TRANSFORMATIONS OF MOTHERHOOD
I was thirty-eight years old and happily single, with a household of animals for companionship and family. Being single for me was a quiet place of solitude and space, of calm and tranquility. Of pets on the bed and friends on the phone. I was on a spiritual quest, living on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest. I had dreamed of a soul mate, but it was an elusive ethereal dream, and in truth I was at peace with my single status and secretly enjoyed the slight selfishness of my life, not having to consider another, waking and sleeping and eating when I pleased, dating sometimes and traveling a lot. I loved my life and my animals and my vocational work of healing other’s animals, and I had not thought a child would be there for me, even if I did meet someone sooner or later. I had never really dreamed of a child, or realized what I missed without children in my life.
One cold winter night, swaddled beneath quilts and dogs, I was awakened into a vivid and very lucid dream state, and felt with a deep certainty that I was in labor. The pains were more real than anything I had imagined and I labored all night into the frosty February morning. I remember how strong and real it was and also of thinking to myself – that this is what women go through when they give birth, and would it ever happen to me, then to wondering why this was happening to me in a dream, that seemed so real. In the early morning I saw I had given birth to a beautiful female child, and a profound calm came over me. She looked deeply into my eyes and told me that her name was Celeste and that she wanted me to be her mother and would I agree to do that for her. She said more but that was her question for me, and I knew this was the child of my soul and I agreed to be her mother, but I explained in that case she better send me the father because I did not want to do this alone, and so she agreed. Two months later I met the man who was to become Celeste’s father, and got engaged and then I heard a determined small voice say clearly “I kept my agreement and I am on my way” and sure enough she was. Unfortunately the marriage did not endure but I believe we choose our parents and the lessons we learn and have no regrets. I am blessed with a wonderful daughter and that is all that matters.
A long pregnancy followed, a time of reflection and change, of adjusting to marriage, and a ready made family and of opening my heart and sharing my time. For a while I thought I was having twins, but then it turned out I wasn’t. But the girl-child was determined as ever. As winter came around again and almost a year from my dream the snow was falling and labor began. I drove to the mid-wife through the snow, and armed with hypno-birthing tapes and a homeopathic remedy kit waited for her arrival. I labored slowly and hard, but I knew she would come when she was ready. She had already made that clear. Laboring between bathtub and bed the final pushes began, she will be here in a few minutes the midwives told us, but two hours later she was still holding out. A hand emerged but she waited, as her ascendant turned into the sign of the Scorpion she was ready and it was if she pulled herself out, then she wiped her mouth and looked at me. Blue-green eyes of great knowing and wisdom stared into mine, I am here they said, I am here. Everything I had not been missing fell into place. Now I knew what true love was and I was a mother.
Now the journey really began. The labor pains of becoming a mother, the learning of another, of patience and humility, of kindness and compassion. Throughout my pregnancy and labor I had thought about birth and my birth-plan and nothing about the baby on the way. As a holistic vet I knew much about the remedies and process of birth, and not much about what follows. How to dress this tiny fur-less creature, how to bathe and care for her. I was sure about breast-feeding but no idea about how, or how long, or what to do. Luckily she knew for us both. I had wonderful plans of baby-whispering, planned schedules and nursing every few hours like clock-work, she knew nothing of such things, and had never read those books. After nine and a half months inside her mother, secure in the darkness of the warm womb, with the soothing sounds of her mother’s pulse where else did she need to be but with her mother, on the outside now, but still warm and connected. I stumbled my way into attachment parenting with my zealous tutor eminently clear about her needs and wants and how she needed to be mothered. Many sleepless nights with my child on my chest sleeping, rocking and pacing until she was asleep led to the natural and logical progression of co-sleeping. How could we imagine otherwise, when baby animals would pine away when separated from their mothers, and so many animal babies would sleep warm by their mothers every night. What kind of society were we living in that we would even think it would be otherwise, that a baby would be happy in a cold lonely crib, with nobody close to listen in the night? I listened to my child and her needs, and cried for the babies who were not listened too, in that post-partum fog of hormones and melancholy.
Some decisions were easy, with homeopathy a natural way to treat colds, coughs and emotions. What a gift to see how homeopathy from conception would allow for a healthy immunity, and rapid relief from illnesses. Every time a fever came I was worried this time we would need antibiotics but every time the remedies came through, and the night-time fever would break into a healing sleep. The threatened ear infection would come to nothing, and the colds and flu would be battled by homeopathic remedies, and her own immune system, getting stronger with each bout. Not so much about transformation but a lot about trust and allowing healing. Decisions about vaccines followed, with much research and soul-searching.
Nursing continued, the brochures urging me to nurse for at least six months were long since crumpled up and discarded, the books saying twelve months was even better were leafed through again, but she had not read those books either. Nursing as zealously as she demanded attention and her needs to be met, nursing all night and all day, as teeth erupted, and walking began she knew she was not ready to stop. I learned to be true to myself and my child, and my beliefs about what is holistic and natural. To listen to her and our nursing relationship not the words of others, about when and how to wean, to follow my own heart, not other’s minds and ideas. Amid a deep instinct that she needed to nurse until she was ready to stop, the research followed, and how amazing it was to find it supported her nursing both in duration and for her own individual needs. Always clear and aware she knew when she needed to nurse, as well as sleep or have her diaper changed, I followed her lead, letting go of my schedules, and work, letting go of myself and opening to more love and giving than I had realized possible.
Celeste is just as the dream had promised, a beautiful child, of clear and certain moods, of an awareness that demanded to be treated as an individual small human. Now she is three and able to express in words that she could only express in cries before, what a joy to hear that small clear voice, and listen to what she has to say and her unique view of the world. To lie snuggled and nursing, in a warm bed and then wake to her telling me that she loves me very very very very very much. To hear that she thinks one of her two Siamese cats is a Siamee in the singular, or that she is a cat some days herself, or a boy who is two, or a tree-frog or a pirate. To stop to laugh and play, to put my work aside and chase her around in the woods, hiding behind trees and looking at bugs and logs and mouse-holes in trees. What a huge gift and transformation this has been since she came into my life through a dream, and how lucky I am she chose ME to be her mother, of all the mother’s she could have picked; how her conscious decision to have me as her mother, has transformed me on a daily basis more than any spiritual quest I thought I was on. As I type she tells me to stop work, and I stop to continue again when my time is my own for a while and she sleeps curled in the bed. My priorities shifted, my dreams re-written, and my transformation on-going, every day bringing new surprises and challenges too. I reflect with deep gratitude how my life changed and how motherhood has transformed me – forever.
We went to the zoo, one hot summer day after the rain had fallen and the crowds had left. A majestic matriarchal Gorilla was quietly nursing her young offspring; in between she waited patiently while he climbed up trees and rolled around, then nursing upside down and twisting all around all the time playing with her fur. How like my own nursing toddler, I thought. She looked so calm and serene, just naturally nursing her rambunctious child, and what a lesson I could learn, just to be, and to be there for my child, not rushing and planning and scheduling. She would sit and chew on a stick and he would come bounding back, knowing she would be there, and as he played with his independence I saw how my own child did the same. I also saw how captive as she was the gift she had was to be able to just be and do what is natural for her. In a way the society we live in does not always allow that freedom. There are still the comments of when are you weaning, is she still nursing, when is she going to school, that I felt as silent judgments, ignored yet still a sadness that what is so beautiful and natural should be considered abnormal. That what is innately given in the rest of the animal kingdom should even for one moment be questioned as anything other than their birthright. The gorilla looked at me and my child and we gazed into each other’s eyes through the glass barrier keeping her in captivity and me in my society. I felt a communion with another mother, who knew, without reading books, or browsing the web, or asking her friends, who just knew how to be a mother, I felt she gave me a gift that day. I hope she knew that she was free in a way, even in her cage, that many are not – still constrained by society, and other’s ideas. After that the subtle comments, and silent judgments rolled off my back, and I knew in my heart that my instincts, and those of my child, came from a much deeper place. I dreamed of a time when it would be just as natural for us to take care of our children in the way they need and demand to be taken care of as it would be for the gorilla to be free in the wild once again, her own jungles safe once more, and our concrete jungles safe for us to nurse and nurture our own young in a way the gorilla showed me.
Dr. Anna Maria Gardner is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and is certified in acupuncture and homeopathy. She lives in Washington with her daughter, two dogs, seven cats, sixteen chickens, two goats, a donkey, a horse, two ducks, a pair of geese and one bossy parrot.
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- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
- The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goe
- Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent
- Giving Birth by Catherine Taylor
- Birth As A Healing Experience by Lois Halzel Freedman
- HypnoBirthing: A Celebration of Life by Marie F. Mongan
- Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones
- Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger
- The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
- Birth without Violence by Frederick Leboyer
- Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy & Childbirth by Richard Moskowitz
- The Homeopathic Childbirth Manual by Betty Idarius
- Homeopathy for Pregnancy by Miranda Castro
- Mothering Magazine