Katie is now parent to one five-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl, who she was 36 weeks pregnant with at the time of this interview. She reflected on her experiences of early motherhood in relation to the svadhisthana chakra and the themes of play, creativity and fluidity. These are her words but they have been edited to relate more strongly to the key themes.
For women in pregnancy you start to experience all these changes which prepare you for your new reality. You have to adjust the way you eat, the things you can do, and partners aren’t experiencing that as much. For them it starts when they see the baby. So there is no real comparison between the experience of the parents. The baby needs you [the parent carrying the baby].
During pregnancy you’re bombarded by all the stuff you “need” to buy, when actually you don’t need any of it. Babies want you to give them your full attention and will be entertained by you pulling funny faces. So in motherhood you really do access your creativity and playfulness in order to keep your child happy. It’s important to get your home ready and your community ready. Then your new reality starts.
In motherhood you can feel like your life is a string of mundane tasks, and you can never finish anything. It’s only when you can accept that and let go of what you thought was going to happen on any given day that you can fully relax into the experience of motherhood, which I have always found quite challenging.
I remember one day after I had been looking after Freddie all day, and been unable to wash the dishes or tidy up. In the afternoon I had one of those yogi teas and the quote on the tab said ‘every day is an achievement’ and I really needed to hear that. In the early days you just need to think, my job is to keep this baby alive and look after it. That’s it. Everything else is a bonus.
Another mother I knew, who didn’t have a very happy time of it, once told me ‘you just have to find the joy everyday’. This has been a really helpful mantra for me, because there’s always something, every day, which helps you to navigate the seemingly endless to do lists. It’s especially hard at the beginning because of all the hormones. At about 3 months the babies begin to smile and that helps, but before that they’re just a little blob of unresponsiveness which needs everything and you don’t know if you’re doing anything right.
As a mother you have to use creativity to achieve day to day tasks because you can’t leave your baby, or at least I couldn’t leave Freddie for a second. So you have to figure out how to have a shower, or figure out if you can leave the baby for 5 minutes. I used to bring a bouncing seat into the shower to put him in while I ran in.
I think the stuff about fluidity really resonates. You have to remember in motherhood that it’s all fleeting, and if you’re ever really struggling with something, it will all change in a few months; feeding, teething, moving. It’s all a phase.
When your child grows up this creativity is more applicable to communication. If you can keep the fun and creativity going it helps in everyday situations. If you approach things in a way that’s negative and exasperated then it makes everything harder. Say you go to the ice cream shop and it’s closed, instead of just expecting the child to get over it, and that you’ll do it another day, you might get a notebook and pen out, and say ‘if you could have any kind of ice cream in the world right now, what would it be? How many scoops would you have? 10? 20?’ By making a game out of it you help to adjust them to the situation. As your child gets older and begin to invent their own make believe world then you access your playfulness to get into that world.
There’s not a way to communicate what you’re doing when you’re playing with a child. When you’ve got stacks of dirty dishes and the house is really untidy, it can look from the outside like you’re not coping. As we discussed in the book ‘What Mothers Do’ Naomi Stadlen talks about there being a lack of vocabulary surrounding motherhood, and what ‘good’ or ‘capable’ parenting is. There’s also very little way to show that you’re doing a good job until they grow older and turn out not to be a serial killer. And if they turn out not to be a perfect child, how much of that is genetics and how much is your parenting?
I think a lot of women can get caught up in the birth, and they get stuck or blocked in these areas of the body (around the pelvis) because of traumatic birth experiences. I’m glad these stories are getting shared and taken seriously, but I am a bit cynical when people are still stuck on this years after – for me I think you’ve got bigger things to worry about.
Perhaps the most important and enduring thing in relationship to fluidity concerns the decisions you make about how you parent your child. I think you should just do what works for you. There are millions of books out there targeted towards desperate, sleep-deprived people. Sometimes I read these books and wonder whether the authors have ever seen a human child. Of course there are general guidelines but there are different parents, different children, and you just need to take from those books what resonates with you and trust your instincts. Take what comes and do the best you can.