Sacred Motherhood

There is this opinion I’ve seen that the idea of Sacred Motherhood is inherently sexist and/or transphobic. It certainly can be twisted into something potentially harmful. However, the idea that natural roles are always a bad thing needs to stop. This isn’t some either or topic. It all depends on context.

Not all people born with a uterus are meant for the role of Mother. Some are medically unable to have children and others use their right to decline. There should be no shame in that. Not everyone is meant to take on the role of Healer, Warrior, Teacher, et cetera, either. Why should the idea of Motherhood be treated any differently? I find this is where much of the problem lies with the idea of Sacred Motherhood. The expectation that women should have babies is a problem in our society. There is a lot of rightful pushback against that. Those who are unable to conceive or choose not to should be supported. We should still be able to recognize roles as being sacred without feeling the need to assign them to people based purely on reproductive organs. If you can’t do that, then the problem is probably more on you than the concept itself.

Most who choose to take on the role of birth mother are women, but there are also genderfluid people and a few men born with uteri who have done this. Sacred Motherhood need not be limited to gender identity! If a person is capable of conceiving and birthing a child, they are capable taking on this role if they so choose. The only thing I would caution is being sure not to push the title of “Mother” onto those who prefer to use an equivalent male or gender-neutral title. (I do feel that, in this case, “mother” can be considered a gender-neutral title, but it’s important to acknowledge that it does carry feminine connotations for most.)

While it is important to note that the human population is currently too large, there has always been and will continue to be a need for the birth mother if the species isn’t to go extinct. The role of birth mother includes pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing. The entire process is physically demanding to the birth mother and can prove to be fatal in many cases. The birth father’s role of inseminating a woman is certainly not equivalent. That’s not to downplay the role of fatherhood. Birth mothers can’t get pregnant without insemination, either directly or artificially. In addition to that, parenthood in general is important to a child’s well being. This goes for single parents, co-parents (however many a child may have), birth parents, and adoptive parents.
There are many cases wherein the birth mother is unable, unwilling, or just should not take on the role of mother beyond the birth. While her role was still critical and sacred, it should not diminish the role the birth father and/or adoptive parent plays in raising the child. The idea of Sacred Motherhood should not be used to attack the roles that others may play or to excuse birth mothers who engage in toxic behavior.

When viewed from a reasonable angle, the concept of Sacred Motherhood can be beautiful. Like any other role, there are limitations on who is capable of or willing to play a part in it. That doesn’t make it inherently a bad thing: it makes the role real.

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On PPD

When I was in college, I wrote a speech for a class about the stigmatization of mental illness. I discussed my own experiences with it from the point of a child whose parents refused to acknowledge it (despite their own struggles) as well as the point of a new mom struggling with post-partum depression. I argued that post-partum depression is likely one of the more stigmatized forms of mental illness. My child is now closer to a pre-teen than she is a baby. However, that does not negate my memory of my ordeal as a new mother or how important that I still feel this topic is.

New moms are expected to be happy and filled with love for their children. And I was, sort of. Depression in any stage doesn’t mean that all other feelings are nonexistent. What it does is clouds over those feelings and suppresses them in a way that can make them difficult (if not impossible) to grasp.

I was exhausted. There was one point in time when I was visiting in-laws, passed out in their chair, and it took several minutes for them to wake me back up after my daughter started crying. When breastfeeding my daughter, I would often fall asleep while she was nursing. The tiredness was a constant battle.
In addition to that, I struggled with conflicting feelings. I wanted to die, but didn’t want to leave my baby motherless. On nights when it was particularly bad, I was terrified that I might somehow hurt her. Do not misconstrue this: I knew that I did not want to harm her and would not willingly do so. Yet the fear was still there. In relation to the aforementioned exhaustion, despite it, I found myself terrified to sleep without making sure my baby was still breathing.

My husband, bless his heart, thought it might be a good idea to confide in a co-worker of his about his concern for me. She decided to warn him that I was a danger to our baby and that he should leave me. Thank the gods my husband knew better. In fact, it had upset him. It may have been better for me if he hadn’t told me about the conversation, but it still warms my heart that he cared enough about me not to take that bad advice seriously.
That this woman would have said something like that is a huge problem. There are people who believe that a mother suffering with mental illness should not keep their children! That line of thinking can prevent a new mother from seeking treatment for post-partum depression. Grin and bear it, it will all be fine. Right? No.

At the time of my daughter’s birth, I was not already seeking treatment for my depression and anxiety. Post-partum depression, being worse than what I had previously experienced, gave me the push to find a professional. The problem: There was a wait of several months before I could be seen. Mental health services in the United States are pitiful. Ask anyone, especially those of lower income who are un- or underinsured, and they will agree. You either wait until a professional is available or wait until your situation becomes such an emergency that you end up being admitted to the hospital. Whichever comes first. Thankfully, I was able to get through the wait without harming myself. Not all are so lucky.
In addition to the wait time, once I saw the psychiatrist, I found that not all are so accommodating for nursing mothers. He wanted to prescribe me with anti-depressants under the condition that I would stop breastfeeding. I was unwilling and decided that, given the amount of time that I had gone already, I would forgo medication. I continued treatment in the form of therapy. Again, this is not something that all patients are able to safely do.
I had since learned that there are indeed medications that are safe for nursing mothers to take. It’s a matter of finding a better educated psychiatrist, which is not always an option for people.

The birth of a child should be a happy event. However, this is not always a realistic expectation. The stigma around post-partum depression and mental health in general should continue to be fought against.

Poetry: The Morrigan

The Morrigan by B.A.McNeely

Envelope me with your black wings
And remind me of my own strength
A Mother you are as much as
Warrior goddess
You push us, Shape Changer
To find all of our worth
I find myself in your tough love

Great Queen, Phantom Queen
Tell us what you see
So we can prepare or find hope

Teach us what you know
That we can find our ways
Na Morrigna, The Morrigan

You take flight ever ready
Watching over land and sea
Prepared to strike by blade or curse
Protect us with your lessons
Crow frenzy, your cry is heard
Remind us to fight
Reshape me as I burn

Poetry: Hope and Fear

Hope and Fear by B.A.McNeely

Hope and fear go hand in hand
Dancing like leaves on the wind
Always together and forever apart
Shakespearian lovers of our minds

Hope tends to her garden
Flowers bloom and give fruit to joy
Fear steals her away and holds her
Captive in the overcast day

But hope and fear are persistent
Each in their own stubborn ways
Heart fluttering, heartbreaking
They each point out the little things

Hope speaks of love, freedom, and success
Fear hides behind anger, cages, and strife
Both know well what can come and yet
Both can often make each other forget

Hope and fear are poison to each other
If one reigns too tightly, control is lost
Hope without fear becomes naivety
Fear without hope is pure agony

Poetry: Fish & Birds

Fish and Birds by B.A.McNeely

We’re all thrown into the water
Except some are given life vests
Some are taught first to swim
Or we struggle to breathe
Water flows through sore lungs
Turning words to bitter hooks
I’m here, I’m what you wanted
Except I will never be that
There’s too many fish who believe
That they’ll turn into birds
And too many who lose hope
Because we have no humanity
That was stripped years ago
We live and breathe like dying fish
Gasping for air when it surrounds
I’m nobody who wanted all
But all means selling my Self
My heart and soul to poison water
Where fish are dropping like flies
Because they were promised
That they could swim and be birds

Poetry: Rise

Rise by B.A.McNeely

I do not believe in myself
I crawl through muddy grounds
And let myself drown
Yet here I am
Still reaching out
Searching for that one light
To guide me through
And there it is
I see Them
And, in Them, I see also myself
Something that can never be taken
And I do believe
Even if only for a moment
I know that I will rise
And I will burn brighter than ever
Because I am my own writer
I am my own artist
I paint my own story
And write my own image
Because only I can
So, you may see me struggling
I will fall down again and again
and again and again
But I will always win
And I will become inspiration
Nobody can undo what I’ve decided
It is mine
Watch me rise

Poetry: Oceans

Oceans by B.A.McNeely

We stare across oceans
Grasping for what was lost
Given away by blood or will
By the blood before us

And the circle comes around
The serpent circles our world
Beginning to end again
We find ourselves returning

We stare across oceans
Bits and pieces floating through
Time can never be returned
But history always finds a way

And the tree reaches forth
Branches to roots across worlds
Beginning to end eternally
The ancestors call us home

We stare across oceans
Forests and mountains left behind
Yet not abandoned by others
While we live in strange lands

And the wise man hangs
For the words he would pass on
To know beginning and end
He now calls us back

We stare across oceans
Without knowing ourselves
Yet seeing it all far too well
What circle brought us here

And the trickster laughs
As the burning away of a world
Built by lies and faithless wars
Brings us to a new beginning

We stare across oceans
Grasping for what was lost
Given away by blood or will
By the souls before us