I remember hearing my mother give birth to my youngest brother at home when I was a child. She went through a 12 hour labour, so I was aware of the effort required to give birth. It is an essential part of nature, but until you experience it yourself do you know how truly powerful it is. During my first pregnancy I realized that when my child was born life would change considerably.
When my children were placed in my arms for the first time and I looked into their tiny faces I remember the overwhelming realization that I had created a new life. This feeling occurs again when you become a Grandmother witnessing the your children giving life to their own. Motherhood can be a spiritual path in itself:
“Many a woman has said ‘I never knew I could love someone so much’ upon becoming a mother. There is an intensity to maternal love that can catch us off guard. Our whole body – and our subtle body – is ready to sacrifice on our child’s behalf. We may be torn by this, exhausted, even resentful, as we long for sleep and solitude, while at the same time we want nothing more than to hold our child. A torrent of emotions is released. And in the best moments there is this tender love, captured in Klimt’s beautiful portrait, this closeness and bond that we feel can never be sundered. There is a vulnerability too – as Elizabeth Stone puts it in her oft-quoted statement, making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around “outside your body.”
There is a fullness too, that comes with motherhood, and a fierce protectiveness. Early Hindu mother goddesses hold a child in one hand and sword in the other. We quickly learn that there is a part of us that would do anything to protect our child. Working with this intense tribal feeling – tribal in that it is focused on our child, our world, even at the expense of others – is perhaps one of the greatest spiritual challenges of motherhood. It is easy to be consumed by wanting only what is best for our own children, with little thought as to how it impacts others. Unchecked this can drive us to push our children, or push others away in judgement or from fear (think ‘mommy wars’.) This is the spiritual calling of motherhood then – how to allow the opening of our heart to expand rather than contract our world view and understanding.
Part of our pathway towards this understanding is the acceptance that motherhood brings out in us – the acceptance born of gentleness. Several Hindu female deities are associated with motherhood, but Parvati is the one most closely aligned with the nurturing, gentle, yin side of us. This is the part of us that comforts our toddler when she’s sick, or our 10-year old son when he strikes out at bat, or our high school senior when she doesn’t get into her first choice of college. In these moments, we know how to accept our children’s pain, without judgement, without fixing – just being there with them, with their pain. This is acceptance, this is the presence. For all the talk of ‘being in the now’, there are few moments in our life when we are more fully present then when we are comforting our child in pain.
Through our children we experience the passage of time so acutely. ‘It seems like just yesterday she was [fill in the blank].” Any parent of grown children will tell you, ‘it passes in the blink of an eye.’ Through this we have the opportunity to feel ourselves connected to an ancient cycle – THE ancient cycle – of birth, maturation, and death. We are not the first to raise children, and we won’t be the last. In Ancient Egypt, Mut was the original ‘world mother’ or ‘mother of the gods’ (although many goddesses, especially Isis, took on her qualities as time passed.) Mut represented the ancient, primordial aspects of birth and mothering – the endless cycle of which we are, in our own point in time and space, just one reflection. When we recognize ourselves as part of the larger cycle, this larger expanse, we are humbled and connected to the universe.
Just as we connect to time in a new way, so we often connect to nature in a new way too. Motherhood has always been connected with the earth – Gaia, goddess of the earth, is the original ‘earth mother’. Through motherhood we come to know our own bodies as part of nature in a pronounced way – they create, nurture and sustain physical life. Our cycles are not just our own, but part of the larger cycles of nature, linked to the moon, fertility, and food. Motherhood grounds us psychologically and spiritually and this grounding offers us a foundation from which to grow on all levels too.
Motherhood opens us to new dimensions of purity in our love too, both in terms of selflessness and intent. As mothers we are also the matriarchs of society. Motherhood is the middle stage in the traditional ‘maiden-mother-crone’ feminine phases model – ideally through motherhood we are transformed from maiden to wise woman. Motherhood forges us really, through love and pain, into a maturity and wisdom we could never have imagined. We can come to our own power and grandeur. It is this kind of maternity represented by the Greek goddess Rhea, mother-queen of the Olympian gods and goddesses, accompanied always by her regal lions.”
The Spiritual Journey of Motherhood