Posts in Identity
I "only" have one child
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I "only" have one child. I can hold my son's hand in the parking lot and still carry my Starbucks coffee in the other. He gets my undivided attention at all times and I never miss a somersault. I "only" have one child.

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I "only" have one child. I never thought it would be this way. Everyone asks when another is coming and the truth is? I don't think one will. His only playmate, besides his dad and I, is our dog. There's no one his age to play hide and seek with and no one else in our house fits in his little hiding spots. I wish my family's circumstances allowed us to have more. Part of my heart breaks when I think he will grow up alone. I "only" have one child.

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I "only" have one child. It sometimes makes me feel like I don't really count as a mother or that my struggles aren't real because it seems everyone else has double, triple, or quadruple the diapers and chaos. I feel bad discussing the difficulties of bedtime because I "only" have one bedtime routine to complete. Everyone says having "only" one was so easy as if having one wasn't still a life altering experience. I'm still tired at the end of the day and I still feel like no matter what I do, I'm not giving enough of myself. I "only" have one child.

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I "only" have one child. There will only be one 1st birthday celebration in my house. There will only be one 1st tooth lost, one 1st day of school, and one 1st heart break. There will only be one baby, one toddler, and one teenager. There's only one time I will feel the joy of childbirth, the refreshing feeling of a first full night's sleep during the newborn phase, and the utter amazement at the first time my baby calls for "Mommy." I "only" have one child.

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I "only" have one child. I still get tired of the constant touching. I still struggle to get the laundry done or the dishes unloaded. I still am woken up in the middle of the night and get up before dawn. I am still in a state of constant worry about his well being. It is still my responsibility to help him grow into a kind, peace-seeking, and loving man. I still matter because he needs me. I may "only" have one child, but every child "only" has one mommy, and he chose me.

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I "only" have one child. I never miss a smile, giggle, or cry. There is no fighting over toys, no sharing of clothes, and no jealous tantrums. Our house can still be quiet. We can still easily and inexpensively go out for dinner, take a quick trip to Target with minimal struggle, and comfortably fit our whole family into a sedan. There's only one college tuition to worry about, one extra mouth to feed, and one booty to potty train. I "only" have one child.

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I "only" have one child. My heart is still bursting at the seams. My child is my life. He is my joy, my creation, my pain, my inspiration.

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I "only" have one child.

Written by, Alyson Halberstadt

Head on over to her website www.therewillbelove.org to read more!

Fire
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 "Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it."

R. H. Sin

There are as many metaphors for motherhood as there are mothers. Motherhood is a journey many say. Motherhood is a battle say others. Motherhood is a lonely island I've heard it said and a google search says Motherhood is like The Giving Tree.

But I say motherhood is a fire.

And this fire of motherhood burns. It is not just an inspiring line of Pinterest worthy poetry. No, it's an altering flame, more powerful than you can express to anyone who hasn't experienced it. It breaks apart and refines parts of yourself you thought you needed to survive. It leaves you in recovery longer than you hoped. This sacrificial living that is called motherhood, well, it will stretch you more than you can imagine. It will change you into a woman you may not recognize.

This is how I felt for many years.

I wondered when I would rise to the confident heroine of my own story. I waited to be struck by lightning and sent in a direction of my perfect career, sure that in that moment I would rise up as a confident and inspiring woman ready to conquer the world in heels. Ultimately my late teens and early 29’s were marked by wondering:

When will I 'arrive'?

Then my children came and I wondered:

Who have I become?

Current culture promotes our 20's and even our 30's, as the decades of self-exploration and discovery, and for me this rang very true. But not in the way most would expect. While self-discovery is often associated with autonomy, my 20's have been marked by the forming of our family. Marriage and babies might have seemed to many like I skipped the season of young self-discovery, but what they didn't know was that motherhood was teaching me about the deepest depths of my self. Motherhood is truly the epitome of self-discovery.

The roller coaster of growing our family in my 20's threw me into the fire. But I was not overcome by the fire. I became the fire. I finally became the heroine of my own story. Not by acts of autonomous living, but through acts of service. While some may think I'd have to put off self-discovery for a season of motherhood, it was in motherhood I found myself. While others may say a full knowledge of oneself is necessary before motherhood is attempted, the reality is that all of self is dismantled in motherhood, so perhaps it was better for me to have less autonomy to grieve throughout the process.

Because Motherhood is the fire that asks how much are you willing to sacrifice for this life: Will you sacrifice your body? Your comfort? Your schedule and your sleep? Your autonomy? Your sanity? Your dreams or plans?

Will you sacrifice your life as you dreamed it or planned it?

These questions are the hardest I've ever been asked and they were more daunting than those I asked before children. They made motherhood feel at times like rolling flames coming to consume me. I waited on the safe side of the fire line, comfortable in my routine or knowledge or work, but knowing that as soon as the fire would jump that line - everything would change.

Today I bear the metaphorical burn scars of pregnancy losses, grief, sorrow and postpartum depression; of birth: vastly different and seemingly impossible every single time. I've been burned out by the demanding needs of my children, day after day after day and by the emotional toll being a caretaker of such tiny humans can have on a single soul.

But I am not just marked by loss, grief, sorrow. I've been deeply marked by the deepest love I have ever known. By the countless hours of nursing, and providing life-giving sustenance. I've been marked by being the only one who can calm the baby, kiss the boo boo, and make everything ok. And I've been marked by how living so sacrificially inspired all other areas of my life, including my marriage, my friendships, and my art.

So I wonder, if I'd never been brought to this edge of all I thought I knew, would I have ever discovered my true self if not for Motherhood? Because until you've been asked to sacrifice it all, can you know how truly strong you are?

Can you become the fire if you don't bear the visible scars of the fire?

Can you become the heroine of your own life if you haven't first laid down all that you thought you wanted out of life?

No matter what decade we take on Motherhood and no matter how formed we believe ourselves to be these final questions are the ones that will burn and break us. And then they will rebuild us.

I thought maybe I had lost the woman I'd dreamed of becoming all those years ago. It was so hard to keep sight of her over the years through the flames that threatened to consume me. But my dream was a shallow and hazy reflection of the fiery and strong woman who was actually waiting to be revealed all along.

She had been inside waiting for everything to be stripped away so she could become. She has been the lifeblood pumping through my veins that brought healing. She is the fierce mama bear, always watching. She is the survivor. She is the nurturer. She is intuition. She is confidence. She is the heroine of this story.

And she is finally me.

She is you, mama.

She is us.

And we are the fire.

Journalist: Rachael MacPhee (@havenblog)

I Stopped Becoming

I remember a moment in high school, walking toward the library, I caught my reflection in the big glass doors. I stopped. It’s as if I had never seen my whole reflection before. I was round, full, rubbing in the wrong places, soft and moldable in the middle.  I was different from the other girls. My shoulders and arms were big, too, harboring strength that I didn't see to appreciate. Everything that I saw broke me, crumbled my confidence, planted the seed of self-disdain deep in my psyche. I wanted to become like all the other girls I saw in magazines, on television, in my classroom. Nothing about me was good enough as it was, I needed to become, immediately, more like everyone else around me. I started to look for ways to change, started making choices that would carry me outside and beyond myself.

Now, as a grown woman, I recall this moment when I first learned to compare myself to others. I think that I was lucky to come to this consciousness when I was in high school, much older than other girls. I credit my parents, my mom, for raising me to focus on things other than myself so I was able to grow up with invaluable innocence. But she couldn’t protect me from that reflection, showing me more than just an image of my body. That reflection showered on me all of the pressure of being a woman in a society that demands women comply. It demands that we are always becoming more woman than we are currently. It is a society of consumption and progress and comparison. I wasn’t prepared for the crushing weight of it, didn’t know that it was all constructed, because it feels so real. I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid and ashamed and confused and full of reflective hate. I started looking around, outside myself, and saw what I didn’t have and who I wasn’t. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, my personality and hobbies and interests were wrong. I changed things, bought things, acted differently, got new friends, but none of the outcomes felt right. By college, I was deep in the game and a sliver of myself. And still, I had plans and desire to become someone else more acceptable and desirable. And none of it was satisfying. And I was alone in it.

My daughter will face this same pressure, hopefully late in life after a childhood of freedom and self-love and beauty. I would change it all, but you can’t destroy the world for your children’s comfort. So, I will prepare her. She will know her reflection and be able to define herself in her own words, on her own terms. I will help her build pillars of identity and support and tell her not to be blindsided. Hopefully, she will come to me and talk with me and not feel stubbornly independent. I wish I had known to go to my mom.

The problem is BIG. It’s everywhere and it’s everyone. There’s a lot of things that I want to say to those who are selling, selling, selling all the choices, all the identities and lifestyles. The creation of this pressure is so loud. They say “this or that,” “before and after,” “more or less” in secret ways you can’t always hear. And we listen because their sales come fast; they are sly and beautiful. But the reality is that all of it is noise. Input. Static. Inauthentic. Part of me wants to thank them for laying it out for me so neatly, so clearly, so easy. I could make a choice, pick a path and become that woman. Or that woman. Or some other woman. I could say this to become that mother, try this to become that lover, do that to become that friend, that sister, that daughter, that wife. Body, face, hair, clothes, personality, actions, thoughts and emotions are all subject to rating and are upgradeable as if we’re an incomplete starter kit that require options and accessories. Buy it all, make a change and become the next improved you.

I want to be sure to say that the right to choose is a blessing and a necessity that has been hard won by women before us. But something happened to the choices. They have become commercialized, streamlined, controlled, and expected commodities. The freedom to choose should be more free and less affected. Choices aren’t freedom when you’re expected to make them.

So, to express the freedom I appreciate and love today, I want to say to those sellers and those choices and those steps to improvement that I won't be moving up or on any time soon. I choose to stop here for a moment. I'm tired. I'm weary of becoming the next great thing. I need to know, I deserve to know, what is wrong with the woman I am today? I am going to lay it down and stop becoming anyone besides who I am today. And now, I am not alone in it because I want you to join me. And I’ve talked to my mom.

In all of my reaching and dreaming and scheming, I have been ignorant, completely, of the accomplishment of the present. I have lived as many women and each has left her impression in her own way and in her own place. In the company of the ghosts of all of these women, I can't help but think that it is a great tragedy, an important injustice that we are encouraged to always see beyond and not love on the woman we are today. So, in rebellion against the preselected expected lifestyles and personalities and fashion and parenting, I am going to send this little whisper into the fray -- stop becoming anyone except who you are right here, in this miracle of a moment. Breathe it in, every imperfect, tilted, ragged second because it won't ever feel this way again.

To celebrate, I want to tell you about the woman I am tonight, in my own terms, uncontrolled by comparison. My woman is bone tired and unkempt, heavier than usual but stronger than ever, happy most of the day, bored most of the day, sad part of the day, lonely for friends, experiencing fulfilling love for her child and maturing, strengthened love for her husband. She still mourns that moment in the library reflection, and still is bothered by her roundness and weird shape. She is appreciative of the dark silence and stillness, desperately craving a new baby, desperately craving time to herself, still breastfeeding her toddler, still cosleeping with her toddler but not sleeping herself. She is failing in so many things, succeeding in many more, and over-the-moon obsessed with her daughter's hot breath on her shoulder and little soft arms wrapped around her neck. That baby touch clears away the selfish desire to be any woman except mother. For now.

And tonight, all those ghosts aren't gone. When I stop clamoring to the sales pitches, I faintly hear them singing together an old collegiate harmony that, probably, is the sound my soul will make in heaven. It’s so damn good to hear.

So please, sellers shouting all the things my way and the way of every woman, quiet down so we can make space for the millions and millions of shadowy women's voices we've pushed aside. There's so much beautiful music in these moments, it's a shame that we don't celebrate ourselves and each other. Sing it back, whisper your own rebellion. For this moment, don't become anyone else. Stay you and meditate on her. Identify her in your own way, in your own time. Remember her like you remember the smell of your newborn, or the curl of their hair, or the dimples on their hands, or the spot between their shoulders, or their sleepy, hot heads heavy on your chest. You're worth the memory. I think we're worth the memory. Ponder all the women you've been in your yesterdays, and how they have paved the way for this truly momentous you. I promise I'll try to do all of this, too.

Journalist: Shannon Sullivan Brown 

(IG: @thebrassbee

Repair by Moonlight
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I could feel the pull. Then the release. Weaving in & out, a rhythmic pattern soothing & comforting to my skin. My footing reestablished underneath me, like a child given new shoes that finally fit just right. Giving in and making room. Dusting old corners free of blinding cobwebs hanging in the corners of my eyes. Purging old resentment and anger that I clung onto once like rare diamonds in a satin coin purse. Fleeing from the many masks that covered my anguish and deep rooted griefs. As I untied the knots that weighed heavily upon my chest, I was becoming lighter and freer. Softer & more myself.

October has always had a way of reminding me to take a deeper look inside. Maybe it was the way the leaves began to change, all knowing of the crisper times ahead. Slowly, then all at once, right before your eyes. Maybe it was how the cold air pressed at my sweet tooth, hinting that something warm & comforting be placed inside the oven to bake. It's like I knew something softer and kinder & more gentle was necessary of me now. And at the same time it's something stronger and fiercer and wildly more aligned with my own morals begging to be freed. It's becoming true to my own intentions through mindfulness & heart-centered balance. Its repairing my heart and my head to its original, perfectly imperfect self. The one given out in the beginning. The one untainted by society & judgements and heartbreak. It looks like placing my self worth back on the highest shelf in my house, rightfully where it deserves to sit.

The Black New Moon made way this October, entering into our atmosphere and equally into my soul. It is said that this Black New Moon is connected to many Goddesses, particularly the Goddess Lilith. Lilith is associated with sexual energy, creativity, rebellion, and feminine power. She is a symbol of divine matriarchal energy that refuses to be dominated or controlled. With this New Moon it has brought a newfound sense of release & a confidence to press onward in my own self repair. Unraveling the anchors of my past I could feel its gentle push inside me drawing out my intuitive and perceptive gemstones. Embracing the weaknesses I was once ashamed to admit to, alongside my inner strengths. With each brisk blow of our autumn wind I could hear the whisper of the new moons strong universal energy begging me to uncurl the clench of my fists & release the last of the toxicity from my fingertips as I would continue on my path of repair.

When you think about the word repair, often that follows the impression that something was damaged to begin with. I suppose I can think of myself as a little bit damaged. Damaged by feelings of abandonment, neglect, and rejection as a young child. My parents, addicts lost in their own turmoils have been much of an absent memory that I have tried to tuck far away.  Seeking love & affection too soon, too young, in the wrong places almost mirroring the images of my childhood tore edges off my heart. It made me question if there was such thing as real love at all. Question my worth. Question my value. Then I met a man, my now husband. Kind eyed, & gentle. He asked me what my dreams where and looked into my eyes when I responded, listening. Truly hearing the words I spoke. He'd hold my hands and we'd sit & talk for hours about life and love and slowly he turned the grey that smoldered within bright & beautiful. He really was my saving grace. His selflessness, kindness & unconditional love, even to a damaged girl, helped teach myself it is I that should love myself first.

When you live with many years of damage, much of which you've hidden, it can unravel in the darkest of ways. Pinning such negativity in for so long, I became much like a vagrant on the streets. Hoarding her belongings, toting them to each and every place she travels, collecting new items as she moved. Collecting more baggage, more damage. It is not until I accepted, and even embraced these unsettling feelings of unacceptance, pains and tensions that I am able to walk freely, and lighter in step.

This Black New Moon helps to illuminate our shadow side, which not only draws forward our deepest desires and yearnings to be heard, but also the uncomfortable, the raw, the vulnerable emotions we have let hold space in our unconscious mind. October has brought me much thought and a deeper understanding of these emotions as I've cleansed my psyche for a more harmonious relationship with myself. Slowly I can feel the shift from within. No longer looking to others for an approval. Letting go of the sore past and the people that lived there who hold no positive place at my present & future table. Unafraid to not conform, stand out, look different. Embracing myself wholeheartedly as a woman, a mother, a wife, freed from societal controls.

Strangely enough, or possibly coincidentally enough, I have always held a special place below my breastbone for October. The month I fell in true love. The month a shiny silver ring was slipped onto my left hand when a light haired man swung open the shower doors and bent down on one knee. My hair still fizzy from shampoo atop my head, tears rolled down my face as he told me he'd been holding onto the shiny diamond in his black leather coat pocket that hung in our shared closet for months just waiting for the right time. It was the month the fruits of our love was anticipated to arrive earthside, only to arrive nine days later sunnyside up & the perfect image of her daddy. And now October holds memory as a time when I shed the many coats I have collected from a past lifetime of uncertainty, anguish, & inadequacy & am reminded of my truth, empowered and embracing the wholeness of my heart.

This soul searching, unwinding, journey resurfaces many pained memories and is not as easy as turning off an old switch, and entering in a new room. It takes the hard work of digging through dusty, cluttered filled chests brimming with your faults and deepest sorrows. It takes looking at them face to face and truly feeling them all over before you can begin to heal. For me the healing is a life's work. The growing, the changing, the continuance of slipping up and making more mistakes. It all comes with this transformation. For me this repair period is the first of many that I am sure to come across in my life. But I no longer want to be a silent victim of circumstance of the world we live in, greyed & unfeeling, or angered & resentful. As the autumnal brisk air swirls by your face on a gusty moonlit night, the crackling of the amber fire burning it's embers into the air, your feet rustling over the fallen leaves, may you feel the New Moon too, and allow your souls to expand and accept yourself in all its beautiful, flawed, glory as you take the lead in your own life.

Journalist: Kylie Foreman 

Home Sweet Home
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When we moved into our new apartment I was really excited! We downsized so that I could quit my job and become a stay at home mom. I have always loved the idea of city living with a small space for our family of four. Much different than my upbringing in typical suburbia, in a house where I had my own bedroom and shared a bathroom with my siblings.

This ain’t suburbia. Our kids share a room and we ALL share one bathroom. But it is our sacred space; home sweet home.

In an effort to cut costs and get creative with our storage space, we have embarked upon quite a few DIY projects. By we, I mean my husband. He is quite the handyman thanks to YouTube videos, Google and a tool kit from my dad. As his projects come to an end we are finally feeling settled. 

Summer has taken her warm breeze and officially moved on and with it, I find, so has my excitement. I look around our quaint space, I see pots and pans hanging from a pegboard over the stove, clothes neatly folded in baskets on shelves, books stacked in their book case, my art table tucked away with paints and canvas in the corner. The toys and in their toy box (or hidden under the couch). But something in this sacred space is still in need of some TLC.

I’m too tired to think about more projects. The babies are crying because I am taking too long to make their breakfast. I still haven’t brushed my teeth and am probably wearing yesterday’s clothes. Again.

Then it hits me like a smack in the face.

I need TLC. I am the next DIY home project.

Let’s be real, how much do I invest in my own TLC? How often do I prioritize self care? When is the last time I have looked on Pinterest for ideas on how to maximize the space I live in every day?

That space being my own body.

I need to start thinking of my body as my home, remembering it is my babies’ first home. This was their sacred space.  So sacred that I sacrificed my wants for their needs.  I changed up my eating habits and cleaned up my lifestyle to maximize their development inside my body, their home.  So now, again, this sacred space needs TLC every now and then--more now rather than then. How can I be fully prepared to engage with my family in a meaningful and present way if I am constantly feeling gross and covered in baby slob, this morning's breakfast crusted on my shirt and I may or may not have on yesterday’s deodorant. Did I even put any on? Wait, is it still in the bathroom cabinet? When is the last time I took a shower? Have I had a conversation with another adult besides my husband today? What was I doing again…?

I start to wonder how my mother was able to take care of herself while raising five kids under one roof. Husband at the 9 to 5 Monday through Friday with Law School crammed somewhere in between. There had to have been many times when she was overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed with just two.

She took care of her sacred space; her body, her home. My first home. She found time for herself, outside of being a mom, and even outside of being a wife. When I visit my parents I always stare at the framed picture of her newspaper clipping, where she is running with her two best friends who also happened to be mothers with the same first names. I am sure they had stories for miles. She enjoyed herself, by herself. No kids. No husband. Friends or no friends. Perhaps she even forgot about being a mother and a wife for just a few moments.

I deserve to self care. My family needs me to feel good when I look in the mirror. My family needs me to wake up ready to take on the day with them. They need me to enjoy this thing called life once in awhile. They don’t want to see their mama and wife run down, barely hanging in there. Not to mention, I don’t feel good barely hanging in there.

I paint and practice yoga in my home day after day. I go for long runs along Lake Michigan. Sometimes I even paint my fingernails. Isn’t that enough? No.

The DIY self care I am talking about removes me from the space of being a mother and a wife. Self care that involves getting in the car or on the bus or taking the train and venturing out of our little world. Saying bye bye to our typical family friendly chicago neighborhood for just a few hours. Self care that has me feeling like a powerful and magnetic woman again. Or for the first time. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I honor who I am by taking care of myself. Remembering that it is ok to put me first.

I want my children to have the memories of home and their mama like I do. Remembering what the air smelled like when mama opened the windows on that first crisp Spring day. The way her skin felt as I would crawl onto her lap after bumping my head. Or getting a hug from her just because... because she had energy to hug me. Home sweet home.

I want my husband to never forget who he married. A strong and vibrant young woman who lived life to the fullest. Ready for whatever adventure was in front of her. If I am able to put down a dirty dish to take a longer shower to feel sexier for my husband who knows what adventure may be there once the babies are in bed.

I have the ability to take care of myself just as I did when I carried my babies. Held them in my womb, their first home. This was their sacred space, so sacred I sacrificed my wants for their needs.

So I must now, again, sacrifice my wants for their needs. I WANT to put them first ALWAYS, but they NEED me to put myself first SOMETIMES. They need me to take care of my body. My home, their first home. This sacred space of mine.

My self care, my self preservation has to become more of a priority. Not because I am doing a bad job. But because I deserve to put myself first more often. Embracing that my sacred space IS worthy of tender love and care. A little DIY for MY home sweet home.

I am trying my best, DOING my best. The days of removing baby slob with baby wipes, looking for a shirt not crusted in this morning's breakfast and reapplying fresh deodorant over yesterday’s are far from over. But putting my self care up on a shelf only to be pushed behind tonight's leftovers must come to an end.

I smile as I pick today’s lunch out of my hair and get ready for a shower. I have scheduled a night out with friends in a couple weeks. No babies, no husband. Just mama, taking care of home sweet home.

Journalist:  Shea 

A Talent For Daydreams

Once there was a woman who breathed in the gleam of a girl’s eye. She sailed on fancy, and though her face was never entirely clear, the corridor towards her looked clear. She was a woman who glided from room to room effortlessly, her hair poured knot-free across her shoulders, and settled into one kind of curl. The woman had a voice like honey, which would not break when tested, remaining sound and solid. This woman had a figure which beckoned paramours to her gate, and she was the chatter of other fantasies who envied the ease of her being.

I have a talent for daydreams; the churning within me is silent, a revving motor propelling me forward, often opening doors to new realms of possibility and creation. And yet, this woman I sought was pure figment. I designed her to punish myself for some unknown deed, to silence the voice which said I might be enough. She was smooth and fine, not like my ragged, struggling self. Child, I chased her madly, recklessly, forsaking at times the woman I was naturally becoming. I was fixed on a faint target and absent in the moment. I desired to know her so I might rival her. As I chased her, she broke into a thousand pieces, and the world became littered with versions of who I ought to be. That wicked word, that minimizing beast, and this was my youth.

And so of course I never caught her. I longed for her always, and perhaps still, for there is a certain peace in naïveté which allows for the seeking of something outside yourself to replenish a well perceived as empty, and in need of filling. Oh, how I failed to see how full I was. How long it took to recognize the weight lying upon my heart, it was not emptiness but the heaviness of my worth. The woman of my dreams dripped in bits out my fingertips and toes, down my cheeks, and soaked pillowcases. She blew like dust between the cobblestones and grates, until the memory of her was pure whimsy. I am glad to have known her slightly, and proud to have let her go in the sunset of my youth.

I suppose I left the pieces of her in my wake, and in so doing I found myself, bit by miraculous bit. I cannot touch the moment I fell into myself fully. I have only the memories of who I longed to become, the burning pit of doubt, and flashes of authenticity.

And then there was you.

A jagged, fatal adventure towards a destiny called Mama. Pressed against you, the ghosts of the women I’ve released fall silent. In your eyes I see a reflection of immaculateness, and in the moment we were born I found a raging peace. I imagine we mothers are stars, and between us exists a string, which draws the constellations of our days, and stitches us together within the great fabric of the sky. But there is no shape without the lone star, and you have made the cloudy nights enchanted, for you are the moon that lights the darkness about us all.

It is imperative that you make space for this dispensable woman, for you will have one or five. She may be known to you, in boxes on a screen, or in the boxes of your mind. Let her haunt you, and dare you, and defy you. Feel betrayed by existence, and weep in the night as she dances off into the distance like a mirage. Someday, you will look up and find you are your wildest dream, for you became a most magnificent creation, and the drafts of your soul will shape your spirit into an inevitable magic. It is crucial you create her so you may know the truth: there is no aim so riotously exquisite as your purest self.

I have a flair for reveries, but your reality is beyond my imagination. Do not become the echo of a dream, child.

Burn matchless, you singular soul.

JOURNALIST: Adrienne Oliver

Spread Your Wings

Spread your wings and fly” the thought has often come through my mind in this season of motherhood.  To dream, to be oneself, to conquer the unimaginable.  Sometimes it seems impossible to care for oneself when you're in the trenches of motherhood.  Those dreams, those achievements you may want so badly may seem unachievable.  For me, in this season of motherhood, it sometimes feels as if my wings (my dreams) are bound down.  I'm unable to stretch them, unable to move, unable to take off. 

I've always been someone that sets my mind on something and I get it.  I run full force and jump.  I have faith in it and I'm flying.  But “the now” can leave me feeling discontent and before I know it, I get caught up leaving the “now is now” mentality.  When I catch myself leaving “the now” I find myself taking a step back and thinking of the word "Content."  I know much solace can come with the word if practiced right, to be content in the trenches of motherhood.  Just writing it, let alone saying it, can seem a bit daunting at times. 

Motherhood is a dream in itself for many.  A few years after marriage, the dream of motherhood entered my life.  The dream of little children running about in my home, waking in the the wee hours of the night caring for a little babe.  It took flight in me and all other dreams seemed a little less important.

But now here I am, thinking of all the goals, dreams I once had and I find myself allowing them to be set free.  My wings feel a little less bound and a little more free.  This sounds like it's freeing, like it can make you a little more content, but if like me, you’ve set a dream free you know it can feel a little more like heartbreak than rejoicing.
 
An ache can come with motherhood and losing oneself.  As mothers, we can at times feel invisible, not seen.  We get lost in the food stained clothes, the endless meals needed by our little ones, and by the end of the day, no energy is left for flight in other dreams.  So it is important to find contentment while living a life of motherhood.

To have faith and find the contentment, to realize one day you wont have the noise of children echoing through your home, rooms without toys strewn every which way, and looking down to empty arms no longer rocking a little one. Take a moment to realize you are living a dream. You are spreading your wings like never before. 

How? 

You are living out motherhood.  You are doing one of the most rewarding things, albeit exhausting.  But when it really comes down to it, what dream doesn't make you feel exhausted at times?  But at the end of the day, remember that all of the dreams sacrificed to be present for your children will be worth it.  

Take flight in that, take flight in the not so solace moments of motherhood, take flight.
 

Journalist:  Michelle Findley

Your Path Matters

Tick Tock Tick Tock. 

When the house stills and it's just me and the wall clock my mind stirs. 

"Why in the world did I decide to do this?!" 

"How is it that my sole job is to manage the home but the house looks like a bomb exploded!?" 

"What's the point of all this anyways?!” 

"How is it possible that I feel like I've already worked an entire day by 9am!?" 

I'm a stay at home mom.  My business casual attire is pretty much all boxed up.  Baseball caps are my best friends.  I wear tennis shoes almost 24/7 because I rarely find myself sitting down.  I prepare my coffee the night before so as to ready me for the day like a trusty sidekick.   On a daily basis I babble, peek-a-boo and scream weird noises more than regular conversing.  Laundry is hiding in piles in my basement from the twice daily outfit changes due to  unplanned food smears and spills.  Social media shows me the outside world just so I make sure to remember to keep up to date on who our President is.  I do what most consider luxury.  While it is a blessing I hope to never take for granted, it is no cakewalk. 

In my daily blur I sometimes feel like I am losing my way.  The battle with isolation and mental boredom finds me throwing grand pity parties for myself.  I'm pretty darn good at throwing them too.  I long for kudos and the ability to see immediate results from my work creeps in.  I can get lost in a sea of whys.  Why I'm not getting more "me time."  Why the housework seems to pile up faster than I could ever manage.  Honestly, I do have my bouts of doubts on this path of mine.  

"Is this the right way?"

"Am I doing enough?"

"Am I missing out?"

Because the truth is I don't like this job everyday.  I don't always like being my child's caretaker ALL day and night long.  I don't always like being needed all the time.  I really don't like being Mrs. Responsible.  I want to live an adventure everyday and wish away the mundane. 

As a stay at home mom, I wrestle with assumed and expected opinions of others and society.  This leaves me feeling like I'm not being enough, doing enough, earning enough...  I'm an overall failure for that whole super mom campaign.  I am not working full time and juggling home life, I'm not running organizations or starting my own business.  I am not working at wee hours in the morning in order to follow big dreams.  The only party happening at this place at the wee hours is me, Betsy the cow, nursing away. 

The craziest part of all this is, no one forced me to be a stay at home mom.  I chose it.  I wanted it.  But holy moly is it hard!  Yet, despite the difficulties I don't want to just arrive at my destination dragging my family behind me in exhaustion.  I want to walk this path God has laid before me and get to the end... whenever and wherever that is, hooping and hollering with bliss.  I don't want to just look up one day and see that I've gone nowhere important, but just wandered around aimlessly.  

Paths matter.  The mundane matters.  They take us somewhere if we are conscious to the fact that we are heading somewhere.  I don't want to be so consumed with just surviving the day that I forget to live it!  Even on my lowliest of days I am important and what I do as a mom is very important.  I want to write that in bold letters all over my house.  I can breathe, deal, and live with a bigger perspective than just the temporary moment of a day. 

Tick Tock Tick Tock.  The babe sleeps.  Here in the silence, I choose truth. 

...enough said.

Despite the struggle with isolation and seeking the approval of others, being with my daughter is hands down one of my favorite experiences, even when it's simply a lazy, unproductive, survival kind of a day.  The yogurt all over the floor is the result of her first successful utensil usage.  I'm the one to journey with her as she discovers her likes and dislikes.  I love learning about the unique person that she is.  I am her caretaker.  Yes, diaper changes get annoying and really stinky and it's very hard some days to know when to shut off being responsible.  But home is where my heart is.  I love when she gets as excited as I do to open the doors and welcome in a beautiful, sunny day.  I love exploring with her and watching her gain understanding of this world.  Her joy is contagious.  I love that my measuring cups get used more for holding random toys than cooking ingredients.  My pots and pans are holders for her treasures and my fridge is decorated in tacky but useful multicolored alphabet magnets. 

On this road I'm on, I may not receive outside kudos anymore or hear thank you's often but these memories are thanking me just fine.  I'm tempted to view this place as holding me back from all I'm missing out on, but in reality it's these simple things I would miss.  Here in this season I am free to pursue my passions of crafting and embracing the joy and comfort of home.  I have grown stronger as I have matured and faced the mundane instead of escaping.

I am a part of society; I'm raising the future every day.  I am reassured that where I'm headed, this path, matters greatly, as does yours!  It reaps a slower reward.  The mundane of my daily life; the chores, poopy diapers, and tantrums and to do lists are valuable in the ultimate service to my family.  The insignificant becomes the significant.  It's small drops into a large bucket that eventually will fill up and overflow with blessing.  It is a job that demands God-given patience.  My ultimate destination is not to gain the "whole world and lose my soul" but to enjoy this family experience to its fullest potential, investing the best I know how into my children for the greater good of my family and ultimately for society as well. 

So, when that clock tick tocks again tonight, I'll welcome the silence in knowledge that today I had victories to celebrate, pains to work through and made it one step closer to my goal of living an abundant life.  I will make it to my destination hooping and hollering.

"Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left;" (Proverbs 4:26-27)

Journalist:  Megan Guttierez

Fear

Fear. That's all I wrote for my final article proposal as a contributor here at The Village. At the time it was I could think about and all that I could feel: fear. 

I thought surely by the time I sat down to write, months away, the fear would have disappeared and I would have learned some great lesson to share in the journey. And yet, here I sit, writing on the day these words are due, still wondering where to even begin.

Motherhood is many beautiful and wonderful things. But it also can quickly be defined and hedged in by fear. From the moment the strip turns blue as they say, this whisper in the back of our hearts begins to make it's presence known.

I've given and been given the advice before, to try and not be overcome by fear during those pregnancy months, and to try and revel in the miracle. There are so many rules, so many choices, so many (usually conflicting) studies, statistics, and unsolicited opinions to read and consider. But no one really prepares you for the fear NEVER ending. In every season, in every decision, in every correction, in every moment, the fear speaks to you, asking if you're sure? 

Are you sure you're ready for this whole "being a mother" thing?

Are you sure that's the kind of mother you want to be?

Are you sure your instincts are trustworthy? What about the experts?

Are you sure you're willing to defend this decision to your family and friends?

Are you sure there is nothing else you could have done?

Are you sure you're not becoming your worst nightmare of a mother? 

There is rarely a moment on my journey as a mother that these questions aren't running through my head on a loop. Should I be feeding (organic/non-organic) formula because I'm not producing milk? Am I sleep training correctly? What is the right sleeping arrangement for our family? When do I start to discipline? Am I disciplining the right way? What is the right style of play for him? What is the right style of education for her? And heaven help me for even mentioning vaccines.

I could literally make lists of fears and lists of circumstances my fears invade ALL DAY LONG. 

The fear of this journey, of this life, and of this thing called motherhood, were never mentioned before I had kids. No mother ever sat me down and prepared me for anything more than the happy glow that would most certainly set upon me as soon as that bundle of joy was set in my arms. 5+ years, 3 children and 3 miscarriages later, the fear is still there. An infant, a toddler and a Kindergartener, and the fear is still there. And as I sit here writing next to a Mom and Dad making plans with their daughter about to graduate High School and all they have to do to prepare, I'm pretty sure that their fear is still there too.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in my fear and doubt. But I’m still missing where anyone is really talking about the toll that fear is taking on our mothering souls. So, in the name of hard-core vulnerability, I’ll mention three ways that’s I’ve started to battle with the daily fear. No revelation came, but I believe some daily baby steps can help us calm the war raging in our hearts and minds.

1. Accept that fear will always be there. 

I accepted this idea after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's incredible book, Big Magic. While not a book about parenting, her ideas about accepting fear as a part of the process of creativity struck more than one chord in my soul. She speaks to fear as if it must be accepted as a part of the journey, using the metaphor of our journeys being a long road trip. As parents we must accept that fear plays an important role in keeping us and our children safe, and therefore we can not kick fear out of the car on our road trip. Fear will never go away, and we probably don’t want it to totally disappear anyway. But, fear also does not have to rule us. We must not let fear be a back seat driver to our lives, our parenting, or our passions. I can accept fear as a passenger on this journey as a mother, but as Gilbert says, it will not be allowed to change the temperature of my car, suggest detours, choose the music and it NEVER should be allowed to drive completely. 

Gilbert's words are more eloquent than mine could ever be, and I encourage you to go read them. But I hope even my summation of them helps make it clear: we must accept fear as a part of the journey of motherhood. Therefore, let's make peace with that whisper in our hearts and work hard to never let it become a scream drowning out our every day lives.

2. When the whisper does become a scream, seek professional help. 

Fear can go by many other names than just fear. It will manifest itself as anxiety, depression and control, just to name a few. These other traits ultimately boil down to fear in our lives that things are not going as they should be, how we expected, or how we think is right. And I've struggled with all of them. Truly. 

Depression has been a sidekick for longer than I'd like to admit. I am a recovering control freak, as my OCD tendencies will tell you. And the anxiety I’ve experienced during my third to term pregnancy, which came directly after two back-to-back miscarriages, was so crippling I thought I wouldn't survive it. It is in those dark times, I've learned that this journey is not one anyone should have to endure alone. 

It is a very difficult thing to admit that I don't necessarily have the strength to dig myself out of the hold fear has on me sometimes. And it is rarely financially convenient for our family for me to seek professional help in these moments. But, I've also put it off in for to long in the past, and the suffering has effected not only me, but my family as well. 

There are many other issues and questions that could be addressed when it comes to talking about getting professional help and counseling, and the stigma and even shame around it can be great. But the freedom that can come from not being alone is great and the prospect of living in crippling fear will always make the rest worth it to me.

We do not have to suffer alone in our fear, no matter how it is manifesting itself in our every day lives. When you can't hear anything else but the fear screaming in your ear, and the cry of our child only adds to the feeling that you're doing it all wrong, find someone to talk to.

You're not alone. You are brave. Get some help. Get some healing. I’ll be here, cheering you on.

3. Get some perspective.

Ultimately what I’ve learned in my journey with fear is that a fail safe way to get fear back in the closet at the back of my heart is to get some perspective. For me, being behind the camera lens is often the best place to go to put blinders on my heart to all else but the blessing of a happy child and a little bit of sunshine. Sometimes, it is truly that simple and the rest can melt away.

Often times perspective comes when I shut off the phone and spend some time away from the opinions and statistics on Facebook and Instagram and all the rest. And then there are those rare days when the community I have on social media, and the vulnerability and honesty of other mothers online is what reminds me that I am are NOT alone in my struggles.

And sometimes perspective comes when I simply remember how blessed I am to stress about all these things in the first place. The daily ins and outs of my life, my daily parenting struggles, and my anxiety about doing it all “right,” I ultimately choose to see as a privilege because I don’t have to worry about feeding my children, providing them shelter, water, or any life sustaining comfort. Sometimes, a little perspective, even in the most obvious ways can truly help center your heart and silence those fears, putting them into perspective of a bigger picture and a bigger world. 

So, whether it’s a creative endeavor, some time away from the world, or a little truth talk to yourself, I can’t recommend getting a little perspective more.

As I approach the completion of our family with the upcoming birth of our third child, I feel as though I’ve finally made my peace with the fact that fear will always be a part of my journey as a mother. Not a day will go by when fear doesn’t whisper in my ear. But that doesn’t mean that my future will be crippled by that fear, as it has done in the past. Every stumble has lent itself to a new perspective, a quicker willingness to seek help and healing and ultimately a new and better version of me: strong woman, confident mother, joyful friend.

Journalist: Rachael MacPhee

Blooming

Through motherhood I've learned how a birth is really a death and that dying is really just a most unfathomable rebirthing.

Every since I can remember I have been scared of dying. I have memories from when I am barely two, in the care of Mado and Papi who's house I would spend long hours at while my mother, single and working, provided for me. Their duplex was filled with smells of meaty tomato sauce simmering, cigarette smoke clouds weighing atop our heads, an abundance of heavy pastoral gold framed paintings and plastic toys encumbering every nook. But most vividly I remember her long black floral skirts. Those red, vibrant roses seemed to speak directly to me; contrasted against black cotton, I experienced true fear at not knowing from where or what or how they are blooming. I see roses blooming out of nothingness and I'm barely two years old having my first existential crisis.

Thus must have began my journey of fearing and grasping tightly.

I am 7 or 8 years old in the passenger seat on the highway. My eyes land on a tall billboard advertizing the closest flower shop, Rose Drummond, sending my thoughts to spin once more into the fear of the nothingness out of which flowers bloom, into the uncertainty of how the speed of our car could send us crashing. I am buckled tightly into my fragile and mysterious ephemerality and a perfectly carefree moment turned pure anguish. 

My shortness of breath and panick attacks must have started in the 4th grade, the year my mother's brother passed away tragically. There's an intimidating child psychologist, irrelevant asthma pumps and a brown paper bag I'm told to breathe into, confusion because of how little sense it all makes. Despite well meaning attempts to understand, I keep my fear of living and dying a deeply guarded secret, unsure any other human being could possibly relate to it.

As a teenager, I grasp onto works of magical fiction and theology, a scattered apart family, friends who are way more busy than me and boys who can't love me. Slowly believing death may not be so scary and unbearable after all lands me medicalized and stripped of my power and much self-certainty but by then, I have experienced enough moments of creative bliss and oneness with nature to know that theirs is not my truth.

Bruised but not thwarded, I start to find healing through art and activism and the fellow sensitive beings I meet in college. My first week in my new school I am quietly eating my lunch on the eighth floor amongst eclectic, kind and communal folks when I hear of an armed man shooting people on the ground floor; the fear I've been imagining all my life becomes real with the hair on my body rising and my whole being turning ice cold as hundreds of us exit together yet alone through the emergency staircase and onto siren and ambulance filled streets. In the safety of my bed that night, I soak in cleansing tears and the knowing that I could easily have been the young woman who was killed; mine one of the 20 bodies wounded. I am warm in my bed surrounded by books I want to read and pictures of places I dream of going and in my grief I know better than to continue wasting any of it.

Days turn into months and tired of my legs trembling at the slightest sight and sound I decide on my eighteenth birthday to gift myself the present of jumping into the driver's seat of my life; to start creating my own reality, and chase after my own truth.

Thus must have began my journey of love and surrender.

I am travelling the globe, seeking my new identity in foreign languages, getting aquainted with my body through exotic food, outdoor living, manual work and the most breathtaking and far-reaching landscapes I can find, my smile as my main form of communication. Seeking meaning, connection and love propells me to journey across the country and land in a tiny fruit picking town thousands of miles from home. Its in the crux of a valley who's name means 'the meeting of the four winds' that I meet a man wandering equally far from home, reflecting back the same brokenness, beauty and strength I also carry. 

It's the beginning of my dismantling as from this moment on I am no longer just me; my "I" becomes 'we' as out of blind trust we choose to form a union encompassing also the tangible seed of love for our child not yet born. With that first kiss I feel motherhood tug at my womb; six years later I yearn to fill it. Outwardly we still appear far from settled and 'ready' but I know beyond a doubt from the depths of the rivers inside me that I'm willing to nurture a love greater than me... to flow into my power and capability. Through trust and surrender, acceptance and letting go, I birth our perfect baby boy.

Slipping into the vastitude and unequivocal joy of being Mother didn't happen over night for me. It's in the repetition of our tiny mundane moments that our bond became strong and our souls so intertwined. It's through learning and failing, getting back up as often as it takes, and delving into my self-awareness by letting go of everything I think I know one by one, holding space for my little one to guide ME and emerge as HIS self rather than what I want him to be. Day in and day out he becomes my growing reflection of the inherent wholeness and freedom within me. He is the healing and becoming I never could have conceived of alone, he is the meaning, love and union I have always been searching for.

Looking back on where I started, I cannot say I fear life nor death anymore. I know both are really the same sacred fabric, a luminous cloth I want to wear with grace and no longer hide under. Letting go of the past, rebirthed into Love, and blooming out of nothingness, I finally know a death is really a birth and that what comes after letting go is just too grand and beautiful to comprehend intellectually. So I let my heart lead my body, and nurture our fragile, ephemeral, mysterious and sacred Life together by Loving.

 

Village Journalist,

Monica