Turning into our mothers

Turning into our mothers

Sometimes as a doula I make women cry.

Sometimes without warning, the tears start to flow.

But more often than not I see it coming. My questions are asked intentionally so to roll that boulder from off of that cave, to uncover her hidden burden. I want to get there.

And I don’t do it to be cruel, but I do it in hopes of offering her a chance to release her weight- the one that may hold her down from surrendering to the process that is birth. Because one cannot submit to the power of labour without letting some of that go.

Women are strong, resilient and courageous, but we are human, and labour requires an unearthly calling from us. It digs up the dirt she may have swept under the rug, it turns those small particles into raging tornadoes, holding a woman back from her purpose, tying that woman down from the mobility required to push her baby out.

These things have a way of rearing their ugly heads at inopportune times, if not released. So though my probing may leave her feeling raw or exposed, it is not with a cruel heart that I do it. My purpose for asking is to save her from an impending storm.

And sometimes it takes time to get to that vulnerable place. And sometimes it hits her unexpectedly, hard and fast, as it did for a client this past week upon minutes of meeting for the very first time.

Sometimes, without much probing at all, she will up and retreat to the bathroom for ten minutes at a time, leaving me and her husband’s mother in a sullen silence on their living room floor.

Those weepy tears, those shoulder shudders, those bathroom trips are her body’s release. Even if her mother-in-law spoke english, it wouldn’t have mattered.

I know the language of silence.

And it meant we were getting somewhere. That we were uncovering the dirt.

Though I had only just begun our conversation, only just gotten past talking about the weather, only started at the very beginning with asking about her knowledge of her own birth from her own mother, we had found it.

Because though she was surrounded by her husband’s extended family since her arrival in Canada a couple of years ago, she did not have her own.

Though she shared meals and a roof with his brothers and his mother and father, they were not hers.

Though they cared for her like one of their own nine children, she was not their blood.

And she felt alone, in a house sheltering eight people with only two rooms.

As she approached motherhood, she longed for her own mother. She bled inside knowing she was oceans away.

Here she was approaching motherhood without her mother to take her hand. Here she was trying to feel grateful, as women do, for all of her blessings before her since fleeing a refugee camp on the other side of the world.

She had what she needed now, it would appear.

And yet she did not.

She still battles a storm inside- and we all have one.

We women are intricate beings, moving so quickly from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to the responsibilities of adulthood and motherhood alike. And how we process these things as women, how we carry our memories and our tragedies and triumphs, is based on our beginnings.

Because in the end, we can only be but pieces of our own mothers, our own grandmothers, projected through time.

We women are complicated creatures, so often quick to critique our own mothers’ paths. We can be so critical of her choices, as we make our own. And yet, we are but her own flesh. We are a piece of her, forever interconnected, despite the flaws.

So I am sitting here, during World Doula Week, on-call for this beautiful woman who is fast approaching her labour day with a complicated storm brewing inside, and I am reflecting on my own relationships- because that’s what this gig has the power of doing.

I’m here thinking how so often people tell me how much my mother and I look alike. How we move through this world in the same way. How I am replicating her younger existence, taking different strides but emulating the same spirit.

I am made of her.

People tell me all the time I am turning into my mother, and now that I have been one for six years strong, it carries such a different weight, unlike before. So though our relationship can feel complicated at times and my choices may differ from hers, now I know it to be true that we are far more alike than different.

And here I sit, thinking I ought only to be so grateful as to know what that even feels like. How privileged I am to be able to reach out and touch where it is I come from, every time I need her.

I am becoming her, because I belong to her. To be missing her would cause me to retreat to a bathroom as well.

I wholeheartedly accept I am turning into my mom.

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