This week I read MotherMysteries. It was a little too Jungian analyst, exploration of archetypes, mythological for my taste--that style doesn't "click" well with me and I find it hard to get into books that are too heavy with Jung. Anyway, it was still somewhat interesting because I love just about all books about women's experiences of motherhood.
The book follows snippets of the author's experience of her three pregnancies and the "mothermysteries" she discovered through each one. Her third birth takes place at home and one week old they take the baby in to be circumcised. The circumcision is botched in that an artery is nicked and the baby bleeds copiously and has to be taken to the ER, etc. After he has stitches put in the artery, the mother sinks down to the floor of the ER to nurse and comfort him and later reflects on how she is "fascinated and a bit awed to recall the woman I became when my baby's life was in danger...the love a mother has for her baby, and her quintessential desire to protect that baby, carry her far beyond the reaches of neurotic concerns about other people's liking her, approving of her, social reputation, manners, persona..." As she reflects on her experiences and considers her "defense" of her baby, I can't wrap my mind around how she neglects to address (or, indeed, to even realize) that this whole experience was totally avoidable--the parents directly *caused* their baby the pain and distress and the complication and suffering in the ER by arranging to have an unnecessary surgical procedure performs on his innocent little body. She seems to perceive her role in the situation as someone mythologically "heroic" as she "held him to my heart and my breast and loved him all night long" instead of experiencing any regrets or changed opinions about having had the circumcision performed in the first place.
Some good quotes/observations from the rest of the book:
"I am always stunned when I hear a man exclaim in frustration, 'Why must women take things so personally!" If I don't experience my life personally, then what is the point of being a person? I cannot imagine going through life not taking things personally."
With regard to adjusting to life with a baby outside the womb: "I don't know how to do this mother and baby thing with our bodies separated...Why should a baby all of a sudden become so separate from his mother? This strikes me as a peculiar custom. not all cultures do this...I expect my agitation about being separate from my baby is not only neurotic fear but that there is some instictive base to it. I suspect that nature wants me to feel agitated when I am not with my baby, wants me to still be touching, holding, body to body with my baby."
On reflecting on the surrender of self required when mothering a baby: "I wonder whether it's harder for a woman who has been independent and had years of feeling in charge of her own life to surrender when she has a baby...Many women of my generation are educated and professionally accomplished. Psychologically, we have had the time and the space to develop a conscious, differentiated ego. We are used to knowing what we want and directing our lives to achieve our goals. When a woman who has lived this way becomes pregnant, she gets dragged back into the unconscious depths of nature, into a dreamy and passive field of energy, where she is a vessel for the creative forces of life. This is a hard fall for the ego, a difficult psychological death."
To this, I say, and how! I have shared the same sort of thoughts/reflections myself on multiple occasions.
"Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman's life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person's mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary initiatory rite for a woman."
Okay, almost done...a section about working I identified with:
"Something inside me needs to be worked. Something or someone inside me has ideas, likes to think and communicate in adult ways. There are parts of me, alive and active, that simply are not addressed in being a mother. It's not merely the desire to escape the infinite wheel of mothering. There are genuine energies that rise in me that want to be heard, exercised, evolved. The woman inside me who is driven, has ambitions and ideas, is frustrated being a mother."
This section goes on in meaningful ways, but I've spent too much time on this post already and so must stop here. What I always struggle with is the desire to combine work with mothering--not leave my baby to work, but also not leave my work in order to mother. Does that make sense? I want to do both at at the same time darn it! So far, I'm managing a delicate balance between mothering deeply while also fulfilling some of my restless work energy with volunteer work that I can handle with children (as well as some very small paid work engagements, that again, I can do while also taking care of the kids). This is an issue I really struggle with--my desire to "work" as well as to mother well and fully (which is work in its own right, of course).