Through the Veil into Motherhood
by Vania Sukola, RP Registered Psychotherapist
Photo Credit: Anna Caitlin Photography
“Dance like the maiden. Learn like the mother. Laugh like the crone”
The transition into motherhood is one of the major life changes we will go through. It is a rite of passage that gender norms suggest is inevitable and perhaps, as a result, is not given the same support as other life events. Most of the focus falls on the new baby, rather than the person who just gave birth. And yet our world has changed incredibly. When we have babies (in however way that appears, be it vaginal birth, cesarean, adoption or in vitro), we also become mothers. We need to embrace the idea of this new identity. As Jeanine Parvati Baker shares “mothers are not women with children any more than butterflies are caterpillars with wings.” All rites of passage have stages we go through, and a final step of integration.
New parents go through the stage of matrescence, the period of becoming parents. As a feminist, it’s not lost on me that the word is gendered, as we still have a far way to go to break the glass ceiling of parenting. When we can intentionally plan for our own postpartum resilience it can help this transition incredibly. Moving from the archetype of maiden into mother allows us to be clear about what we need, and how to take care of ourselves.
Resilience is the ability to notice the joys in life in balance with the challenges, as well as having an understanding that adversity happens and to prepare for it. Since the passage to parenthood takes months, it is a perfect time to build resiliency ahead of meeting your baby.
There are 6 indicators of postpartum resilience:
Prioritizing self-care daily.
Having an active support team.
Knowing some key emotion regulation tools for the hard feelings that show up.
Setting realistic expectations for yourself as a parent.
Having a clear sense of self separate from being a mother.
The first 5 focus on your mindset and ways to feel empowered during the perinatal period. Being baby-ready means attending childbirth classes, buying the necessities for baby and yourself, as well as spending time getting to know your parenting plan and values as a family. Being able to work on this during your pregnancy or even before is a great way to plan ahead and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Let’s spend a moment looking at these concepts: What about hosting your own mother blessing event instead of a baby shower? We typically spend time getting baby-ready and yet, we need to get ourselves ready too. Starting with the importance of daily self-care as well as having tools for emotion regulation, how might you incorporate these in your life? You may want to start a daily mindfulness breath exercise to end your day, or a nourishing bath to rest your body. I love having a crystal as my constant companion - Moss Agate is a fabulous one for the perinatal period as it is an amulet for growth and birth.
Having good support handy is an integral part of ensuring you can experience a positive postpartum period with a newborn. Think of the wise women you may want to invite into your coven or community - how might they support you, do you value their parenting examples? Can you reach out for support and ask for help? Being a new parent is an especially vulnerable period and it may mean asking for help more than you are used to. Knowing who to ask is so helpful to adjust to this transition.
When we become a mother, we are becoming a new version of our Self. That doesn’t mean we need to shed the old one. Spend some time thinking about what you value and dream about, and honour the parts of you that you want to hold on to. Having a clear sense of yourself separate from being a parent helps when we are feeling lost in this new role. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and knowing what is in or out of your control is also a key tool.
Welcoming a baby into your family is such an honour. Take time to learn more about the fourth trimester of birth, the first 3 or so months postpartum. When we move through the veil with intention, it eases the transition.
Vania Sukola, BASc, RP is a Registered Psychotherapist who has a focus on supporting women with the transitions in their lives. She has a particular speciality in perinatal rite of passage, trauma and guiding women to live the life they love. Contact vania if you would like your own postpartum wellness toolkit. As a trauma-informed, intersectional Feminist Therapist, vania believes you are the expert in your life. You can learn more about her at http://vaniasukola.ca