My One Forbidden Thing

Greetings MotherFlies,

One of my commitments for 2019 is to do more truth-telling.  Being that it’s the first day of the year I figure I might as well start now. 

Many of you already know that I have struggled with postpartum depression in the last couple of years.  Last year at this time I thought I was coming out of the end of it. In January of 2018 I moved into a new home, on the new moon, and started my monthly moon time the very same day.  Everything felt in alignment. 

A new house, a new cycle, a new cycle, a new beginning. I could leave the shadow behind in 2017.

But as it turned out I was yet to face my darkest hour.  

The first four months of the year I rode waves.  Each time I arrived to a crest I thought to myself “This is it, I have crossed the chasm and made it safely to the other side”.  But then the wave would topple over, pulling me into deeper and deeper troughs of despair. Each time I would feel more hopeless. When would this end? 

In early May, after I had coasted on my longest crest yet of feeling good, grounded, more like myself, I attended a symposium on maternal mental health.  I walked in with my back straight and my head held high. Corina the midwife, the nurse, the professional. I left slumped over, my heart heavy as a bag of bricks.  Corina, the hopeless, depressed mother.  

The symposium made me acutely aware of how badly our system is failing mothers. Despite perinatal mood disorders being the single most common complication of pregnancy, affecting 1 out of 7 women, there is virtually no universal screening process and mothers are falling through the cracks.

Postpartum care in the obstetrical world is woefully inadequate, with women giving birth and then not seeing their provider for 4-6 weeks. This during a time when they are sleeping little and providing around the clock care to a tiny, helpless, and completely dependent new human, while simultaneously passing through what is likely to be the most transformational identity shift of their lifetime.

During the symposium we watched the film “Dark Side of the Full Moon”, which is a documentary about postpartum depression.  The film is extremely dark and tells the stories of several women experiencing postpartum psychosis, the most severe form of postpartum depression. For me, it was like digging a knife into a wound that wasn’t quite healed and it triggered me into what would be my deepest dip into the chasm of depression.  

I had a birth the following week, which was an all nighter and I came home as the sun came up, grateful for a smooth birth but utterly exhausted.  Kevin was gathering the girls up to take them out for the day and I was so grateful to have the house to myself so I could sleep. I laid down to rest but sleep would not come.  My depression shifted into anxiety. I tried all my tools--lavender oil, warm bath, yoga nidra, melatonin, but I could not reach sleep. 

Days passed.  

Finally, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law,  I took some Benadryl and slept for 6 hours. Grateful for the rest, I woke in a daze to the realization that I was returning to a nightmare.  I was losing my mind and had no clue how to find my way back.  

Thankfully I was off call for the next six weeks which I think is part of why I fell so deep.  Being on call doesn’t allow you to let go enough to lose your mind completely because there’s always that possibility of someone calling who needs you in your full sanity and groundedness. 

Now I had the space and time to completely fall apart.  

I was exhausted, anxious, hopeless, overwhelmed.  And so so much guilt and shame for the predicament I was in. 

How could Corina the calm, wise midwife, be so completely and utterly lost? 

A big part of my healing was finding a new level of compassion for myself.  Much of my suffering was not from the feelings of fear and sadness and overwhelm themselves, for these are all normal human experiences. 

It was the added layers of guilt and shame and anger at myself for feeling the way I did that created true suffering and kept me stuck. I had so many tools--tools I had gathered through my years as a midwife, a mother, and a spiritual seeker, tools from the Feminine Power work that I’m a part of, and yet none of them were working.  

Halfway through the year, I finally faced my last gates--the gates of Holy Terror and Humility.  The holy terror was about my existential fear of death on every level. The death of my identity as a strong, wise, grounded person, the death of my faith as a spiritual warrior, and even my own physical death as I flirted with the idea of suicide.  

The humility was having the courage to do what in Birthing From Within we call the “one forbidden thing.”  This is the place in birth (or life) where we have to let go of ideas about ourselves and how we should behave, or let go of the fear of being judged by others in order to do what it takes to bring our baby out.  This could mean she turns into a roaring lioness when she had imagined herself a calm and serene hypnobirther. Or maybe she makes everyone leave the room or shouts at her partner or her midwife. Or maybe she decides, “Fuck it, I want an epidural”.  Whatever it is, this one forbidden thing is what frees her from the constraints of any former identity and allows her to transform into her next level of being so that she can bring her baby forth into the world.  

In my case, it was the decision to join the one out of six Americans who are taking psychiatric  medication. This was something totally outside of my worldview, my identity and my beliefs.

I was terrified.  

It was my compassionate and wise therapist that talked me through taking my first dose.  She told me,

 “Corina, this is just going to lift the veil so that all of your tools will begin to work again.”  

She was right.  I decided to do ceremony around it.  Gathering my sacred items for an altar, I went outside under the full moon in late June. I called in the four elements, as well as my own spiritual guides.  With my Chinese herbs in one hand and my Lexapro in the other, I just prayed that these two would be real medicine for me. Because, aside from all my concerns about the side effects of taking meds, and the question of what did this mean about me. there was also the fear that it might not work at all.   Many people have to go through trial and error with several meds before finding something that works.

Two weeks later I began to feel better.  

In a month’s time I had so much energy that I wasn’t sleeping well but now it was because my head was flooded with creative ideas and inspiration.  My dear sister friend Shelemyah, who had been an integral part of my healing process, said to me over and over again throughout my journey, 

“It’s time to rewrite the (unspoken) contracts.”  

I felt like that’s exactly what happened next.  

First and foremost I started with my relationship with myself, learning self-love at an entirely new level.  I fell in love with my children again and was finally able to enjoy and appreciate their beauty. My relationship with my partner began to deepen in ways that I had been wanting for a long long time.  My spiritual faith was reborn and I came back into connection with the Divine. My relationship with money shifted and I no longer lived inside of a constant fear of scarcity. 

Denise was right, all of my tools were working again.  Within two months I was feeling so good that I weaned myself off of the lexapro and haven’t looked back.

There’s something I want to name about this experience of struggle that we have personally—with health, money, anxiety, depression, loss.  When these things happen on a personal level we often feel not only the impact of the circumstances in our lives, but we carry a lot of shame about them.  Particularly as conscious women we feel this because there’s this belief inside of spiritual or new age circles that somehow bad things don’t happen to good conscious people and that if you’re struggling it’s a reflection of an unevolved consciousness.  So we feel a kind of shame that somehow we unconciously either caused it or did something wrong to create it so it’s our punishment. Inside of this belief we isolate which ends up having us feel even more overwhelmed. 

I want to invite us to collectively name this cultural tendency, and let it go.  It’s part of the old paradigm around motherhood--the perfect supermom archetype--this idea that we are 100% responsible for everything that happens to us or our children.  Can we just say together, in the wise words of my sister Shelemyah, 

 “Fuck that shit!” 

and let it go?  

Sure there is some truth that some of the things that happen to us are the creation of our own consciousness. If we think positively we’ll be more likely to create positive experiences. It’s also true that unconsious patterns or things we don’t want to face or deal with can create a lot of struggle and drama in our lives. 

But there are also just shitty things that happen to people—getting robbed, or raped, or having a loved fall ill—and there is actually not a lot of power in moving into any kind of self-blame or judgement. These are part of our human experience and our power is forged not by becoming somebody who none of these things ever happen to, but rather by how we hold these experiences and how we respond in ways that we are opened by them. 

In all of these experiences of conflict, struggle and breakdown there’s actually the opportunity for us to develop so many of the qualities and capacities that are the expression of our highest and best human potential. 

Self-actualization is not a linear process, like a game of checkers. It’s much more like a game of chutes and ladders or walking through a labyrinth, where you feel like you’re so far from the center and then you turn a corner and there you are…or you think you’re really close and then there’s a twist or turn that pulls you away from the prize. 

So this feeling of having setbacks, delays, and obstacles doesn’t mean you’re off course and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s simply an invitation into a new way of orienting to breakdown and loss, that allows us to find our power to compost and utilize the struggles to help grow ourselves into the person we wish to become. That’s the way to take responsibility, rather than saying to ourselves,

 “Oh I am the cause of this and there must be something wrong with me.”  

This was my deep lesson for 2018.  

So next time you find yourself in a breakdown, don’t fall into victimization or shame.  Find a way to compost what needs to shift, even if it means doing your one forbidden thing.  

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