Motherbirth and the Gift of Forgetting

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. – Osho

Have you ever lost yourself? I know I have, at least three times now. Three new babies, three new mothers. Three times I’ve found myself searching for the answer to “Where have I gone?”

Motherhood is not just a new role that a person takes on, or a decision a person makes. It is those, yes, but it is also something much more primal and frightening. Birth pulls two humans under and through; each birth creates two new people who have to find their way from the very beginning.

It seems strange to say it, but in many ways, this journey is easier for the baby. Everyone within sight knows the baby is new and raw and terrified. Everyone within earshot knows it’s right to respond to the baby’s cries with empathy and nurturing. But many of those same people completely miss the desperate needs of the new, raw, terrified mother-person.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I confessed in tears to a friend my fear that I had forgotten everything I had learned about birth and babies the first time around, and that I would be starting over completely from scratch with the second baby. I will forever be grateful for her response: “Oh, but that’s the best thing you could do!”

She told me I was on just the right track with my forgetting—that I needed to let go of what I had learned before, so I could learn again, from this new process and this new baby, what would be necessary for this new journey. I had to begin again, and it would all be new.

I was so grateful for those thoughts many times throughout that birth and baby journey, and the next. I returned to them and they grounded me like a tether when I felt lost. Her words helped me remember that I didn’t have to know all the answers, and that it was still OK to ask for and receive support along the way.

My hope for our culture is that we rise up to recognize and fill the needs for postpartum support in all the ways new mothers find ourselves lost: socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We need to see each mother as a whole, complex person in the midst of a life-changing metamorphosis. We need to find ways to make the needs of the new mother just as visible, and just as valued, as the needs of the new baby.

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