In summer, all of life answers the call of the sun. Reaching, growing, expanding. All answering the urge to become the fullest expression of one’s being. And then... there comes a moment when the pendulum hangs in the air. The pause between breaths. Golden stillpoint. All is ripe, complete. The Golden Autumn, just before giving way to Darkening Autumn, Eldritch Autumn. Electric blue sky. Whispering of golden leaves. The call of a hawk high overhead. Sitting outside on a day like this, I feel the stillness, the fullness and richness that comes from a season’s work well done. The moment is so… pregnant. And then - suddenly, silently - one golden leaf drops.
In the last days of pregnancy, this double voice can be heard, if we allow ourselves to listen. Culturally, our focus is all on the joyful firsts… seeing, holding and feeding the baby for the first time. Baby’s first smile, first rolling over. And these things are indeed magical and to be cherished to the fullest. However, if we fail to acknowledge the entirety of the experience of becoming a mother, including that autumnal awareness that some things - important things - are coming to an end, we not only fail to prepare properly for this new stage of life (and, I would say, increase the likelihood of postpartum depression), but we miss out on this exquisite paradox.
Two major things that come to an end with childbirth are the maiden self and the state of pregnancy. Some women enjoy being pregnant and others do not. The experience of being pregnant certainly can be fraught with discomfort, uncertainty, and intense emotions. However easy or difficult one’s pregnancy, it is indeed a special state experienced perhaps once or several times during a lifetime. It is common to become impatient as the due date approaches, wanting to meet this new little person and wanting relief from pregnancy discomforts (in fact, the Spanish expression for “When are you due?” is “¿Cuándo te alivias?” or “When will you be relieved?”) To be sure, there is a collective sigh of relief whenever a baby finally makes her appearance.
I invite you to take some time to enter into the stillness and rich fullness of your last moments of pregnancy. Feel your heartbeat and his, the Original Song. Cherish one more time that odd, unique feeling of arms and legs moving within you. Reflect on nine-months’ work well-done. All is ripe, complete. Never again will you hold your child this close. Never again will your baby’s needs be met so perfectly and continuously. Soon, very soon, that first golden leaf will drop. Your baby begins her own path. Soon, too soon, you will learn the work of mothering, the work of letting go. Allow yourself to feel all of this. Honor all of this. And then open your arms to embrace the joyous adventure that is just around the corner.
Parents are continually trying to explain to people without children that having a child changes everything. It is difficult for them to explain what they mean and impossible for those who haven’t experienced it to understand. For women, there is an archetypal shift that occurs: from Maiden to Mother. To help my students reflect on what this change means in their own lives, I give them a drawing of a tree and a seedling. There are roots and footsteps leading toward the tree. Here I have them write where they have come from - the strengths and challenges that they bring, and that have brought them, to this journey. Half of the tree is in summer and half in autumn. On the summer side, I invite them to write words that represent their independent, self-contained maiden self. On the autumn side, they write what they anticipate letting go of in order to become mothers. The seedling represents what they will gain and the ways in which they will grow through the experience of being a mother.
So as you sit in the darkness with your soon-to-be-born child, sit with your maiden self as well. Sit with the girl and woman that you have been and have become. Acknowledge her, honor her, laugh with her, cry with her, conspire with her. Feel the beauty tinged with sadness. Tell her you must leave her soon to start a new journey. Ask her to watch your back. You will meet again.
Christy is a doula and Birthing From Within childbirth mentor committed to strengthening families and communities through storytelling/storylistening, meaningful celebration, mindfulness, and reflective work.