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everything i needed to know i learned from my six-month-old
AWAKENING TO UNCONDITIONAL SELF-LOVE IN MOTHERHOOD
By KUWANA HAULSEY
Cleis Press, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Kuwana Haulsey
All rights reserved.
Finding the Courage to Emerge
Dare you have the courage to be who you really are?
THE GIRL ACROSS THE ROOM RAISED HER HEAD AND THE look in her eyes stopped my breath.
Who is this? I wondered. My God.
She was beautiful, with long heavy braids hanging down the middle of her back, golden skin, and uncertain eyes. People don't like to be stared at when they're frightened, so I looked away to give her some privacy. A minute later she hunched her back and moaned, once more immersed in what was happening to her body, this process of becoming something new. I wanted to tell her that everything would be OK, but I wasn't sure that it would be. It was hours until dawn and she was already naked and sweating, pacing heavily around the room. This poor girl was about to have the longest day of her life.
As I watched her transform in the mirror in front of me, a story I'd read weeks before flashed through my mind.
It seems that there's a tribe in Africa where, the first time a woman leaves home following the confinement period after giving birth, everyone she meets along the road greets her with a sacred song otherwise reserved for warriors returning from battle. She's honored as having lived through a rite of passage that will forever mark her womanhood as abundant and powerful and blessed. She's respected as a fully franchised member of the most ubiquitous and yet most extraordinary group of beings in our collective experience: mothers.
There was something about this vision of strength and power—and the recognition of worth that went along with it—that appealed to me. This archetype of divine motherhood walking alone along the dusty roadside in my mind's eye was someone whose wisdom was innate and whose voice was unmistakable. Her words mattered, so she used them with clarity and purpose. She gave to those around her from the overflow of her spirit, not from the dregs. She had a sensual, arresting beauty all her own; she released the pressure to look like or act like anyone other than herself. The temptation to try to be "perfect" or "have it all together" for anyone else's benefit wouldn't even be a temptation for her. She would know how much richer life was on the other side of that lure, where failure might be an option, but living in fear and pretense was not.
The desire to know (and be loved by) this divine mother is intimately familiar. Yet somehow she seems so far removed. This is the mother we all think that we have before we get grown and start nitpicking at the humanity of the women we were born to. This is the woman we secretly want to be, even though it very often seems like she doesn't exist. But she does exist. I know. I've seen her. She's been there, no matter how big or small her part, in the face of every pregnant woman and mother I've ever seen look deeply at a child with love.
I wanted her face to be my face too. I wanted to allow this woman of purpose, this woman I'd always believed myself to be inside, to emerge from the girl in the mirror. But how? Babies know how to be birthed. Mothers do not always know how to birth themselves.
I'd pondered these thoughts for weeks, though not in a serious way. I just loved the idea of being able to magically summon my inner warrior to carry me through the end of pregnancy. As fantasies go, it was really quite enthralling. My body had gotten so enormously awkward that I was barely able to roll out of bed by myself. Under the circumstances, it seemed only fair and fitting that there'd be a trade-off of some kind. Maybe I'd given up gracefulness and freedom and the ability to see my feet, but in return I would gain access to a mysterious new power within me. This power was destined to rise up and, at just the right moment, give me the strength to conquer any challenge.
There was something potent within me waiting to be birthed right alongside the baby curled up in my body. Just like the women in the little African village, I'd summon my warrior and she would kneel down before me without protest, generously offering up her services as midwife, ready to birth me into my new purpose, and a higher level of consciousness. It sounded wonderful.
However, as another contraction began to swell, I started having some doubts. The face in the mirror lost its subtle glow and turned back into my own familiar, sweating, scrunched-up, agonized face. Struggling to breathe through the panic, I wondered if maybe I'd made a really big miscalculation. It was seriously looking like the warrior goddess I'd been counting on would be a no-show.
As a self-described pacifist (read: people pleaser), I may have seemed unworthy to her. But without her how would I get through this, the birth of my first child? I wanted my son more than I wanted my next breath, but how exactly was I supposed to get him here? This only sounds like a simple question if you've never been in labor before. What had I gotten myself into? Was I honestly prepared to become a mother?
The short answer is: of course not. But you couldn't have told me that at the time. In my mind, before the contractions started, I had it all together. In reality, what I had was a pretty crib, some woefully unimaginative pregnancy books, a closet full of tiny clothes, and the incredible assumption that somehow these things equipped me to be a mother. It was pretty audacious thinking. But in my own defense, there was no way that I could possibly have known what was about to happen.
Going through childbirth for the first time is a lot like going cliff diving when you can't swim very well. Boldly you jump, trusting the exhilaration of the moment to carry you through. If it does, great. If it doesn't, well, its not like you can turn back. When that first contraction hits, you are airborne. Your entire being is alight with the profound and shocking realization of the true meaning of the word commitment. In my pre-pregnancy life, I could barely commit to a morning yoga class. Yet here I was, asking myself, and my husband, to commit to the most profound change that two human beings can undergo. And what about the baby? I'd heard it said by spiritual types who supposedly know these things that between birth and death, birth is the more appalling of the two experiences. How would the baby get through all of this?
As the contraction receded, I kneeled down and ran my hand over the huge mound of my belly. I whispered words that I hoped were comforting, looking for some sign that our son felt my presence and was consoled. But there was no movement, nothing at all. My heart jumped. I tapped on my stomach a few times. Hello in there? Nothing. I pushed down on my belly, harder than I intended to, trying to get him to move. Annoyed, Kingston pushed back and flipped over on his side. If he could've used the placenta as a cover to throw over his head, he would have. That boy was fast asleep in there and clearly letting me know: Go away, Mama! Cut it out!
Even in the middle of labor, he was cutting up.
Kingston was nothing if not consistent. Before our son was even born, he was a talker, a doer, a whirlwind of quick opinions. He'd constantly sent messages to me from the womb, tapping out clear demands like Morse code across the skin at the base of my belly. Mama, it's time to eat! If I ignored him, or didn't move fast enough toward the refrigerator, he would waft down and plop onto my bladder, crushing it like a stress ball. As soon as I put something, anything, in my mouth, he'd say a polite thanks by floating up and away, happily going about his pre-birth business.
Oftentimes, I'd found myself wondering what would happen if I were more like my son. What kinds of things might I say if I hadn't learned, at some point in my life, that being polite had a greater resale value than being honest? Kingston, on the other hand, had no such qualms. He was relentlessly authentic, always willing to share his preferences whether I asked for them or not. For example, he loved salsa music and knock-knock jokes and late-night playtime. Every night, right around midnight, he woke up to play games. My husband and I joked that the baby must have a wristwatch, because he was never late for our nightly date.
"I'm going to call him Midnight when he comes," I'd told Cory. "Midnight Tyler."
It amazed me just how perfectly this little being fit inside his own, untouched skin. He had such a strong presence. More than once, old ladies had stopped me the in street and pointed at my belly, saying, "That child is powerful. He has a strong destiny. He's going to be somebody!"
Excerpted from everything i needed to know i learned from my six-month-old by KUWANA HAULSEY. Copyright © 2013 Kuwana Haulsey. Excerpted by permission of Cleis Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsTable of Contents
Lesson One: Finding The Courage to Emerge
Lesson Two: The Gift of Presence
Lesson Three: If You Are Irritated by Every Rub, How Will You Ever be Polished?”
Choosing Harmony Over Resentment
Lesson Four: A Life of Every Day Miracles: Embracing a Transcendent Vision
Lesson Five: Help! I Look Like Somebody’s Mother: Honoring the Body Temple
Lesson Six: I Want It Now! Surrendering Your Wants, Fulfilling Your Desires
Lesson Seven: When It All Falls Apart: The Art of Joyous Failure
Lesson Eight: Soul Mates and the Language of Inspired Loving
Lesson Nine: Awakening Bliss: Welcoming Flashes of Unexpected Ecstasy
Lesson Ten: The Precursor of the Mirror is the Mother’s Face: Trusting Your Power
Lesson Eleven: Yielding to The Divine Creative Within
Lesson Twelve: Making Time: Kingston and the Lost Art of Putzing
Lesson Thirteen: My Six Month Old is Faster Than I Am: Taking Chances
Lesson Fourteen: Captain Caviar Vs. The Coupon Queen (or Babies Bring Balance and
Abundance If You Let Them)
Lesson Fifteen: No, You Will Not Find Peace: Learning to Let Peace Find You
Lesson Sixteen: Love is Like Musk It Attracts Attention
Lesson Seventeen: Celebrate Yourself Exactly Where You Are
Epilogue: Taking the First Steps