Creation in the natural world is a constantly evolving spiral of birth, growth, parenting, letting go, death and regeneration. Within their own bodies and psyches, women experience some of the power of these creative forces. From infancy to elderhood, each chapter in a woman’s life is distinguished by unique challenges and profound changes in personality which inevitably lead her to a deeper connection with her inner resources and the cycles of nature.
Sometimes painful, other times blissful, the integration of a woman’s mind, body and soul is enhanced by pregnancy. Many women experience their pregnancies in a spiritual way. Other find the experience physically demanding and difficult. Pregnancy is a time to allow emotions to be felt and expressed with no inhibition.
In the early stages of pregnancy, the unborn child evolves from innocent form to personality within the safety of the womb. As the physiological, hormonal and emotional connection between them grows, the clash between the self of the woman and the child can cause many reactions in the early months. The most common being sickness, depression, tiredness, vivid dreaming, clumsiness and irrational moods. These are caused by hormonal changes in the body but they are also emotional and psychological reactions to the pregnancy. Body and soul are growing out of maidenhood into motherhood, letting the old life go, a painful but empowering process.
As the body acclimatizes to a new hormonal system, the pregnancy becomes a little easier. Morning sickness has disappeared (in most cases) by the fifth month. The mother-to-be is now radiant and healthy, at her most active: working, keeping fit, preparing the home for the arrival of the new child.
The soul of the baby remembers her past while in the womb and begins sensing the emotions and patterns of the mother and father, learning to respond to outside stimuli. The pregnant woman will notice periods of great stillness and times of tremendous energy and activity in her belly as the child responds to noise, light, music, movement, voices and people.
Non-verbal communication continues throughout the pregnancy as the physiological, hormonal and emotional connection between mother and child is formed. This is a time for a women to get to know the child growing inside of her. It is important time for herself outside the needs of work and family; to withdraw from an active life, looking inward to nurture and enjoy her new sensitivity. Women often play music to their unborn child, Swimming, walking, dance, yoga and active birth classes are popular ways of preparing the body for birth. If a woman can establish a routine for claiming her own private space within the family or relationship at this stage, then she will find that the habit can last into the strenuous post-natal period. In the final stages of pregnancy, the mother to be may begin to become fearful about the birth, the pain and the ability to cope with motherhood. Sheila Kitzinger counsels :
“ One way of counteracting this fear is to get together with other pregnant women to start exploring childbirth choices and weighing up the alternatives … a woman who feels that she is trapped inside her pregnant body may feel quite different once she starts exercise classes and learns how to breath and relax and prepare for birth.”
Now that the baby is fully formed, pressures in the back and cervix build up, causing considerable discomfort. Western women also suffer from the stereotypes of ideal body shapes and may feel fat or heavy and unhappy with their weight. Resistance to her changing personality may leave a woman feeling angry, irritable and depressed. If she can relax into her pregnancy, it becomes easier to enjoy the last few weeks. A healthy and communicative relationship with her partner and doctor or midwife will also help her feel secure about birth.
It is important that a woman makes her choice about giving birth out of her instinct for what feels right for her; at home or in a hospital, in water, on her back or on all fours. Then she will be able to enter the experience of giving birth with the confidence and strength that all went well for her. One mother recalls her birth experience:
“ I didn’t realize I was in transition and felt I wanted to push. I was worried as this seemed far too early to push and I felt I was in the wrong position, so the midwife helped me turn from being on all fours to sitting up in a squat. I found that eye contact with my husband was important with my husband was important at this stage. When I felt panic during the transition, my husband breathed with me to slow my breathing down. This immediately put me back in control of the powerful sensations in my body.”
If she feels safe, a first-time mother is able to surrender to the rhythms which overcome her as her cervix and womb open. She is able to trust her body and to cope with each wave of sensations which threatens to overwhelm her. The ability to surrender to and ride the wave has been compared to the ultimate act of love.
Just before the baby’s head emerges from the womb and travels through the birth canal, the mother enters the final initiation. At that moment, she may feel like she is going to die- or that she wants to die. The psyche often experiences a death for the gift of life. Once the head comes through, the pain stops and the baby is fully released form the womb. The placenta then separates from the wall of the womb and follows the child into the world. Immediately after the birth, hormones released into the system create a surreal space and unreal consciousness that gives the mother a deep sense of euphoric delight.
The first steps into motherhood
For most of womankind, motherhood is a mixed experience: on the one hand, the image of the radiant mother, on the other, the mundane realities of the role. So how do mothers cope? The burden of perfection is unbearable. Better to trust that there is a lot they will learn about themselves as they learn about motherhood.
In many tribal societies, it is said that a man has to prove himself in the hunt or in battle, but a woman proves herself in birthing. Birth and motherhood are extraordinarily challenging and powerful times, offering an unparalleled opportunity for growth and the experience of love. Motherhood is a job which is a woman’s only experience is being mothered herself. In a world where family and community support are breaking down, a woman can feel isolated in her new role of provider, carer, nurturer and teacher. The responsibility is awesome and an easy precursor to feelings of guilt and anxiety, especially when society has as much to say about mothering as it currently does. As women combine professional careers with their roles as mothers and carers, things have become even more complicated. Whether a woman fantasizes about herself as a nurturing mother earth figure or a have it all super mum, she will be bombarded by newspapers, magazines and books telling her how many kids to have, how to raise them, where to school them and so on. By manipulating the role of motherhood, the media can manipulate the mother. And such manipulation is often the enemy of self-esteem.
Sheila Kitzinger, a leading exponent of childbirth and healthcare, has said, ‘ You will find that your baby soon teaches you what to do and will leave you in no doubt about what she likes, when she needs to be fed, played with and talked to, and exactly what makes her feel comfortable and content. You do not have to rely on maternal instincts for that. They are already there.’
As her child is lifted onto her body, the bonding of mother and child outside of the womb begins. The period immediately after the birth is a time of recovery and readjustment to living together as a family. Many partnerships find a new sense of connection.
Nothing prepares a woman for the stamina she requires in the early months or the emotional extremes she experiences as she moves from exhaustion, depression and anxiety to joy and love. Anger, aggression, sadness, and grief are natural responses in the post-natal period but without the support of other woman, a young mother may feel isolated and self-esteem drops to rock bottom. The ability to cope physically and psychologically returns in time. But these are also the days for the mother to be alone with her child, so that she is able to listen to the rhythms of her body and the needs of her baby. Staying in pace with the babys rhythms can help a mother gently back into lifes mainstream. Just as massage, touch, talking and singing to the child makes her feel safe and wanted as she is introduced into the family, the mother also needs to be massaged, bathed and cared for. A first-time mother remembers how her elder sister who has had three children always said that her favorite gift after giving birth to her eldest child was their mother turning up every night to their family supper. Another woman had a best friend that arranged a masseuse to turn up every two days for a week to give her body a massage. It is valuable for mothers of young children to keep sacred time for themselves either by meditating, walking in nature, reading, sleeping or having lunch with a friends so that she keeps in touch with her own needs as well.
The roles of motherhood have changed as they adapt to larger families due to divorce and remarriages, single parenthood, and more women working while maintaining their roles as mothers and carers. Fathers are asked to take more responsibility for the upbringing of their children. Shared parenting either within the family or in a communal living situation, relieves a great deal of pressure from the mother, benefits the child and enables parents to enjoy periods of solitude and participation in the child’s growth, education, creative interests and spiritual teachings.
If infancy is an adventure for children, it is no less so for parents. During those early years the child becomes aware of the family’s hobbies and interest, lifestyles and attitudes. This is the first level of education for our children. Rules and habits are the first ways in which the child starts to understand the wider world: mealtimes, bedtimes, storytelling, painting, playing, television and computer games as well as the negative pattern of family rows, violence, alcoholism, drug-taking, violence, and abandonment or over-discipline.
The times of transition for the child can also represent the different stages of motherhood, the pre-school years when a mother might leave her place of work to care for her child, the relative calm school years where she might return to her professional career, the turbulent teenage years where a mother might be rediscovering herself and her child is moving out into the world and then finally the coming of age, as the child prepares to leave home and the mother enters menopause, another period of transition for her.
Taken from ; The book of wellbeing .