I opened myself up to what the stars above had to offer after a particularly dark and intense season of my life as my experience with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and PTSD served as a bridge toward my journey with spirituality. Comfort was a siren call from the universe and it’s one that continues to draw me in, though admittedly not as often as I’d like.
My 18 year old niece and her girlfriend are also interested in spirituality and the occult so it was a treat to talk with them at dinner one night about all things crystals, card readings and astrology. I love talking with them because they’re awesome but also because when we chat, I’m gifted an opportunity to connect with this part of my soul.
Ya’ll know I love being a mother. But I’m not JUST a mother and mamas, neither are you. We have interests and hobbies and roles that have nothing to do with motherhood, things that probably served as coping skills or made us a more vibrant version of ourselves. It can be all too easy to forget this though, to allow these other colorful parts of ourselves to fade away as if a new, singular identity is handed over along with our baby, the other parts of who we are packed away with our pre-baby life.
The reality is life with a newborn doesn’t leave room for the other pieces of our soul. The fourth trimester is lived in a state of survival, our brain having turned off anything deemed unnecessary in the caretaking of an infant, much like what happens when we’re in fight or flight, fueled by adrenaline and the will to live, or in this case, stop our baby from crying in the middle of the night.
For many of us though, the fourth trimester is a distant memory yet we’re still working on recovering the lost parts of ourselves or even mourning the loss of who we used to be.
I was a soul in limbo after the birth of my second son, unsure of how to manage two young boys, one an infant, one with needs, unsure of how to manage myself and the feelings I was starting to experience. I barely had time to shower never mind doing anything that would make me feel good about myself or that I enjoyed. It often felt as though I was turning into someone else and I wondered if the person emerging was the “real” me, that I had somehow fooled myself and everyone else through good coping skills and now with no opportunity to use them the jig was up.
As time passed, I drifted farther and farther from who I used to be, no longer anchored, no longer buoyed. I remember seething with rage and jealousy as my husband took 15 minutes to play a video game or napped with the baby while I took care of my oldest boy or did meal prep or something else that required me to give and not receive. I’d hear from people that I wasn’t myself, that I used to be fun, that they missed the old me.
Yeah, I missed me too.
But . . . did I even know who “me” was anymore?
And how do you find your way back to someone you’re not even sure ever existed?
I was lost in the motherhood but over time with the help of Zoloft, therapy and healthy boundary setting I was able to reclaim myself. I had to get comfortable in saying what I needed, whether that was a walk, watching the sunset, taking a long shower or writing. In doing my work, I was able to begin recalibrating my soul, integrating who I was as a mother with who I was becoming as a fully flushed out human being.
Even my husband noticed the change, telling me one morning that I had gotten my “swagger” back.
I’ve since learned that healing is anything but linear and swagger is impermanent. Since recovering from Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, I’ve experienced seasons, quarantine being one of them, where I put myself away, leaning in too much toward being a mom. But just as winter becomes spring, I’ve found I always cycle back home to myself, my soul no longer lost to me but the light guiding me home.
The irony is, as much as I was lost in the motherhood, I found myself there too. In integrating my identity as a mother with the rest of who I am, room needed to be made within. Anything that no longer served me – values, unhelpful or inaccurate thoughts, negative beliefs about myself – had to go. I wonder if part of the reason I became so lost in the first place was because I was trying to forge my new mom identity with someone who no longer existed.
But the truth is, dear mamas, we’re never really lost. We transform, following the natural flow of life. In the winters of our soul, parts of ourselves die off making room for rebirth in the light of spring, giving us the space we need to bloom.
In October 2020, at 38 years old, I got my first tattoo. I’ve wanted one for a long time but could never decide on what I’d want permanently on my body. I wanted something meaningful, a piece of art that would somehow capture who I was in ink, an outward celebration of my soul to remind me that when I inevitably found myself in the winters of life I would just as soon find myself back in spring.
There is now a beautiful Tree of Life that sits on my inner left forearm, it’s trunk a woman’s body connected to her two babes, it’s roots a reminder that we can only find light through darkness, it’s branches and leaves a reminder that no matter how lost we feel, we can always find our way to something more beautiful than before.