earlier this year, when i was about 4 months pregnant, clare gave birth to her second son, Ranier. i happened to be in nyc just days after his birth and was able to spend a little time with him – photo below (he’s so tiny!). it’s hard to believe that my friendships, like the one i share with clare, have traveled so long in this journey of life. that we have grown up together. and now that i’m a new mama, the growing up together seems to be taking on another layer. i am so grateful. i love what clare writes below and know you will love it too – the mantras apply to all transitions in life, i think, whether it’s new mamahood, new move, new marriage, new new new anything.
I am so deeply honored to have been asked to write in this space. I am a faithful follower of this blog, both because I love Kelly’s art and the open way in which she shares her journey, and also because Kelly is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in junior high, lived in the same neighborhood, rode the same bus and as we got older discovered a mutual love of the same indie rock bands and a deep, abiding, unabashed adoration of Oprah Winfrey. To this day she is the only person to whom I can start a sentence, “Well, on Oprah the other day…” only to have her say with excitement, “Oh my gosh! I saw that too!”
When True was born I sent Kelly and John a book that I was given upon the birth of my second child. It’s called Mommy Mantras: Affirmations and Insights to Keep You from Losing Your Mind by Bethany E. Casarjian, Ph.D and Diane H. Dillon, Ph.D. To look at it one might think it’s another trite, precious book of quotes about motherhood from famous women. It is nothing of the sort. When I mailed it to Kelly and John I considered flagging a few of the mantras I found most helpful but I thought better of it realizing they would find the ones that spoke to them. But here in this space I am going to backpedal on that decision. Revisiting the book as I prepared to write this I flagged no fewer than 18 mantras. There are only 70 in the entire book. So, I have narrowed my focus to those that speak to Kelly as the mother of a newborn, that speak to those raw feelings she has so beautifully expressed, the feelings of overwhelming love, of overwhelming exhaustion, of newness, of fear and also to some feelings that might be lurking around the corner.
The first is Breathe, now. So simple yet so perfect. In those moments when the baby is screaming his head off for no apparent reason, when you and John are so tired you begin to hear the tension in the way you speak to one another, when you are feeling like you are losing all control of what was once a perfectly good, normal, life – breathe, now. Make that space in your heart, mind and soul and even the tiniest sliver of clarity that seeps in will make all the difference.
Trust your gut. We hear it again and again but somehow as new parents in charge of such a small, helpless little being, we so often opt not to trust our gut but to trust what we read online. Or what our parents say. Or the pediatrician. Not to say doctors don’t know their stuff but it’s amazing how quickly we learn our children and we will always know them better than anyone. Kelly, I know you have already had your instincts confirmed and at 6 weeks that is remarkable. Keep listening.
I took the vow. This is one of my personal favorites in the book. In Mommy Mantras Casarjian and Dillon compare becoming a mother with becoming a bodhisattva, “an enlightened being who works to lead all humanity out of suffering and toward enlightenment.” A bodhisattva takes a vow to put the well-being of others before himself no matter how poorly he is treated or how unappreciated he may be. As the parent of a 4-year old, I cling to this mantra when the whining and demanding start to escalate, when the manners I have worked so hard to instill go out the window. But it also works for parents of an infant. An infant who has no idea that waking up every two hours is making anyone suffer. I took the vow is a simple reminder that we chose to be parents and we are forever committed to our children and their well-being.
These next two mantras are for what I foresee coming down the road, when maternity leave ends, when the demands of the real world can no longer be ignored or pushed aside, when the lists start rearing their ugly heads again. No task more supreme. I am a stay-at-home mom and for the first few years of my first child’s life I felt guilty about it. I grew up in a feminist household, reading Ms. Magazine and imagining myself as a career woman. Never in a million years would I be a stay-at-home mom. But I am. And one day I made peace with myself by realizing that parenting is my job. That raising another human being to be a force of good in this world means something. Kelly, you have created a thriving, successful business for yourself and I know you are passionate about it but remember when you re-enter that world and begin to feel pulled in so many different directions, it’s OK to turn it all off for awhile to just be with your child. There is no task more supreme.
Finally, grab an end. One of the authors tells the story of needing to move a very heavy picnic table. She doesn’t think twice about asking someone to help her, to grab an end. So why do we as mothers so often feel like we can carry the load of raising children by ourselves? Don’t be shy about asking for help. Maybe it’s help watching the baby, maybe it’s just needing to talk something through with someone. Don’t try to do all the heavy lifting alone.
So my sweet Kelly Rae, those are my thoughts from mother to mother. I am so happy to have you on this road with me. In only six weeks, you have already taught me so many new things. I love you