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Honoring the light and dark of motherhood: Sweet surrender in the age of pandemic parenting

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Hello dear mamas! How have the past couple of weeks been for you? How have you been coping? This good enough mama has been all over the place, emotionally and in how I’ve been coping. I write a lot about honoring both our light and our dark, acknowledging and validating our shadow emotions. But over the past few weeks, I’ve found I’ve been retreating, trading bravery, truth, faith and courage for denial, fear, anxiety and control.

Isn’t it ironic then, that in choosing to retreat, in choosing to deny how I’m feeling and how I’m allowing my feelings to impact me that I’m actually NOT choosing the path of least resistance. One would think that my soul exhaustion would lead me to give in, give up. But no. In denying my feelings, my inner experience, myself, and in trying to control that which I don’t have control over, I chose to engage in a one-woman battle, head vs. heart.

This is not without cost. I’ve been having a difficult time getting out of bed, unable to shake the heaviness of sleep. I’m drained by the end of the work day and I’m often fighting back tears on the drive home. I haven’t wanted to eat or drink. I worry about Depression and Anxiety returning and am grateful that I continue to take Zoloft daily. I’ve been out of sorts, ambivalent and afraid to seem ungrateful for what I have, unwilling to fully experience my truth.

My mind, body and soul are exhausted.

I started to write this post a few weeks ago, at the height of feeling burnt out but the words would not come. I couldn’t get in a flow other than typing a few words before deleting what I had written, my one-woman battle jumping from within me to the page, words unwilling to come until I was willing to write from a space of whole hearted honesty.

Mamas, we can’t change the state of the world right now. We can’t change decisions that school systems have made regarding remote or hybrid learning. We can’t change the fact that we are still parenting through a pandemic.

But we can choose to honor our feelings about what we can’t change. We can choose to honor the frustration and rage and sadness and fear and grief. We can choose to honor the physical, mental and soul exhaustion. We can choose to honor thoughts without judgment.

We can choose to surrender.

This, my dear mamas, is the way back to ourselves. It is the way back to feeling whole, that sacred space within us that honors all the parts of our soul. Surrendering allows us to lay down our arms and create space for embracing duality, the understanding that light and dark cannot be described by adjectives such as good or bad because they are neither. And to be quite honest, neither are we. Our light and our dark, just as in sunrise and sunset and the waxing and waning of the moon, are simply part of the natural order of life.

I’ve become interested in all things Divine Feminine lately and have been doing a lot of reading on this subject, my mind greedy for information. The more I read, the more I wonder about womanhood, motherhood and what we have to offer each other and the Universe. We tend to think of ourselves as eternal students of life, always having something left to learn. And while this is true, what if we were also meant to teach? What if we were meant to learn these hard lessons, to literally embody these hard lessons of light and dark, duality, sacred spaces, the need to surrender to the natural order of life because as women and mothers it is us who have been chosen to do this holy work?

I understand that to some this may sound very woo woo, but I’ve come to love all things woo woo. I am also a big believer in making meaning out of certain experiences. Over the past five or six months, I’ve begun my journey toward the great change in a woman’s life. It’s early I know but clearly my body doesn’t see it that way. It took me a while to figure out what was happening within my body and once I did, it took me even longer to figure out how I felt about it. To be only 38 and heading toward Perimenopause? Insert shocked emoji.

One morning the word defective lodged itself in my mind and I could feel the shift in my energy because that was EXACTLY how I was feeling, as if there were something wrong with me. I also felt a sense of bodily betrayal. Had I been asking too much by expecting to enjoy having my mind and body be returned to me after having birthed two babies, breastfed two babies well past 12 months, and experienced Pre-E, HELLP, Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and PTSD over the last five years?

I wondered about my womanhood, my femininity, and if that would remain intact without a fully functioning reproductive system. I wondered who I was as a woman if I was no longer able to birth a baby. I knew I didn’t want any more children and I knew I shouldn’t have any more due to my history of Pre-E and HELLP but there was something so final that came from the understanding that physiology had taken that choice from me. And then I wondered, should it even matter to me that I couldn’t give new life anymore?

In wrestling with these questions, I gave myself time to begin the process of letting go of expectations shaped by outdated cultural beliefs about womanhood and began looking within. In letting go of ideas that only served to make me feel defective I was able to clear the space needed to embrace my next reality – the understanding and acceptance that my body was following its own flow, one determined by nature and not external forces.

It was within this surrender that I was able to make meaning for myself. My body may no longer be able to create new life, but my spirit, my soul, my light AND my dark gives me the strength needed to SUSTAIN life. Surrendering to the natural order of things, being in communion with myself, makes me a life force, the beating heart that offers my boys hope and compassion, grace and empathy, necessary fuel for growing nourished souls.

Woo woo, or not, dear mamas, YOU too are a life force, the beating heart of your children and family, the one chosen just for them, tasked with teaching them how to tend to their light AND dark, aiding them in growing a nourished soul.

There will come a time when this pandemic ends, when our children return to school, when life feels a bit more normal. I pray there will come a time when we live in a more just society. But right now, in this moment of time? In this moment of our lives, just before we read bedtime stories, my 5 year old son and I crouch down by the window in my bedroom that faces down our street, toward Lee’s River, watching the sunset. Together, we revel in the beauty of it, warm colors mixing in the sky, our bodies relaxed, breaths even, as we allow ourselves to be fully carried, supported, through the rhythm created by this natural order of life.

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