest I had even been in my entire life from when he was 9 -18 months old. But as I reclaimed my body and rediscovered my new identity I felt more connected, more aware of listening to and noticing my bodies subtle communication about how it is feeling and I feel that the experience of sharing my body with Rowan and experiencing how much how I nurtured myself physically and emotionally impacted him, taught me how to practice self-care consistently. I feel more able to meet my body's physiological needs, I feel I am aware of my thoughts and the energy in my thoughts and taking care of myself as it not only affects me physically but emotionally and noticing the differences in how I communicate with Rowan and make decisions when I am really on it. My love for him taught me how to love myself fully.
You are giving your child unconditional love, compassion and kindness and for me at least, it was an opportunity to turn the mirror back on myself. Whilst I’m living in love with this small being, why not try and love myself with a greater sense of peace, calm and connection than ever before?
I am worthy of love, I am worthy of attention, care and affection and so I now prioritise my health. I invest in my health without reservation in a way that I did not know before motherhood. I am by no means perfect but what I experienced from my commitment and connection to my small person Roo, helped me to connect deeply to my values and my intuition. I have been able to navigate the more difficult moments of life and motherhood with more grace and self-compassion. It was and is not about doing things ‘perfectly’ but about figuring out how to do things as best as I can in the moment that feel right and good for me and for him.
When I became a mother, I felt connected to the human experience in a way of really contributing to the future, becoming a part of our history. I’d never thought about that before giving birth. That I had done something billions of mothers before me had done. I found it comforting to be a part of something bigger than just me and Roo.
Just as I was feeling more ready to come back into community and connection, Covid hit. I thought I was about to embark on a new adventure with Roo and move to France but in the end the big adventure was re-launching my business and holding space and creating community with other mothers as they did their work to come back into their truth. Having been a life/health coach for 6 years before becoming a mother I had a lot of knowledge and experience of living holistically and helping women to find that inner balance and strength. Allowing that knowledge and expertise to be focused specifically for women going through times of transition felt right. My journey through motherhood helped me to evolve and redesign my personal and business practice of self-care and resilience. From experiences of disconnection I learnt how to adapt and live my life more healthily and fully. It’s in the experience of things feeling uncomfortable that we learn how to change things to make our situation and circumstances work for us rather than against us. Within the experience of discomfort is the knowledge that we need to make things comfortable.
Coming out of the baby phase and into the toddler phase allowed my mind to open up to nursery, friends, community and for Roo, he’s all about social learning, playing with his peers, learning and exploring boundaries. A magical thing about parenthood is that you have tunnel vision, you can only really retain knowledge and focus on where your child is at developmentally. In a way I wasn’t ready for the world to open up again before it did. My own personal recovery and also with where Rowan was at developmentally, there was a synchronicity in it feeling like I was always to be where I was and it was enough for the moment that we were in.
But his world has gotten busier and so has mine. Dating for me and both of us thriving in our community. Covid hitting was certainly unexpected but through this last year and seeing the shift in society as people started to prioritise their health and wellbeing, my business grew as the need for it increased. I find myself in the very privileged situation of having my time and energy being spent in deeply rewarding and creative ways as a mother and in my work. I have gone through disconnection and connection and I'm sure I'll continue to experience this within myself, with friends, with work, with life...we can be certain of few things in life but change is inevitable and it usually always results in growth. There’s a lot to be said about motherhood but I wanted to share some of my experiences of what I learned through my experience of disconnection and connection.