For the Woman Giving Birth To Herself

All praises due for this auspicious moment in your life! I string garlands of lotus blossoms, lay fresh white sheets as your receiving blanket and pour libations so that the ancestors may be properly welcomed for this event. Your rose petal bath has been drawn, the water sweeten with honey and perfumes. I have laid out the finest jewels, bracelets and rings to adorn you. Your dress will fit you like a glove. Your throne has been polished and prepared to receive you.

Dear Sister: I have been waiting for you patiently. It is an honor to crown a Queen.

You are so brave, my sister. Death is never easy to face. You were thrown into this descent knowing you would never be the same again. Uprooted from the familiar, the journey to the birth canal is wrought with fear and confusion. Surrender becomes your best friend. You’ve been called to dig deep and find your light. You found the power to let go of that former girl that no longer is. This moment is centuries in the making. There are forces in the world that wish you would stay dead. Woman after woman has been sacrificed and held down, while those that came before us prayed that someone as brave as you would break this cycle.

There was so much to release. So much to give up. Your old self-image. The friends that were never friends. The job that drained your life force. Your obsession with your sadness. The search for love in all the wrong places. It was so hard for you to become a woman after only being someone’s daughter. Those childish things had to end. You had to forgive so many, but most importantly, yourself. You had to let go. Stretched and pulled beyond your comfort, you were so scared for what you’ve been asked to perform.

Sister, the worst is over; enjoy the best of your self! It takes courage to commit to your path. In this world consumed by fear, it was so easy for you to forget who you are. There were so many dark years in which you stumbled and fell hard for everything that seemed like salvation. Forgive yourself, love. Everything has happened in perfect timing. This moment is what we call, the “rest and be thankful” phase. You’ve labored beautifully through all your trials, and now you are ready to listen to your body and give your light.

To be born is to make peace with death. I couldn’t be more proud of you. You knew the life you were living had to end to make room for the life you’ve dreamed of. Now is your moment to experience the ecstasy of freedom. We have all been patiently waiting for you to arrive. I knew it was just a matter of time. You transitioned. You gave it all up. You took responsibility for your life and decided to claim it. Go! Pursue your dreams now! Awaken to your full empowered self! A butterfly forcefully breaking the chrysalis. Come forth goddess!

Giving Birth: Learning How To Mother Myself

For the last 6 years, I have thought about birth almost every single day. It started with a letter I wrote to my future children. The most important part of that letter was telling these future beings that I was working alchemy on myself to be golden enough to receive them. It was at that moment that something in me shifted, and I realized that to give birth in an intentional way, I must do it for myself first.

I have definitely been through my baby-craze phase, where I wanted more than anything to become pregnant. I suppose a big part of that was hormones, women around me having babies and a desire to be a mother. Reflecting on that time, I wanted to skip over the part of being my own woman and jump into motherhood as the only viable identity after college. Becoming a doula in 2010 put the brakes on that desire. The responsibility and reality of becoming a parent was real to me. I decided that I could wait longer to become a mother.

In the midst of this, I dealt with my own strife with my mother. I began to realize that having children in her early twenties ended my mother’s self-determination and the future she may have dreamed of. She had to do a lot of growing up all on her own because of the disconnection between her and my grandmother due to migration. I learned about what my mother wanted to do with her life – become a nurse – before she fell in love. I heard about the trials, tribulations and joys my mother endured raising 3 children close in age in the Bronx. The idea that her life was over in a certain respect filled me with dread. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a mother anymore. Not at 20-something years old.

I began to realize somewhere in this process that I didn’t know what it meant to be a mother or be mothered. My mother was an exceptional mother, and cared for her children dearly. She sacrificed a lot for us, stayed home with us in our young age and for these things I am forever grateful. Emotionally, she was unavailable. I have come to understand that she couldn’t be because she wasn’t emotionally available for herself. I know I felt it when I experienced trauma at 6 years old, and shortly afterwards when she asked me if I wanted to be her friend. I felt like I lost my mother at that moment. I was reluctant to say yes but felt like I would hurt her feelings. From then on, I saw myself more like a second mother in the house than a daughter. That became a burden as I got older and became an adult; she began to share things about her life with me that, in retrospect, a mother shouldn’t tell her daughter. I wanted to be there for her though, knowing that the information was traumatizing me. I ended up taking care of my mother emotionally and ignoring myself. She has struggled with being bi-polar, which makes you unbalanced and at times, self-absorbed and self-deprecating. As life became  more mentally and emotionally complex for me, I felt the distance between us grow. I became aware that the respect I had for my mother was rooted in fear of making her angry. I never shared anything personal with her because I thought I’d be in trouble or that she couldn’t handle it. I’ve had a secret world for years that I never felt I could tell her about.

A year ago, I began to realize that I needed to be my own mother. My relationships with women through the years was affected by this need that I never knew how to ask of my mother. I wanted to be her daughter, not her friend. Consequently, I didn’t know how to balance this. Mothering myself was a struggle when I first began. I realized there was a child inside  me who needed a responsible adult to take over. That a 6 year old had been running the show in my life, and my inner wise woman had to step up. It was hard. I wanted to stay a child. Being responsible meant giving up childish things, like being aloof, flaky, unfocused and distracted. Mothering myself demanded that I take care of myself instead of wanting to be taken care of. It was a hard pill to swallow, but the bitterness of this medicine healed me.

The first step to mothering myself was admitting that I was not okay. Taking responsibility of my wounded self was painful but opened the door to rebirth. I had to hold and cradle myself, still slipping up along the way but holding myself accountable. I began to see that mothering myself brought about similar anxieties as those I have seen with pregnant women – of worrying if I was doing everything right, the fear of something happening to me under my care and ultimately, facing death and birth in the same breath. I learned that mothering myself meant I needed to be emotionally available for myself. That taking care of others before doing so for myself was harmful to my mental health. To be a mother to myself meant that my former self had to be put to rest. A chapter of my life had to end for a mother-woman to emerge. Birth  has made me develop a close relationship to death, and death has made birth all the more glorious.

I look forward to becoming a mother to another being in the future. I know it will come with fears, struggles and anxieties. I know that nothing I do will make me completely ready to face that initiation. Yet, giving myself the time to birth the woman I am becoming has shifted my desire to give birth to a child from an escape to an intention. When I stopped escaping from myself, I became intentional with what I did with my life. I thank my mother for everything she taught me. For the stories and things she shared with me. For her bravery in the face of all the pain she carries. Most of all, I thank her for birthing me. Because she had to face her own death. Now I understand the opportunity she was robbed of by a society that teaches women that motherhood is our only way to have status in the world. I am not just my mother’s daughter anymore, and this is the journey in reconciling the bridge between little girl to a self-actualized woman.

 

To Retell The Story; To Find Language for An Authentic Sharing

A couple of years ago, I took a workshop with this great woman, Molly May, called Writing From the Body. It came at a great time in my life, as I had begun to do healing around my sexual and emotional trauma. I was understanding then that our bodies held the story but was not sure how to access words. As a writer, I find myself writing and rewriting stories about my life constantly. There have been times I have refused to write in my journal because I was sick of writing the same pain over and over. Most of the time, giving the emotions a tangible form helped me heal the wounds.

There was a particular exercise during this workshop, in which we were encouraged to retell a story from a different perspective. We had spoken about how the way one tells their story is linked to what work one have done to shift what they made it mean. I am thinking about what I wrote that day, about experiencing a mixture of sexual and emotional trauma. This weekend I will be going to my alma mater, the State University of New York at New Paltz to an annual event called Take Back The Night. It is part of a larger movement of events around the globe who seek to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. Take Back The Night empowers survivors in the healing process. This event was important to me during my undergraduate career because it was the first time I felt a community of women who had similar stories and traumas as my own. I was honored to be invited to talk at the event this year and have been thinking about what message I want to share with the women I will meet.

I’ve thought about how I have come to use words to communicate my experiences. I remember what it has sounded like. At first it had no words. All I had was feelings. Mostly fear, which is what prevented me from even writing it. Then, as I heard other women share their story, I knew I had one too. I used the words around and within me. I found that talking to my close kin and therapists about it helped me understand what I was feeling. That’s when I wrote about the shame and guilt that came from such experiences. I gave it words that felt right and some that felt uncomfortable. Something changed though, when I first began to seek therapy. The word trauma had always felt the most true to me; adding a specification clarified it for me even more.

A friend told me that I could give my experiences whatever vocabulary honored my feelings. I reserve all the intricate details of my experiences in my journal and therapeutic sessions with friends and healers. I learned from one of those sessions that retelling painful details were a way to retraumatize myself and those listening. My story then, is understanding that the emotional and sexual trauma did not define my life; I had felt like it was part of my identity. Using the word “experience” has made me look at my stories with more compassion for myself. I realized in writing about these things that it was what I made myself believe about who I am that did the most damage.

The human psyche is so delicate. I know that whatever thoughts I keep circling within me affected my well-being. The thoughts were of the memories but more than anything, it was negative self-talk. Making myself feel tainted and ashamed because of the internalized messages about sex I received from society. I discovered that it was more about the aftermath, about the wound. I came across a concept that made me examine these traumas from another place.

You are not responsible for having inflicted your wounds, but you are responsible to them. Those words struck me. It called for forgiveness of the experience, for the other person and mainly, for myself. Forgiveness is about making peace with the past. I have learned that forgiving began to lessen the charge around the memories. I was able to understand that these experiences stunted my ability to draw healthy boundaries. In forgiving myself for thinking it was my fault, it was also a way to tend to the wounds so that they could heal.

I used my writing to speak about using these experiences to realize that my ability to choose was taken from me. That surviving and living were two different things. In writing more about how all my life experiences were interconnected, I understood how violence to every person in my life made for the unpleasant and violent encounters, on emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual levels. The biggest thing I have learned is that releasing and being free of the pain and learning lessons from experiences were not mutually exclusive. I recognize that to reach a place of peace with a story, I’ve had to tell it and write it over and over again, so that every feeling inside me had an opportunity to speak. I wish to offer myself and other women ways to release the traumas we face on horrible scales. As we fight to eradicate violence, treating ourselves compassionately is vital. It is important that we also work to heal the wounds so we can remember we are whole. It wasn’t until I began to show compassion to myself that I could help and support others in healing. I have learned I am not anything that has happened to me, good or bad, but rather, I am what I have let those experiences do to who I am becoming.

Confesión De Una Mujer Dificil

Entre los corazones que pusieron en mis manos
Reconocí pedazos semejante a los míos;
La diferencia es que yo se como recomponer y construir uno mas fuerte
Callo mis burlas por mi historia de entregar mi corazón también ciegamente
Igual que yo, querían escapar la soledad
Culpa mía las palabras románticas vacías
La mentira que esto era para siempre es un peso insoportable

Este corazón que acabo de hacer añicos fue una ves mi salvación;
Luego tuve que destrozarlo cuando mi rescato quiso mi libertad
Quiso que yo lo salvara, yo su Virgencita piadosa y inmaculada
Una mujer intocable y de sueños
Diosa en un altar de ilusiones
En un momento, caí de mi pedestal
Mis alas batieron mi jaula de oro violentamente
Una paloma que no pudo quedarse en mano

Mujer difícil, caprichosa y irresistible
Que vuela sin rumbo, corriendo con el viento
Lloro por mi alma mística
Arrepentida de prometer algo que nunca puedo dar
Este corazón gobernado por solo las estrellas y el amanecer
Un espíritu rebelde, libre completamente
Ya después de tantos años buscando que alguien me haga suya
Aquí estoy, sola
Como lo quise

No me queda mas nada que recorrer el mundo
Buscando solo momentos de éxtasis erótica
En cual mi cuerpo encendido prenda fuego
Encontrando otras llamas con quien bailar
Conociendo las montanas íntimamente
Desvelándome el los bosques secretos
Persiguió solamente la luna, amada y maestra mía
Creciendo y declinando, una y otra ves
Y de repente un hombre salvaje
Casado a la tierra y su propio corazón
Con quien seguir mi legado:
Una hija que tenga la herencia de su madre en su piel
Ella también silvestre y feliz con su propia compañía
Soy yegua negra despachando por la orilla del mar
Nunca regresando a lo que era