Nearly two months ago laying on my bed mid-day I was desperate for the Holy Spirit to speak to me about the state of my mothering. So I opened my heart to search for an object that would describe what I've been wading though. Closing my eyes..
A solid gold birdcage emerged, about a foot or so high. It was flying at an exhilarating pace, being flung to all these flashy exciting places, twirling at the foot of the Himalayas - the places and scenes bright and changing. I was a small birdie within, wanting someone to unlatch the door and free me. Even though the cage was out and about and I could still witness the adventure, I still felt trapped, hoping to be released by someone. Focused on the door, I suddenly realized that there was no base to the cage at all, the bottom was totally open all along. It was an ingenious sideways solution, an untraditional exit once noticed. Time passed and the gleaming gold of the birdcage melted and rearranged itself as a glorious crown on my head, costly and radiant.
So my imprisonment became my adornment. And I was never truly hemmed in. In the past year I've had a doctor and psychologist gently suggest that I am likely experiencing postpartum depression. My gorgeous-hearted mother passed through it multiple times. The odd thing is that I am not without hope or despairing. Symptoms are manifesting as bouts of anxiety - visceral, at times corrosive-feeling overwhelm where some days I can never seem to get enough air in my lungs or calm myself down. No full on panic attacks yet but going for days on end feeling like I'm on the verge of sickness, weak, splayed and drained. I've fallen mysteriously sick three times since our second was born with extreme flu like chills and aches and soreness and clogged ducts. Only after the second time did we realize the reason was exhaustion and nothing immune related I actually caught but rather linked to circumstances that had me finally slip into a heap. Like my body knew I couldn't take anymore and bowed out. At one of the lowest points, I remember shaking in pain under layers of covers thinking, do I have to feel this horrible to finally have a break?
They say our adrenal glands don't distinguish between a glimpse of a saber-toothed tiger and a toddler meltdown about toast being cut a certain way. Both may evoke elevated cortisol and heart pounding paralysis. Episode after episode and hour after hour of feeling like I can't be in two places at the same time to tend to two littles at once alone has put me on edge for months. I also found out about the term "empath" - a percentage of the population that feels other's emotions as nearly their own and are highly sensitive to other's states of being. So this over-identification with my children's distress puts me in a place where I am perpetually on. And to add, I identify as an introvert. Oh yeah, and I'm a trained arts educator so I'm all into encouraging expression and development and voice in feisty short people, lending to being hyper-responsive and a touch too patient and accommodating. Whew. Sigh. Epiphanies about my constitution as a young mama. There's always the question of why. What's contributing to how this place I'm in. Is it emotional, physical, spiritual? Is it animal, vegetable, mineral? Can someone please just open the door for me, swing open the little set of gleaming golden bars.
This vision told me it's not a single fix. For me, pills will never be the way. Nor will raw spouted cashew milk ashwaganda lattes or a haze of ylang ylang mist. It's going to come so slow and sure. I can tell the healing is going to swell and catch me off guard one day. It comes when I run in the hills. When I hug my husband and melt into his arms. When I plead to God some mornings to grow a quiet and gentle spirit in me so I'm not rude or bossy to him. Home-poured candles flickering in the evenings as Ian bathes us in scripture at bedtime. Fiercely un-cluttering our home box by donated box. Eating less fruit, wheat, dairy, meat. Going after even more nutrient-dense, mineral-rich goodness. Getting comfortable with being out of control. Heeding my limits. Treating myself like I treat them, with silly tender radiant patience. Breathing deep and forgetting and forgiving slights. Meeting a most wonderful woman counselor via facetime sessions. Almost chasing down another mother I liked chatting with at the park after we've already parted to give her a scrap of paper with my number on it. Being vulnerable about my need for a village and keeping in mind that it's historically unprecedented that mothering in our country happens in so much isolation. Reaching out to wise and wild women online, in person, anywhere with friendly raw me-ness. Honoring my own mom so far away in Europe and calling her to giggle. Becoming true friends with my mother-in-law and pestering her so I can learn to attempt to carry on the deep delicious legacy of Chinese home cookin' she forged. When I open the window to hear the rain while the babes drink milk from me and my body un-tenses when I declare silently inside that although at times giving of myself in this way is painful and weary, their little bodies are being nourished so well and I am a sweet haven to them. Their attachment and desires are so healthy and closeness is not always comfortable. Like my love and I choosing to talk and shout on the couch too late into the night when we are nearly delirious needing sleep but the cold sad alternative is going to bed angry with our backs toward each other. Instead we choose careen into one another. Believing that verse in Proverbs that promises that those who refresh others will be refreshed. And the other one about everything being used for good. Calling out the lie hissing that these babies are doing in me in, running me down. Ignoring a culture that cackles that laying your life down in love for others is ludicrous and pathetic.
I'm in a furnace being refined. The gold is melting and refashioning. I'm pressed on all sides but I know I will be left standing in hushed contentment. If all of this simply makes me run in desperation to the Holy Spirit and truly still myself at his feet desperate for a breeze of His intimacy, so be it. That's the absolute best I could ask for. To be needy and raw and expectant for Him to move our family from glory to glory. There's still the pain. This is not how I want to live the rest of my life. But hope is in my hand. I was made for this beautiful messy demanding exhilarating life. This man. These children. These friends. These spaces. These creative assignments. It won't be in my own working and wrangling of it. Only abiding and moving through it to claim my crown as one faithful. I refuse to languish. It's a fight. One that I will win by clinging to goodness. Or just by laying down when I feel weak and listening to what He has to say.