This is a two-for-one post, or a doubler as we say in my family. I had two aha! moments over the same weekend, and I cannot tell one story without telling the other. From time to time, a local woman and her FOW alumni friends would put on a workshop called ‘Renew You’ where women in the community would get together for a weekend of sisterhood, friendship, and loosely structured activities based on goals women had for attending. The goals could be deep and personal, or they could simply be laughing so hard that she pees her pants. I can confirm that she did.
My first daughter was about 8 weeks old. I was so in need of contact with the adult world that my plan was to stay in the hotel, hang out during meal breaks etc., and spend the rest of the time in the hotel room while participants participated, and I hoarded those crumbs of connection to save for a rainy day.
Friday night I mingled, I hugged, and as I started to slink towards the door because it was about to start, one of the leaders said, “you know, you don’t have to go.” With my baby in my arms, I sat down praying that neither she nor I would be a disruption.
This continued Saturday morning where again I was invited to stay, and again, I said, “oh, are you sure?” To say that I was self-conscious whenever my daughter squawked or squeaked or drew any attention to me is an understatement. I had it in my mind that they were just being kind and that they knew, as I did, we were interlopers. You would be right if you guessed that I stayed the whole weekend and you would also be right if you guessed that I said, ‘oh just until the next break,’ every single time.
Way back in the day, in the Family of Women, we used to have a ceremony welcoming women back each cycle. While I cannot reveal trade secrets, I can say that it alluded to how important and valuable our presence was to the meeting group, and as women in the world. As the Renew You workshop was going on, way back in my mind I had a hazy thought that, just maybe, we were supposed to be there.
On Sunday morning my sweet, darling daughter became so inconsolable that another woman took her outside the room to soothe her. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide but then one of the facilitators said, “do you hear that? That is the pain of the world, crying and begging for us to heal it.” I was stunned. It was such a powerful thing to say and so appropriate to what was going on in the room. I still get misty-eyed thinking about it.
Later as we sat in a circle, sharing what we got and what we learned, a woman said that one of the reasons she came that weekend was to come to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to have a baby of her own. The first face she saw when she arrived was my daughter’s and being able to hold her gave her permission to grieve. Like a frying pan to the head, I finally got it.
When it was time to leave, I loaded up the car and my daughter was having none of it. I had an hour drive ahead of me and it looked like she was going to scream for all of it. I drove 20 feet in the parking lot, and I stopped. I put my head on my steering wheel, and I cried. I couldn’t do it. I had kept it all in and now the past 8 weeks of flailing as a new mom was crashing down on me.
I went back inside and mother of four Mary, (of course her name was Mary), pulled me into her bosom and I wept ugly, exhausted tears. She didn’t say anything. No one offered platitudes of comfort. They just let me have my cry.
My daughter slept the whole way home. It was almost as if she knew I wasn’t ready to leave, that I hadn’t received what I came there for.
I think about that moment a lot. As moms we are the apex of the family, and we give and give and it’s from other women and other moms that our well gets replenished. I’m all for self-care and prioritizing my needs, but to me there’s nothing more restorative than the welcoming arms of a mom hug.