Becoming a mother is full of joy, but it can also be full of frustration, anger, boredom, and anxiety. Talk to someone who has been there, and who is also a professional philosopher. I will help you sort out the confusion around motherhood, so that you can create an identity as a mother that feels integrated, powerful, and whole.
Moms groups are great, but they are usually devoted to sharing advice on how to get your baby to sleep or when to start solid foods. When I became a mother, I wanted someone who could understand me not just as a caretaker, but as an intellectual person, as well as a physical and emotional one. I wanted someone who would help me integrate my old, pre-baby self with the new mother self. I wanted someone who would help me think through this massive life change.
We're so often expected to say that motherhood is wonderful, natural, and easy. But the truth is that it can be a mess. I don't shy away from the more difficult realities of motherhood, and if you've felt any of the following, I can help:
Grieving a pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding that didn't go how you had hoped or planned
Missing your pre-child life and sense of self
Feelings of failing at being a "good mother"
Confused about conflicting parenting advice
Guilt about returning to work, or about staying home
Feeling like your work as mother is not taken seriously
Loss of connection and intimacy with your partner
Feeling uncomfortable in your post-baby body
Trying to understand yourself as both a mother and sexual being
Growing apart from friends who don't have kids
A shifting relationship with your own mother
Trying to understand what it means to create a human
Regrets or doubts about having children
Whether you have a two-month-old or a twelve-year-old (and five other kids), I will treat you like the fully intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical human that you are, so that you can feel like a more centered and confident mother. Let's get started.
Take a Course: The Meaning of Motherhood
Mom groups and classes typically cover how-to logistical issues like how to swaddle a baby or how to manage difficult behavior in your child. But there are deep psychological, emotional, and philosophical issues around becoming and being a mother that deserve more of our attention:
What is lost and gained in the transition to motherhood? What are the cultural messages around being a good mom or bad mom? What does it mean to create a new human consciousness?
The Meaning of Motherhood explores these complex philosophical questions with compassion, openness, and intellectual curiosity.
Week 1: The Birth of the Mother
The transition to motherhood is perhaps one of the biggest changes in a life, full of overwhelming and confusing emotions, huge physical changes, and profound mental shifts, but often doesn’t get the kind of recognition it deserves. In week 1, we’ll discuss the identity of motherhood and what it means to develop this new identity. What is lost, what is gained, and how do we understand the transition to motherhood?
Week 2: Good Mom/Bad Mom
There are so many responsibilities, expectations, and judgments around what it means to be a mother. In week 2, we’ll explore, and challenge, some of the personal and cultural messages that we carry around that inform our judgments about what a good or bad mom is, and how these messages can impact the self-image and well-being of mothers.
Week 3: A New Consciousness
How do you wrap your head around making a person? How do you relate to a child with whom you are so intimately connected, but who has a distinct and unique experience with independent thoughts, desires, fears, and hopes. In week 3, we’ll explore how this creation of life can raise a deep sense of vulnerability, anxiety, and confusion about the meaning of mortality and human existence.
Week 4: Raising Wisdom
Our experiences provide us a kind of knowledge that we simply couldn’t have any other way. In week 4, we’ll discuss how the experiences of motherhood provide new insight and deeper understanding of the human experience, particularly with respect to time, compassion, love, and meaning.
Is this course for me?
You do not need to identify as a mother to take this course. Although it may be particularly poignant for those who are about to become, are considering becoming, or who have already become mothers, it will be illuminating for anyone who wants to better understand the emotional, psychological, and philosophical complexities of motherhood, including partners, caretakers, and perinatal professionals.
In addition, this course recognizes that there are many paths to motherhood, many types of families, and many gender expressions that intersect with the identity of motherhood. During the course, we will be likely discussing some physical components of pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience that impacts many moms, while also understanding that this is not everyone's experience.
When: Wednesdays: July 31, August 7, August 14, August, 21, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Portland Preschool: 2228 SE 70th Ave. Portland, OR
Cost: $199 for 4-week series.
Register with a friend and get 25% off with promo code FRIEND25.
Maximum of 12 participants. Scholarships available for those experiencing financial hardship; send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire. Priority will be given to those from marginalized communities, including people of color and LBGTQ people, as well as single parents.
My Motherhood Story
Before my daughter was born, I was a young professional, with a Ph.D. in philosophy and a wonderful teaching career, living in New York City. I was in control of my life. I ate well, did yoga, meditated, went out with friends. But as we were about to start a family, my partner and I wanted a more relaxed pace and lifestyle, so we moved to Portland, OR when I was five months pregnant. We were excited about starting our new life.
I wanted an intervention-free "natural" childbirth. I imagined soaking in a tub and squatting, pushing my child out in a euphoric hormonal connection with the primal goddess within. Instead, I ended up with a birth that involved nearly every medical intervention available. I felt angry and disappointed, and I had to grieve the loss of my ideal image of childbirth. I've published more of that story in a piece called "No Birth Plan Ever Survives Contact with the Enemy".
From there, things got worse. The first two months with the new baby were a blur of sleeplessness and exhaustion, but I was doing ok, or so I thought. But when my daughter was about two and a half months old, I started down a cycle of insomnia and anxiety that was so severe that I started having panic attacks, delusional thoughts, and I could no longer tell what was real and what wasn't. I was hospitalized in a mental health facility for four days with postpartum psychosis. I've published more of that story in my piece "White Noise." You can also watch a video of me reading that piece.
With lots of therapy, support from loved ones, medication, and time, I was able to start feeling like myself again. Or rather, like a new version of myself--a better one, who understood my life and my mind in a whole new way, who had gone through darkness and come out on the other side. I felt whole again.
Since then, I have talked to so many mothers all over the country about their experience of motherhood—and how it isn't everything they had expected or hoped it would be. Too many of these women feel shame, guilt, and loneliness about these experiences, as if they are not living up to the ideal of motherhood, and they suffer quietly. Every journey of motherhood is unique, and as I go through mine, I want to be a support, a safe space, a listening ear, and a fellow traveler. I would be honored if you share your journey with me.