Re-Emerging From Early Motherhood [How long does it take?]
We don't really prepare for this part. This motherhood part.
We might prepare to optimise the conception. To optimise the pregnancy.
We might also pour over birth preparation and sink our awareness into the different aspects of exploring our birthing potential.
During pregnancy when we do think about The Other Side we feel mostly consumed by the Oh So Many Decisions and choices we are required to make on the behalf of this soon to be new and tiny person. Their name, their car seat, their infant carriers...
And then, all at once, that part is over. We take our tiny beings home - one hundred head checks for every corner as we drive - and we tend to them night and day. And day and night. Barely able to breathe for those intensive first few weeks.
At some point, the steep learning curve eases. Our once wobbly legs steady for just long enough for us to take breath. We take a breath, look around at our very different life and our minds fall upon a question we perhaps should have asked long ago...
How long does it take to re-emerge from early motherhood?
To me this is one of those pivotal moments in life where our intuition is telling us one thing, and society is screaming for us to do (and be) something completely different.
I attended a seminar recently where the facilitator spoke about how it takes around TWO YEARS to complete the work of birth, and re-emerge fully back into society.
And I wanted to Stand And Cheer.
Because this is completely at odds to what we see on social media and in our current society. So often it’s all skinny jeans, clean houses and shiney smiles six weeks post birth.
Not that there is anything wrong with smiling and wearing jeans, of course, But the reality is that there is so much more to this process. To this becoming.
The deepest shift is happening when we become mothers. Every time.
Our identity is challenged, and a piece of us does die.
(This only sounds scary because it’s different from what we acknowledge to be true. What if instead we chose to normalise it?) We throw so many parts of our old selves into the fire in this transition. And that feels deeply uncomfortable sometimes.
But the fire becomes fertile soil for rich new growth. The divine fresh green of abundance. Of Recreation. Rebirth.
That is to say, maybe the work is worth it.
Maybe all the wobbling and changing and uncertainty and rebirth is exactly what this part is about.
For me it felt especially interesting that the facilitator mentioned that the work takes around two years to complete. Because here I am - meeting that two year mark, and I can viscerally feel that Back Into The World transition. A completely unforced and very natural sense of re-entering. Re-emerging.
A realistic and gentle time frame for this transition is deeply important.
For me at so many points before this two year mark I have felt frustrated at my Not Being Capable. Of my inability to be truly Of The Outside World. Not being able to Force It to be so.
And I have heard this frustration ecoed by scores of women feeling just the same.
If someone had been there to whisper: It Takes Time.... Take Your Time... that would have helped.
Why is this so crucial for us to get right?
I see in the clinic every day how unreasonable expectations in the early years of motherhood play a role in creating the set up for postnatal depletion. For the raft of health challenges that can arise in those tender early years of motherhood.
For a generation of women who have often solidified their independence and autonomous space in the world prior to entering motherhood, the change is drastic.
Women stand as new mothers, and feel their identity whirring around them as if after all this time it is something no longer so concrete.
Women are aware, more than ever before, of the importance and influence of the job of Mother. This brings it's own set of challenges and pressures.
We're also living in a time where women are increasingly talking about their experiences of childbirth too. This is great.
And the reality is, whether it felt traumatic or ecstatic, every birth, no matter the path it takes, leaves a women with a lot to process.
All of this adds up. A huge chunk of change in a short space of time. A huge amount to process. From birth experience, to identity and place in the world.
All while learning crucial new skills to care for babe, mastering feeding and traversing the physical terrain of stepping down from childbirth.
There are so many layers for women to navigate during this time. So many seperate and intertwining learnings to integrate and move through. Sometimes it feels natural. Sometimes it's messy as hell.
For all these reasons, with all these complexities, the idea of the six week return to self needs to be put in the bin.
Because it's not truthful.
And the discomfort of the transition feels even more uncomfortable if you feel like every other mother is Back and Comfortable and Unchanged and Unphased.
As the pressure for women to be Of The Outside World so quickly after birth intensifies, the complete burnout of new mothers skyrockets.
And is that any wonder?
When women can't Bounce Back Into Society at six weeks they (consciously or subconsciously) feel like a failure.
They feel compelled to Try Harder. To Keep Up.
Or hell, at least Pretend.
When all they see around them are images of other women moving on with apparent ease, our women are dealt a very cruel blow of feeling like they are alone in their non-linear trajectory into motherhood.
And it's a disservice that needs to stop.
We need to start making conscious choices around this, because absolutely there are consequences.
What is our alternative?
If we choose to no longer abide by the unwritten doctorine of the smiley, Do It All, Return To Functioning as soon as the bleeding stops kind of postnatal woman... What is our alternative?
The alternative is simply to tuck into our minds that there is an alternative.
That these is Choice.
To feel equipt and empowered in owning that choice for ourselves.
And to know that it's okay for all things not to Back To Normal by six weeks.
Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
And also to know that that alternative really isn't anything to be afraid of. Or ashamed of. That it can feel Divine and Beautiful. And Liberating. Life shaking and life altering in the very best ways.
Don’t let society rush your process.
Not now, not ever.
Don’t let anyone outside of yourself dictate your pace.
By intentionally going slow as we find our way in early motherhood we Rebel against the societal need for us to be Normal again... when we are So Much More than that.
So Take your time, beautiful women.
Let me be the one that whispers: It Takes Time. Take your time. Take your time.
As a society we need to make a conscious choice. Do we change the way we look at women in their tender postnatal return? To allow this reintegration and return to unfold on a more instinctual time frame? Or do we continue to watch our women suffer?
Because based on what I see in the clinic, in the playground, and now having walked these early years of motherhood myself, I know which one I'm choosing.
And I'll say it again.
It Takes Time. Take Your Time. You're Doing Incredible Work. Take Your Time.