The world is on maternity leave. For mothers (and fathers) the feeling may be surprisingly familiar. Everything is paused, but the work hasn’t stopped, only shifted focus. Daily chores and child rearing happen without pause and work on top of it. There is loneliness not being able to connect with others in person and simultaneously a fear those “others” might ring the bell and create an awkward situation of having to turn them away, say “we’re not ready for visitors yet.”
While many report slowing down, baking and walking, dancing, long-forgotten projects, renewed meditations, others are lonely, anxious, overwhelmed, constantly parenting while also working their normal hours. Some are hidden away in fear, blocked from the comforts of social connection, some sick, some dying, some grieving.
One thing is certain, no matter what our situation, one of the most important choices we have right now, is where we put our attention, what our focus is; this makes all the difference in our experience of life. My wise teacher Jennifer Mckeown, made a helpful acronym to guide people through this time: FLEX: Find Love Everywhere, X out fear.
Her words ring true when I watch my mind seek out the problems instead of the solutions. I choose love, I choose connection, I choose brightness and silver linings. I choose to focus on love, not just in the sweeping and moving global story– where we hear heroic tales of healthcare workers, clean air, and water, loving gestures, and music from the balconies of cities around the world, but in my own tiny reality:
- The love notes we’re getting in the mail from our fans.
- Watching baby Alice learn to crawl, not with gaps in between the stages of her progress, but being there every incremental leap forward.
- Even our son’s tantrums feel like a gift right now if I take the time to see them that way. We’re getting the chance to help him through his big emotions in a way we don’t normally, because there is nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be but here with him. And he’s growing through it, something is shifting.
Of course Jeff (my husband) and I are meeting our own pressure points as well. Absolute exhaustion and the inability to find time for ourselves coupled with reinventing our business and creatively finding ways to continue to have an income.
I’ve had to release a pattern of perfectionism in our work projects. A recent spelling error in one of our videos sent me to new and uncomfortable depths as I realized we just had to let it be there, there wasn’t time, budget or attention for one more round of edits.
I am not in control, none of us are.
And now we’re having a collective experience of this lack of control over our lives. We have an opportunity together to shift our perspectives, to decide where we put our attention, and to create our reality, not by shifting world events, tattling on our neighbors, or by criticizing every step our government makes, but by focusing in on our own great beating hearts, capable and strong and able to embrace and release so much more than we could ever imagine, right here, right now.
Find Love Everywhere.
In birth the baby comes when we release and open our body. The baby comes also through the tightening of contractions– contraction leads to expansion. As a woman surrenders to the pain of birth she is able to open her body wide enough to bring a new life into the world…and here we all are, contracted into our own homes and being asked to expand our worlds into a new reality.
Maternity leave, like the stay at home order, and the restrictions that this virus has put on our lives, is not a straightforward experience. Being postpartum is far from the experience of a vacation. We are home, surrounded by our things and family, living in our same body, but when we look down we don’t recognize the new place we have arrived. We have to learn to love our new experience, our new body, our new family structures and schedules, the limits that are now put on our business and time.
The beauty of this moment is that we are all in this together, everyone is on leave. And as we step back slowly into the world, our eyes adjusting to the light, our bodies unsure of how to be in these new spaces, our most important task will continue to be to Find Love Everywhere and to X out Fear.
Learn more about my work as Paige of Jeff and Paige here: http://www.jeffandpaige.org
You make me want to sing. You make me want to write poetry, to dance. It’s as if when you passed through my birth canal you broke open great crashing waves of creativity that I thought were fancies of my youth, left long ago to die. On your sixth day of life my parents went home. I was moved to tears all day by the feeling of their absence in our home and simultaneously filled with surges of joy as your father and I worked through our first day alone with you, as parents.
That evening we ate dinner and listened to music. Dad was in the kitchen while I held you on the couch–still too sore to sit at the table. Both of us sang to the music, songs we’ve loved throughout our lives. Dad while cooking, and I looking down at you in my arms. As I opened my mouth to sing a new voice exited my lips. The voice of a mother, louder, stronger, more powerful and also more vulnerable. The cries of your labor loosened my jaw, dropped my soft palate, allowed a new openness. As I raised my voice to join your dad’s tears flowed from me, hot and fast, drenching my shirt like the breast milk that pours from me now, every time I hear you cry.
These tears, this experience of bringing you into the world, has let open my heart to the fullness and also the emptiness of love. The fullness while I connect with every parent on the planet who has known the joy of ushering new life into being. And the emptiness which is the love that underlies all in every moment, even when we cannot seem to see. The love that moves people through their lives.
“It’s so big. It’s just so big.” I said to your dad when he joined me for dinner from the kitchen.
“I know.” he replied. and we sat across from each other, with you between us, and sang while we cried.
This was written on November 17th, 8 days after Wolf was born. It’s a part of a collaborative journal that my husband Jeff and I are keeping for Wolf. Thanks for reading. I’ll keep working on posts.