It’s been a while.
I’ve been quiet these last few summer months navigating many transitions, or thresholds, as I like to call them.
I prepared for a huge threshold in June - moving to another state - and then decided to stay put (an unexpected threshold). I went to Morocco for a long awaited Postpartum Moroccan Medicine retreat in July. I fell in love and started a new relationship (unexpected, welcome and scary threshold). And my eldest daughter moved back to Miami to live with her dad.
For my daughter it is a dream - not because she didn’t want to live with me, but because I am not living where she wants to be. She has been reunited with old friends and all of the beauty of city life - culture, diversity, good food, etc. I totally get that for her, AND for me it was a huge and heartbreaking loss. I never expected her to leave the nest at 16 and in doing so, the constellation of my family has changed once again.
I come to you in the midst of another one - a threshold I’ve been wanting to walk through since the birth of my last daughter, Amaya (and maybe even before). It’s been 8 long years in coming and finally all of the stars aligned for me.
I have had other invitations to sit with La Abuela (Yagé, aka Ayahuasca) when I was living in Miami but between being on-call all the time and being a single mama (well, I wasn’t actually single but it sure felt like I was cause I was holding all the pieces - caregiving, providing, etc) it just was never the right time. Plus, I really wanted to go to the roots and do it with an authentic shaman somewhere in South America.
... And then a couple of weeks ago, within a 24 hour period while I was visiting my sweetheart in New Mexico, it all came together. A ceremony for the Fall Equinox in Colombia with a traditional taita (shaman) who is personal friends with some Farm family folks. I happened to have a small window of off-call time, baby daddy said he would come hang with the girls and voila, next thing I knew I was on a flight to Barranquilla with a yoga mat, a journal, and some half-baked intentions!
And so here I am writing to you from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the waves crashing several yards in front of my computer, now on the other side of the Yagé threshold. La abuela kicked my ass (more on that in a future blog) and I am so grateful to have these days here on the beach to unwind and integrate.
So…back to the topic at hand.
Matrescence is full of them!
Perhaps the first threshold we experience in our journey of Matrescence is conception. The moment you see that red line appear is a life-changing doorway - a portal to a new you, whether you’ve never birthed at all or have more children than names you can remember. Each child brings out something new within your mothering identity. If we’re honest with ourselves most of us have an “Oh shit!” moment when we discover we are pregnant because we know our life is going to change.
For the first time.
Even if we’ve been planning, even if we’ve been calling this baby in for years, there is always a moment of reckoning. Do you remember yours?
When I discovered I was pregnant with Nehama, my first, I wept with joy. About 9 years earlier I had chosen to release my first pregnancy and ever since then I had been craving a baby, especially since my work is with pregnant women and babies. I practiced midwifery for 7 years before Nehama was conceived. After listening to hundreds of other women’s stories, I was desperate to have my own story of conception.
But after those first few tears of joy and gratitude trickled down my face, the anxiety crept in. I knew Nehama’s father would not be so thrilled. We had been together for 3 years and after much pressuring he agreed to start trying. But after a couple months he freaked out, moved out, and said he needed space but still wanted to be together. Nothing more reassuring than mixed messages from the one you are trying to create a family with. Our relationship was rocky so when a client of mine offered her home in the Bahamas to go for a little romantic get-away we took it. And it was there that Nehama was made.
So this first threshold was both exciting and terrifying, especially after he reacted just as I suspected and my response was choosing to be a single mom. Not part of the vision but par for the course when it comes to the twisty windy road of Matrescence.
The next threshold is the grand gateway of birth.
By far one of the most intense passageways we go through in life - for all involved, but certainly very acutely for the mama who actually portals the soul. As my dear friend and apprentice, Serena, says,
"Portaling souls is no small work."
Said by a wise woman indeed.
We traverse through blood, sweat, tears, vomit, and shit to bring our babies out of our bodies and into this world, pass many gateways in the process. Gates of excitement, confusion, exhaustion, fear, doubt, and holy terror. And if those were not enough we breathe, scream, roar, or howl our way through the final portal - the dreaded ring of fire.
Who knew we could expand so much! This threshold in particular shows us where to soften and where to be fierce.
The postpartum time is a threshold of liminality - a space between worlds.
You are not the you that existed before you gave birth, neither are you yet the mother you will become. You are in between. You are the mush inside the chrysalis.
Your brain is downloading a new operating system and the install will take some time. As you wait for these new neural pathways to grow you will feel foggy and forgetful.
Exhausted and disoriented. Discombobulated and lost.
But fear not, you are unfolding.
Your wings will emerge with time and there’s no rush. The postpartum threshold often leaves us incomplete because we are pushed to ripen before we are ready by a culture steeped in patriarchy and ignorant of the potency of pause. So if this is the threshold you are currently traversing, take a deep breath and…
DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Pause. Sink in. Integrate.
You just grew and birthed a human. You’re a rockstar!
Take a moment.
Take 10,000 moments.
Take whatever time you need to explore your new inner landscape. Get to know your baby, unrushed. Ignore those who tell you to bounce back. Tell them to bounce out or cook you some food and do your laundry!
You may think postpartum is the final threshold of Matrescence but it is only the beginning of so many more transitions. Our children are constantly changing, growing, and going through different developmental milestones and just when you think you have figured out this whole parenting thing, they will remind you that you haven’t, in the most humiliating and obnoxious ways.
It can be comforting to know that when you child is going through a particularly annoying phase, it won’t last. And it can be frustrating to know that when your child is going through a particularly sweet phase, it won’t last. The one thing that is guaranteed in this: life is change.
Yes, it can and does suck at times. Thankfully there are other times when it is a welcome gift.
If we look to nature we can see that thresholds are a natural part of life. The change of seasons. The sunrise I witnessed this morning...
The cycle of the moon. Our own womb cleanse cycle (aka menstrual cycle).
Culturally we experience the collective thresholds of birth, puberty, marriage (and sometimes divorce), parenthood, menopause, and death.
One thing about transitions is that . . . they are not typically easy.
For most people the hardest part of birth is that phase known as transition - the threshold between opening up (dilating) and pushing. The surges are long, strong, and close together and require all of our attention. This is often a time where women feel they are failing, dying or that they can’t do it. The pressure in our butts is intensifying but it is not yet time to push.
We tremble, feel hot, cold, nauseas. We moan, sway, curse, sweat and shake.
We submerge ourselves in warm water. We do what we can to traverse this gate of holy terror and humility.
So if transitions are hard, how do we navigate them? What are our tools?
Using the transition of birth as an example, some of the most powerful and useful tools are -
Surrender - accepting the intensity of the moment and softening into it instead of resisting.
Support - calling on your village to provide encouragement and remind you that you are doing it, even if it feels like you’re failing.
Flexibility - letting go of how you thought this would go, or how you thought you would cope and find what’s needed in the moment to move through it.
Patience - not trying to force it or rush it even if everything in your body is screaming for you to push through.
Staying centered by connecting to your breath.
Ah, the beloved breath. With us from the moment we are born until the day we leave this world, our breath is a powerful tool for all types of transitions. Staying centered for me also means stand in the eye of a hurricane. The eye is still and calm even though the winds of chaos swirl around it.
Transitions often feel chaotic and overwhelming because, well . . . they are.
So finding a way to anchor ourselves - whether that’s through our breath, or other practices like writing, dancing, long walks in nature, or spending time with friends - is crucial to making it through the portal without feeling traumatized in the process.
What are your favorite tools? What threshold are you currently navigating? What holds you in transitions?
It might help to know the anatomy of a transition.
There are 3 phases.
The separation - moving away from who you were, the ending, the letting go.
The threshold - the pivotal moment
The integration - feeling lost and then finding clarity about your path forward.
If we use the childbearing year as a model, pregnancy is the separation - we are moving away from ourselves as individuals and making space for this new person in our bodies and our lives. Birth is the threshold, the crossing over into motherhood. And postpartum is the integration.
One thing that can be helpful during a transition is having a map.
If you know me at all you know my favorite kind of map is a labyrinth. Within a labyrinth there is only one way to the threshold so you can’t get lost, though the road is often windy and disorienting.
At the center is the threshold - whether that’s the birth of your child or the moment they leave home or anything in between. The journey back out is the integration.
Within every transition there will be roses and thorns.
If it’s a welcome transition the roses will be obvious as you begin the separation and the thorns will show up later. If it’s an unwelcome one the thorns will seem to be plentiful and endless but they will eventually give way to some sweet smelling roses.
If you are in the throes of a threshold right now, ask yourself -
What am I moving away from and what am I moving towards? What am I ready to let go of and what am I ready to call in? What do I need to embrace? Who do I want to become on the other side of this gate? What are my anchors? What support do I need and who can I get it from?
Be kind to yourselves dear ones.
Be brave. Be bold. Become you.
You’ve got this. And if you need support with this threshold, I’ve got you.
As your #matrescencemidwife I can hold you. I’ve got tools, frameworks, decades of experience, community support, and 1:1 coaching. You can set up a free discovery session here.