Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In the Wake of SuperMom

Phew!

This has been an intense past three weeks. I attended six births, several of which were extremely challenging. I opened up the MotherWit Doula Care Centre, which meant a lot of shopping, building, painting, decorating, and all those little things it takes to make a space for parents and babies as warm and welcoming as can be. Obviously, I had a lot of help with that, and owe endless gratitude to Lewina and Sesch for sewing, Millie for painting and cleaning, and Steph for cleaning and furniture building. Most of all, I thank my husband Mitchell, who does every single little thing I don't have time to do, can't figure out how to do, or don't anticipate is necessary. It takes a village to support a doula. Also, I began a new series of MotherWit Birth Essentials Prenatal Classes, and prepared for the MotherWit Postpartum Doula Training, which entailed creating a 100 page training manual in 2.5 days (my apologies for wonky editing to all my students who are now discovering it). Lastly I taught, with the assistance of Millie Tresierra(MotherWit Postpartum Doula extraordinaire), the training itself. Any of you who have ever given 4 full days of training know how much energy it takes to hold that space and give what is needed in the time you have. There was the added emotional stress of having a mother who has been having serious health challenges (though all seems to be fine now, thank goodness).

So again, Phew.

Sometimes as trainers, it takes our own trainings to make us see up close and personal how we don't always walk our own talk. While all of these things I had to do were necessary at the time, it was only during and after the training I realized a few things. One thing in particular I noticed was the overwhelming amount of praise I received for working at such a manic pace. I was being congratulated for all the energy I had, and there were encouragements to keep on going. And to be honest, my ego sucked all that praise up to fuel the fires of insanity. All those who bestowed praise upon me had nothing but the best intentions in mind and at heart, and I do thank them for their appreciation of my efforts. But next time anyone sees my running around like a manic chicken with a newly missing head, sit me down, make me some tea, and tell me what I'm doing is crazy.

As those who have trained with me know, I am not just about giving information on how to help women have and mother babies. I craft the trainings within a framework of acknowledgement of how our culture is severely wounded with regards to the fundamental feminine experiences of birth and mothering. I see doulas as healers of this culture, bringing about balance as we illuminate other potential paths to our ladies, helping them to reclaim their motherwit, their intuitive, innate knowledge about their bodies and ways to tend to their babies. It is nothing new or magical, simply a reminder of what they, in their heart of hearts, already know. We seek to bring choice back into the hands of the woman and her family, empowering her through providing information and offering her emotional support as she finds the confidence within to make choices about birth and mothering appropriate for her and her baby. We trust the mothers in our care deeply, when others may try to erode their confidence about their instincts or attempt to lead them away from their most personal beliefs.

In order for the doulas I teach to be able to facilitate this empowered choice making and hold hearts full of non-judgemental support for those choices, I strongly emphasise doulas take their own emotional healing into their own hands, making regular personal time for reflection/meditation/journaling/etc. a requirement.

Our postpartum doula training introduced the coiffed, perfectly made-up, uber-Pilated, jauntily caped and leotarded vixen we referred to as SuperMom. She's quite a character, is SuperMom. She can, as the 70's commercial for some perfume used to brag, "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you forget you're a man". We may laugh. We may swear we are not like her at all. Oh, dear ones, but we are. Her June Cleaver facade may make her pretty, but her intention is to enslave us all.

SuperMom is the energy which spurs us to take up crazy feats. She is the energy which says, "you have just given birth. Your baby is sleeping. Excellent, that gives you time to clean the house, send thank you notes, do your exercises so you can fit into your prepregnant jeans in record time to make your friends jealous, and meal plan." Our inner wise Grandmothers, who have always known the key to postpartum healing is rest and nourishment, may give us a little extra bleeding or plugged ducts as a sign it is time to slow down and be present for ourselves and our babies. "Nonesense!" cries SuperMom, eshewing the wisdom of Grandmother. "What's a little plugged duct? Suck it up and keep going!" So new mothers put these signs aside and slog through the fatigue and discomforts, slaves to the ideal of "woman who is the highest achiever after birth is the best."

We know intellectually this pushing ourselves isn't healthy. We know in the deep wisdom of our bodies this hyper productivity is damaging. Yet there is guilt when we don't live up to the SuperMom ideal. Our mothers tell us, "When I had you, I was alone all day and managed to get everything done. Your father always had dinner on the table waiting for him and a clean house. We didn't go running to you every time you cried like all you new mothers do today." When we are running on fumes alone, our plugged ducts threatening to blossom into mastitis, our bleeding giving way to hemmorhage, SuperMom spurs us on, hidden in the voices that tell us how AMAZING we are for all we are achieving, how ENVIOUS everyone is of our energy and accomplishments. And wow, you just gave birth! I wish I could be just like you!

It's of no matter to SuperMom you have feelings of deep sadness about your birth experience if it didn't go how you'd hoped. The voices of Supermom assure you there is nothing to feel angry about or grieve over because, after all, you have a perfectly healthy baby and that's all that matters. The blues Grandmother sends your way to dampen your spirit so you will stop and look inward for answers are ignored, and your feelings go farther and farther underground, your truth depressed.

I want postpartum doulas to bring wisdom into a culture of insanity, embodying the voice of Grandmother so her words are louder than those of SuperMom, who, underneath all that makeup and washboard abdominal muscle is a newborn mommy needing someone to validate her strength and power as well as nourish her vulnerability.

As the training went along, I realized how active SuperMom has been in my life these past few weeks, and how much pride I took in her using and battering my body and mind for her own single-minded purpose of total control over everything, perfectly executed. My plan after the training was to jump right back into work and see all those clients ASAP who couldn't POSSIBLY do without me for one more day, thinking how much better a person I was for believing rest is a luxury, or simply for the lazy. Silly. Thank goodness my wise students were strong channelers of Grandmother, and in that spirit I took to my bed all day yesterday, dozing for hours, doing fun things like reading and taking my kids out to see Harry Potter. And nobody perished or fell apart without my presence. Duh. And now that I've refueled, I have so much more to bring to the world anyway.

One doesn't need to be a mother to have an overactive SuperMom flitting about in her tights (with no runs in them, of course). It's just an energy of overachievment and the pride our ego takes in response. But for a mother, it takes on a whole new tone because there is just SO much to tend to, so many emotions at stake, and so many expectations and criticisms to endure. For new mothers, this energy is particularly dangerous, and to encourage one to value her rest and honour her need to take life slowly sets the tone for a saner motherhood as the role develops and grows. As every new mother gives herself the permission to rest, eat, and stare lovingly at her baby with a full, present heart and leaky, drippy boobs, we heal.

My advice to those stuck in the wake of SuperMom: make a little sign, post it on the ceiling over your bed so it's one of the first things you see when you wake up in the morning, that says, "Dear One,I can take care of the world just fine by myself today. Love, God". (or whatever word you may want to interject there).