It was a bleak wet, winter day and in desperation to escape the four walls that reverberated the incessant fighting of my girls age 2 and 8 (and yes even siblings with 5 ½ years between them fight and fight dirty) I loaded my girls in the car and off to the grocery store we fled. I knew in public I would have an audience and I prayed to God that would help restrain me from stringing both of them by their toes.
Motherhood has contorted, twisted and broken me in ways I did not think possible. I love my girls as we all love our children but I do not love being a mother. It is painful, heart wrenching and overwhelming. Being a mother has cracked wide open the painful wound inside, my mother wound. This wound is a legacy past down from my mother who in turn received it from her mother and so for. No one is to blame but everyone suffers. There was no safe place to turn, no one who had my back and most certainly never a shoulder to cry on. I had a mother that was present in form but not in spirit. I would look longingly, almost embarrassingly at mothers and daughters, how they laughed, how they cried, how they fought. I would eagerly listen to the tales of love and support seeking inspiration and role models.
So when I found myself in the grocery store that wet winter day with my daughters using every plastic produce bag available as make shift balloons, blowing them up and volleying them around the store, I was certain the “excuse me” that had called out behind me was not there to sing my praises. I was right. A middle aged woman approached me and said “I just have to tell you how beautiful your girls are” she was singing their praises. I thanked her and mumbled under my breath how they are strong girls and very spirited. What I was not prepared for was her response “and you have kept their spirit beautifully intact and you have not squashed it.” “I too raised a spirited child.”
My eyes welled up. Did this woman know how deeply her comment touched me, how desperately I wanted to protect their spirits and how I Iived with the quiet fear that I was slowly crushing their sweet souls as mine had been crushed. How the evidence was mounting internally that I was not nourishing and loving them but passing my mother wound onto them.
Didn’t she know all the awful things I had done? How I have yelled at them, squeezed their arms too tightly when angry, how I would withdraw myself from them for fear that my words would do more harm, did she not know how ugly my angry is, my rage. How the postpartum depression and anxiety that went undiagnosed until the second pregnancy morphed into PMDD and led me to see more doctors and specialist then I could ever have imagined. Didn’t she know I am not like other mothers, the ones who take genuine delight in their children and ride the waves of motherhood without being swallowed by them? Sure on the surface I looked calm and put together but underneath I was madly and frantically trying to keep my head above the waves. Dreading each one and fearing the waves that would swallow me whole. How is it possible that their spirits are beautifully intact? How is it possible that through these long dark days, months and years that I have not cloaked them in my dark blanket?
In the brevity of that moment I saw my girls through her eyes and a new perspective of myself as a mother slowly began to percolate in me. The veil thinned and I could see the illusion I was living in. The stories I had woven around me so tightly that I believed to be absolute truth. I felt a softening and a gratitude for my encounter with this stranger, this angel who wittingly helped me see what was before me. Two beautiful spirited girls, growing, thriving, blossoming and a mother who was holding space for the unfolding of their life.
For although, I arrived at motherhood with the trappings of outer security (educated, traveled, a loving spouse, money in the bank and a home), internally there were gaps in my “know how,” my ability to love unconditional, to serve, to trust and to surrender. I liken myself to that favorite sweater we reach for to feel safe, warm and cozy. The one that is tattered and worn yet provides so much comfort. I am that sweater for my children keeping them warm, safe and snug as they move out into the world with their radiant spirits intact.
I am a good mother and I no longer define myself by my shortcomings and the debilitating PPD and PMDD but rather through them. They have molded and shaped me into the compassionate mother I am today. The more I opened to mothering myself the quieter my “mother wound” became and new women began to trickle into my life showing me how to navigate the twists and turns of being a mother. They showed me what to hold onto and what to let go of. They cooked for us, they cleaned for us, and they loved my girls as if they were their own. They became the container that would hold us.
I realize now that we, as women are mothering each other through our words, thoughts, and actions, even when we may not fully comprehend we are doing so. Those innocuous comments made in passing can be powerful and life altering and may even send your spirit out into the world beautiful and intact.
Leah McAdie is a mother to two vivacious girls and when not chasing them down she spends her time sharing yoga and meditation for those young and old.
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