Upon finding out that you’re pregnant, you begin to enter into a labyrinth that will lead you to birth and beyond. You walk in with big emotions ranging from utter excitement to sheer terror, knowing very well you’re entire life it about to change. Now a labyrinth is different from a maze. There’s only one opening that you both enter and exit after making your way to the center. Unsure of what lies ahead of you, you walk on as the natural process of pregnancy happens to you. The body shifts and grows. The mind anticipates and contemplates and absorbs any/all information being offered to us. The world around us begins to look a bit different as the focus shifts to what we need and what our baby will need. The labyrinth throws many turns and switchbacks your way and though it might seem challenging, you take them on with grace and strength almost as if to prepare you for what’s to come. Weeks fly by and soon months slip away and you’re so close to the middle of the labyrinth that your body now switches into auto pilot preparing for the birth of you and the baby. You’ve been subconsciously stripped away of some control, some expectations, some beliefs, and now you’re left with an intuitive strength and an ageless experience that allows you to tap into the spiritual connection of every woman before you. Birth approaches and so does death. They are one in the same. The old you will die when giving birth to your new baby and your new self. (Maybe that’s why there is such a lingering fear around the process of birth itself.) Now you’re in the middle of the labyrinth completely raw and vulnerable and stripped away of everything you once knew. Your baby is laying on your bare chest and it’s like you’ve known this spirit all your life. So new yet so familiar. And sometimes that’s where you’re left. All that support you gathered throughout the pregnancy and the first half of the labyrinth falls away. You are now expected to heal, raise a baby, nurture a relationship, and relearn who you are. Welcome to postpartum, here comes the walk out of the labyrinth. It took you 9 months to walk in and sometimes it takes you years to walk out.
Making your way out, it may seem familiar. The twists and turns and bumps. Yet now it’s a bit more challenging because you’re not alone on this trek. Now you’re a care taker. You’re nurturing new life, both the babies and your own. There are frequent stops, scares, set backs, and endless concerns. There is emotional healing, physical healing, mental instability, insatiable hunger, nights that feel never ending, and emotions that feel bigger than life. The range of what is felt in this raw space can be enough to knock you over time and time again. Yet you continue to move forward. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, there are challenges to be faced with how and when your baby needs to eat.
Whether you cosleep or crib train, sleeping feels like it’s never going to be the same. Through all this there is most likely a relationship to be maintained and cared for. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months and eventually there is a sense of normalcy, however it feels as if you’ve taken a beating to get to this point. You may not recognize your body when you look in the mirror. Perhaps you don’t even recognize your life any more. There’s little to no time to heal and process the death and rebirth that has happened to you while you’re trying to keep up with the growth of a newborn child. Yet somehow, you continue to move forward.
Walking out of the labyrinth is far more challenging than walking in. You’ve got an infant in your arms, which eventually means a baby on your hip, or a toddler on your back and they too are raw, vulnerable, new to the world. They too are processing and learning and expanding their preferences while adjusting to their surroundings.
I’ve read that in the postpartum period, the mother needs exactly what the baby requires. To be nurtured, cared for, loved on. Mothers need to be mothered in this sacred time for they too are in a time of transition. It’s easy to slip into the thought of postpartum ending around month 3 or even month 9, however I truly believe that the ending comes at different times for every birth person. And that’s something that no one else can decide.
I’m still making my way out of the labyrinth. It’s been a challenge to say the least with many hurdles and bumps in the road that I felt were really going to hinder my healing process. Those bumps lead to deeper discoveries, new relationships with self and others, deeper connections to my daughter and my emotions, new directions into open doors, and the greatest of all profound love and respect for this entire process. Liana and I are adjusting together, different experiences yet still so similar.
There is a great wisdom that is transferred to anyone who gives birth, whether we choose to tap in or not is a personal decision. Surrendering is not easy for some, it was not easy for me. Now looking back I see that I didn’t have a choice, the surrender was taking place whether I was on board or not. Resistance was only pushing me farther away from healing and connection. And now I have nothing but gratitude for this entire experience- the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. In letting go, I’ve learned how to trust myself. In losing myself, I have found a new self.