Spirit Blog

Personal reflections on a spiritual journey...

Motherhood

When my first born was seven weeks old he was colic and, after trying for many years to conceive, I was crumbling during the first months of motherhood. Everything seemed to be falling apart. I couldn't believe that this is what I had spent countless fertility treatments trying to obtain. It was awful. And, due to a tendency toward perfectionism, I was not about to admit that I wasn't loving every second of it. 

Then the morning came when I carelessly left him on the couch and walked into the other room to get something. I didn't see him fall but I heard the thud. And by the time I grabbed him off the floor just a few seconds later, his tiny head already had a golf ball sized bump.

No no no no no this can't be happening...

In hindsight, I realize I should have called an ambulance but instead, alone, I put him in the car seat, and rushed to the hospital, panicked and driving erratically. I ran with him into the emergency room. And I watched them, now in slow motion memory, check him. They put his little body, strapped down, flailing, into an MRI machine. The whole day is a blur but there are moments that stand out. Like his brain image on the screen when I found out he had fractured his skull...

He is fine now and, like the doctors predicted that day, shows no evidence of the accident. I have since forgiven myself for that but at first it was a shameful secret of my motherhood. Looking back, I made a terrible, mindless mistake. He is fine. I am blessed it wasn't worse. Beating myself up about the past doesn't help the present. And that notion is something I hope to instill in my children. 

As mothers there seems to be an inherent culture of self doubt, of potential regret over the big stuff and all the little stuff too. Is the child stimulated enough? Overstimulated? Eaten too much sugar? Has enough independence? Disciplined correctly? Did he sleep well? Is he happy? Does he feel safe?

The idea that this tiny being is going to become a man one day and carry the scars of my mistakes into future decision making and relationship is almost terrifying. That he might learn how to feel guilt and regret and self hatred because I have mirrored it for him, that he may be damaged because I was damaged, and the cycle of psychological patterns repeat generation upon generation, can be a debilitating thought.

But in reality, most mothers are doing the best they can given the circumstances of life up until that point. And most children survive, thrive, and succeed beyond expectations. Nothing good comes from self criticism, regret, shame. Choosing gentleness of mind, body, and spirit is the only way heal and be truly happy, in life in general, and motherhood especially. 

In a Funk? Be Grateful.

March 26th is my mother's birthday. She has been deceased for six years. I miss her. Sometimes, I sulk. I wish she could have met her grandchildren. I want to hear her laugh again. I want to do another Sunday crossword with her...

And with all this I feel an overwhelming sense of unfairness. And sometimes I feel pretty down. 

Yesterday, while at the cemetery, I wondered what I might say to my three-year-old when he asks about her one day, when I need to explain death, when I need to explain the tears...

I think I will say she is no longer living in her body. Her presence, her energy, her spirit, is felt but she is no longer living in her body. She is no longer with us in that way. 

While pondering this, I was suddenly overcome with a wave of gratitude, a sense of true clarity. Here I am, in this body, with this breath, alive, and well. Despite whatever hardship I may face, I am still here. I still get to wake up each day, take deep breaths, listen to music, dance, do yoga, kiss my children, hold my husband's hand, laugh, cry, hurt, read, dream, be.

Wow. 

And so I conclude that sometimes the only way out of a funk (any kind of funk) is to embrace this practice of gratitude. Especially when I am stuck in my head, having one of those days, unable to snap out of those negative, self-pitying thoughts, my only defense is to begin listing all of the reasons for which I am truly blessed. Actually naming each and every thing, from the most mundane to the incredibly ethereal, is the fastest way to shift my perspective.

Thank you for the clouds; the fresh air from a walk in nature; my feet; the sound of children's laughter; hot tea with milk; the way the full moon looks from my bedroom window; dancing; a warm bed with flannel sheets; the way my dog follows me all around the house; the feeling of true love; my big milk chocolate eyes; toes in the sand on a beach in August; abundance; my new orange yoga mat; rice cakes dripping with gobs of peanut butter; awareness; rainy days; hugs; the way we all say goodnight...

The list could go on and on or change completely. The most important way of practicing this method is to keep looking for more ways to say thanks. Who you are actually thanking is irrelevant. It is the act of gratitude that shifts one's negative thought patterns into something lighter. And if you feel stuck thinking of what it is that makes you grateful, simply say thank you. Even if you don't necessarily feel it, fake it, and say it. It will work, regardless.