pregnancy

Reclaiming Birth with Sacred Worth

Posted on Updated on

By Katey Zeh

file000450171216In most instances when U.S. media portrays the birth of a baby, the storyline typically goes something like this: The woman’s water breaks in the grocery store. Her awestruck partner starts panicking that they need to rush to the hospital immediately. When they arrive the woman screams obscenities as she is wheeled into the delivery room where a doctor shouts like a drill sergeant for her to push a few times before the baby is born. It’s loud, exciting, and kind of terrifying.

The birth of my daughter was nothing like this. In fact, as it turns out very few women I know have had experiences like the ones we see in movies and on TV. But our consumption of this Hollywood narrative of childbirth—excruciatingly painful, lightening fast, always with a happy ending—shapes our collective imagination about childbirth in powerful ways. If the only births we ever see are fictionalized, sensationalized, and sanitized representations of the experience, what else do we have to go on?

There are consequences to this. I spent a good portion of my pregnancy trying to unlearn the culture’s explicit and implicit messages about childbirth that taught me to be afraid of it, to discount my physical and mental stamina; that told me to entrust my birth experience to medical professionals without complaint or question. I was shocked when a friend of mine shared that her OB, who entered the delivery room groggy from a nap, answered her cell phone and talked casually as my friend begged to push her baby out. Even as her daughter was crowning, the doctor said to my friend, “Hold on another minute.”

As a person of faith, I hold to the sacred truth that as children of God, all women and girls have innate sacred worth. No woman should have to beg for compassionate, respectful maternal health care.

In my advocacy for global maternal health, I am passionate about lifting up and honoring the stories of women’s births that we find in our ancient scriptures and connecting them with what is happening in today’s world. Even though these women lived thousands of years ago, their experiences are not unlike those of many women today. I’ve written about Mary as a young, poor teenager with an unexpected, high-risk pregnancy. I’ve shared about the story of Rachel in Genesis who died in childbirth, not unlike the more than 800 women this very day who will lose their lives bringing new life into our world.

This year on April 11th organizations and advocates who care about maternal health are calling for the day to be recognized as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. Communities of faith have a real opportunity to reclaim our collective stories, both past and present, to ensure that the sacred worth and dignity of every woman–no matter where she lives, no matter the circumstances of her pregnancy, no matter what access to resources she has—are honored during pregnancy, childbirth, and throughout her life. If you are looking for a way to get started, I invite you to take a look at our resources for how to get your congregation involved in the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet project.

Birth is sacred. Let’s make sure it’s treated that way.

This was originally posted on the United Methodist Church’s Healthy Families, Healthy Planet website.  Reprinted with permission from the author.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is an advocate, organizer, and writer for global maternal health and family planning. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she currently serves as the Director of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. Katey has written about maternal health for the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, and Feminist Studies in Religion. She lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband Matt and their daughter Samantha.    

Advertisements

Courage and Faith: A Motherhood Journey

Posted on

by Jamie Mabe
file5581302923593We begin with so much inexperience; this inexperience is the necessary cornerstone to the hubris that is required to begin the journey of motherhood in the first place. We have no idea what we’re in for. We want to have a child, a baby, a family.  What seems like a simple act; starting a family, is actually the first step of the epic journey that we didn’t really know we were starting on.  It is leaving home forever, unknowingly.

We “prepare” for our journey with planning, purchasing, and “nesting”. We do all that we can to “see” what our journey will be like, but like a bad vacation, our well-laid plans are often ruined. We didn’t  foresee that the journey would include death of self.  If we knew that ahead of time maybe we would never have undertaken the journey in the first place, or we would try to outsmart the death and in turn create a monster.

We think we are brave but we’re not; you can’t be brave unless you’re scared first, and when we start on this parenting journey, we often don’t know enough to be scared properly.  We walk out the door with our chin up and chest proud and immediately we are stripped of sword, pack, comforts and map.  When the labor pains start our journey into the shadow of death begins.   We descend to Hades, we leave our bodies.  When the baby is born and our soul comes back it has been irrevocably changed.  That is the first death of the many deaths that are necessary to be a mother.  We learn that we will have to love with all our heart someone who will never be in our control.  Great love and death are the same; they kill our ego.

When we get baby home, where we NOW feel so in control, we try to regain our footing, try to be the woman we used to be.  But this is where we begin to realize that we are not the same person as the one who left for the hospital.  The “heroine” has returned home but home has changed forever.  Home is no longer comfortable. We keep trying to “put new wine into old wineskins”, and it doesn’t work.  Our relationship with our partner has changed.  Our relationship with our self has changed.  Our new soul, reworked by the death of who we once were, now inhabits our bodies, and belief, faith, habits, thoughts, and actions of old are (in most cases) no longer useful and productive.  Our selves are re-created like quilts, throwing out the old ripped cloth, patching it with new cloth, and becoming something altogether new.

It is necessary to let go of more of our ego, that is, our own exaggerated sense of self importance and control.  This is not to be confused with selflessness, or having no concern for oneself.  You should have an even greater concern for yourself. Remember, this baby thinks that you and s/he are the same creature, and in so many ways you still are.  Putting yourself first means putting you both first- prioritizing health (mental, physical, emotional, relationship) is crucial in this new-found symbiotic relationship. Putting aside your control, however, is something new. You love this child as much as yourself – but you are not in control. Releasing this control (or ego) helps you become the new wineskin that can hold the new wine.

To let go, release, and re-make, we start out on another epic journey.  This new journey is a little easier because now we have seasoned faith. We know that the outcome is unknown and out of our hands.  We know that we have to rely on something that is not us.  We have one of the key elements of faith, vulnerability, and it helps the next death not hurt so much.  In fact, now that we realize that these personal deaths (or releases of control) are for our betterment, we welcome it.  Our faith wrested from us the control that was never ours in the first place. We are now brave, because we are scared but we carry on anyway.

As mothers we are the shepherds, the ones covered in sheep poop, standing up to the wolves, taking care of the flock.  Unfortunately, this holy work often comes without gratitude or rank. It’s not a sexy job. When we come back from our epic journey we aren’t put on the crowd’s shoulders and carried through the center of town.  We come back and are celebrated in the smallest and most significantly insignificant ways: our partners are happier, our babies are comforted, we experience our selves as re-made. Our faith is seasoned, tested, transformed.

Jamie Mabe is a mother of two boys and lives in the triangle area of North Carolina.

Life and Loss

Posted on Updated on

by Annie Hardison-Moody

October 15, 2014

the new babies 527_peWhen I found out I was pregnant after over a year of waiting for an adoption, coupled with seven previous miscarriages, I wasn’t very excited.  Instead, I was a nervous wreck.  When I started bleeding early on, I was sure this – like every other time – was the beginning of the end.  So at eight weeks pregnant, I dragged myself into the doctor’s office, eyes already red from crying, and sat down on the ultrasound table ready to hear the words we had heard so many times before, “Hm. The growth isn’t normal, and your bloodwork is inconclusive. Let’s bring you back again next week for more tests.” 

Instead, we heard a heartbeat.

For the first time in four years, a sign of life.

By the end of my appointment, the news about my story had spread throughout the doctor’s office (EIGHT pregnancies?!), so much so that even the woman who checked me out was offering me sweet words of encouragement and excitement. I was shocked. How did this happen? What would happen later? When, I wondered, would the other shoe drop?

As it turns out, the other shoe didn’t drop, but my experiences of loss did affect my pregnancy and delivery.  I didn’t allow anyone to buy Christmas gifts for the baby, because we were still shy of the end of the first trimester.  I didn’t allow our friends to host a shower until after 28 weeks (the so-called “safe zone”).  I put the word nursery in air quotation marks when I talked about converting my office to the baby’s room.  I often didn’t know how to be cheerful, when everyone around me was thrilled and so excited.  I worried.  A lot.

Loss was always at the edge of any joy I felt with this pregnancy.  My own losses, of course, were always present, but I also thought about dear friends who lost their children during pregnancy or in childbirth.  I felt, at times, like I was keeping my distance from this little one – so that if I couldn’t meet her at the end of this journey, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so badly.  What a foolish deception I was trying to pull.  

I met my sweet girl around 8pm, the night after my birthday, just three months ago last week.  As my husband brought her in to see me (I had a c-section, and she had to go to the nursery right away), I could barely see her through the haze of tears.  She was so tiny, just a little face peeking out of a giant bundle of blanket.  Because another woman lost her baby the same night, I was sent to the general recovery room without her, since the other family was (of course) recuperating in the birth center recovery room.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the other mother who came to the hospital just like me that day, only to leave without her little one.  I asked the nurses about her that night and the nights following (they, of course, couldn’t tell me much), and knowing about her loss made me constantly ask after my baby while I was in the recovery room, peppering the nurse with questions: “You would tell me if something happened with her, right?” Although the nurse assured me she would, I worried I was going to lose my girl – still.  A few minutes later, my husband started texting me pictures of her (thank goodness for technology! and come to think of it, how did I have my phone?) – screaming, red, and full of life.  

Life and loss, intermingled again that night at the hospital.  Is that what motherhood is, I wonder?  Or just being human?  As Judith Butler writes in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence:

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.

This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. One may want to, or manage to for a while, but despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel.

That’s how I felt that night of my daughter’s birth – undone.  Undone by my worry about whether she (or I for that matter) would survive the delivery.  Undone by the love I felt for her, knowing the magnitude of this love and joy mirrored the pain that was felt by the woman who labored with me that night.  Undone by the love we felt from everyone around us who was rooting for this baby, and our family.  Undone by the recollection of previous losses and the knowledge that loss will come again (it’s life, right?).

The fact that we are undone makes us human.  These connections are what make motherhood both bearable and unbearable.  This undoing, although fraught with pain, is the stuff of life.

 

 

Finding My Center in Community

Posted on

By Katey Zeh

file000441757195When my prenatal yoga teacher instructed our class to hold each other’s hands for a series of group poses, I felt my stomach drop a little. And no, it wasn’t pregnancy related.

Our class had been meeting for several weeks, and while the newness had worn off, I still wasn’t completely comfortable with my fellow moms-to-be. We exchanged brief “hellos” at the beginning of the session, but otherwise we mostly kept to ourselves. Yoga isn’t exactly a social practice.

We moved from our mats and formed a line by holding hands. I ended up in the middle with a woman on my right who appeared days away from delivering her baby and a woman on my left who seemed more uncomfortable with the exercise than I did. Standing in our line, our teacher told us to lean forward together as each of us balanced on a single leg. The main intention of the group posture was to experience the strength of community: with the support of our fellow classmates, it was easier to find and maintain balance than if we had performed the exercise as individuals.

Quivering limbs aside, the group pose was a beautiful embodiment of what community can be. When one falters, the others help to hold her up until she can reestablish her centeredness. But what I felt most acutely as we stood there was immense pressure to be an anchor of strength. As the center, I could not lose my balance or the others would tumble with me. In reflecting on that moment later, I realized while I’m often ready and willing to be in a position of being relied upon, I’m hesitant to accept the help of another.

It came as no surprise to me that living in a culture that reveres independence and self-reliance had shaped my experience of pregnancy. From my daily workouts to my relationships, I had internalized the message that I needed to maintain the intensity of my pre-pregnant life. Whether out of pride or sheer stubbornness, I was determined not to pull out the “pregnancy card” as an excuse to take a step back from my responsibilities and commitments. I will be the first to admit that I have a lot of personal responsibility in perpetuating this unhelpful way of thinking, but I also have to call out the culture on this one.

In the early weeks of my pregnancy, there were moments when I was desperate to share my first trimester suffering with others. For the most part I was met with sympathy and compassion, but there were times when I felt taken aback by the responses I got. One of the most common was the menacing retort to my complaints about feeling exhausted: “Oh, you think you’re tired now? Just you wait!” These off-the-cuff remarks not only left me feeling insecure about having complained about my symptoms, but also they fed into the self-doubt I already felt about my ability to handle the challenges of motherhood ahead.

I try not to harbor resentment toward these people because their behaviors point to a much larger cultural problem: we do not know how to care for women throughout the reproductive lifespan in ways that are respectful and affirming. So often we reduce women to their reproductive organs, either to be placed on a pedestal or to be condemned. Whether a woman is experiencing a planned or unexpected pregnancy, a struggle with infertility or pregnancy loss, or a question of whether or not she will have children at all, we do not know what to say. So we stumble over our words, often unintentionally speaking in ways that are hurtful and judgmental.

We can be better, but we must transform ourselves individually and culturally. First, we must be mindful of the truth that women have sacred worth, regardless of their ability or decision to raise children. This should shape our every word and action. Second, we must open our hands and hearts, so that we might be refuges where radical acceptance and hospitality are available to all who need to regain their centeredness.

In partnership with the divine, we can transform ourselves to become communities of healing and compassion. As I prepare to birth a new human life into this difficult, beautiful world, what else could I possibly hope for?

Katey Zeh, M.Div is an advocate, organizer, and writer for global maternal health and family planning. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she currently serves as the Director of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. Katey has written about maternal health for the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, and Feminist Studies in Religion. Her essay “A Pregnant Silence” was published last year in the book Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. She was recently named one of “14 Religious Leader to Watch in 2014” by the Center for American Progress. She lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband Matt and their dog Lucy.  

The Pain of Passing Beauty

Posted on Updated on

by Liz Gandolfo

harried mother As I write this post, I am 38+ weeks pregnant with my fourth child and am eagerly awaiting my scheduled C-section next week. I must confess that I have reached my breaking point, both physically and emotionally. As a mostly stay-at-home mother to children aged five-and-a-half, four, and two, I spend nearly every waking moment on my aching, swollen feet—prepping and cleaning up after meals and snacks, dressing and undressing small bodies, wiping bottoms, supervising teeth-brushing, cleaning up toys, doing laundry, getting kids in and out of the car (harder than it sounds), food shopping, “nesting” for the new baby’s arrival, and more. This is an awful lot to ask of a body that is already doing the 24/7 work of gestation! To be fair, my pregnancies all have been relatively “easy,” and this fourth one has actually been better than the last two, during which I experienced relentless insomnia and excruciating sciatic nerve pain respectively (both of these have returned this time around, just more sporadically and much later in the pregnancy). But my body is persevering through these final weeks in a way that I didn’t expect it to—its caring labors are necessary for the well-being of my children and somehow it just keeps coming through for me and for them. In all honesty, I am kind of impressed by my own strength and endurance. But I am also pretty miserable: physically exhausted, extremely uncomfortable, unable to sleep, and enormously slow and awkward. The physical strain has taken its toll psychologically and my nerves are pretty much shot; my patience and usual sunny disposition are gone. The scheduled date of my baby’s arrival is circled on the calendar like it is the second coming of Christ. There is a reason why the birth of a baby is referred to as “delivery.” This child’s delivery into the world will mark my own deliverance from the physical (and emotional) trials of pregnancy.

Clearly, I am ready for this pregnancy to be over. And I am comforted by the fact that that it will be my last; of this my husband and I are 1000% sure. Strangely, though, I am facing the end of this pregnancy, and the end of my childbearing years, with a mixture of profound relief and nostalgic grief. While four pregnancies have taken a physical and psychological toll on me, the process of creating and nurturing a new life inside my own body has been one of if not the most meaningful and transformative experiences of my life. To feel the first flutters of a fetal kick, and even to groan in pain at the discomfort of little toes (or knees, or a butt?) underneath my ribcage, are experiences of relationality and interdependence that have been utterly amazing and spiritually empowering for me. Having babies has been such a huge part of who I am for the past six years now. Knowing with 1000% certainty that I will never experience this particular kind of embodied creativity and intimacy with another human being again has begun to sink in as the date of my deliverance approaches. There is a strange tug of regret at knowing that, in the moments before my C-section, I will feel the movement of a child within me for the last time. I suspect that each of the “last moments” with this new baby in the weeks and months ahead will be accompanied by a great deal of mixed emotions. I know that moving on to the next phase of familial and professional life is the right thing for me, my husband, and our family. But it will be hard to let go of each little phase of this baby’s life, knowing that it will be the last time . . . for everything. Clinical psychologist Daphne de Marneffe articulates this paradoxical experience of fulfilment and regret beautifully as she reflects back on the time when she was leaving her own childbearing years behind: “I could not have been more full; life could not have been more sweet. And at the same time, there was also that ache, at ‘the rustling of the grains of sand as they slid lightly away,’ that ache of beauty and longing and time and the unbearable fragility and surpassing preciousness of this moment.”[1]

prengancyDespite my profound relief at never having to endure the trials of pregnancy again, and despite the demands and sweetness of caring for the children that I do have, there is a certain quality of grief to what I am experiencing in this process of moving on to the next phase of life. This grief is by no means tragic, and there is no comparing it to the depth of sorrow experienced in situations of trauma and loss. With a slightly different focus on coping with the process of change in the lives of children as they grow and develop towards adolescence and adulthood, Bonnie Miller-McLemore refers to the kind of grief that I am experiencing as “mundane grief.” Caring for children and helplessly witnessing their flight into the world requires spiritual practices of what Miller-McLemore calls “blessing and letting go.”[2] I already foresee the necessity of blessing and letting go of my children (kindergarten looms large on my horizon for this year), but I can see that I will also need to bless and let go of this particular stage in my own life. While there is much to be celebrated in moving on from pregnancy and the rigors of caring for babies and small children, these experiences have also been incredibly transformative and fulfilling. The beauty of these years has not come without its anxieties and frustrations, but it has been beautiful. And, however transformative, fulfilling and beautiful the future will be, it is still painful to witness the passing of this particular beauty. Alfred North Whitehead calls this phenomenon “perishing.” On a mundane, day to day level, we often experience the passing of beauty as rather painful, even when the beauty involved negativity and even when what replaces a particular beauty is also beautiful. The co-existence of two goods is often impossible—e.g., my own physical/psychological/professional well-being and the prospect of more children. Some forms of beauty and goodness must pass away in order to make way for new possibilities. This is not only my experience of motherhood, it is life.

I have already warned my husband that there will be many tears in the days and months ahead. I can’t even bear the thought of the last time I will nurse this final baby. But there is a luxurious quality to the mundane grief that I am experiencing. I will mourn the passing of this beautiful time because it has been so beautiful. What a blessing that has been and continues to be. So I will do my best to bless the beauty, and to bless my own sorrow, and even to savor the sorrow as I let it go and move forward with my family into new forms of possibility, freedom, and grace.

 

[1] Daphne de Marneffe, Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004), 313.

[2] Bonnie Miller-McLemore, In the Midst of Chaos: Care of Children as a Spiritual Practice (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 176 ff.

Why I Need Community

Posted on Updated on

by Annie Hardison-Moody

Recently, I was reading Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s post at Feminist Studies in Religion, titled Writing and the Community that Sustains Me.  It’s a lovely post about the ways that we don’t write on an island – there’s a network of people (friends, relatives, colleagues) who support us when times are good (hey! I wrote something today!) and when they are hard (when we struggle to write or work through loss, death, or hardship).  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my own community and the people who sustain me through the good times and bad.

I wrote a post on another blog last year about the friends who have seen you during what I call the “mom cry.”  It’s that cry that happens when you think you can hold everything together – and you do – until you see that person (as a child, often your mom) with whom you can just let it all out.  I don’t cry around people a lot, but my good friends and my family have seen my “mom cry.”  They have held me when my heart was breaking over a miscarriage.  They have listened as I ranted angrily (crying through it) about the unfairness of infertility and loss.  They are the women who meet me when I’m at my wit’s end, my breaking point, when I just can’t hold it together any longer.

Recently, my friends have been going through some hard times.  They are dealing with losses related to adoption (potential revocation of an adoption), losing a child during child-birth, dealing with a parents’ life-threatening cancer diagnosis, anguish over shootings at a naval yard where a spouse works, and the list goes on.  They have been forced to confront our vulnerability as human beings head-on.  We live.  We love.  We also lose.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months with some of these friends, grieving with them, being angry with them, and also (sometimes) hoping with them.  That’s what it means to be in relationship.  You take and you give  – knowing that the next time, you might be on the opposite end of the spectrum, needing support or needing to give it.  That’s the wonderful thing about community, right?  It’s that net that is there to catch you when you fear you might fall.  And it’s that support that is there for you if and when (God forbid) you end up falling anyway.

file4051277665658I don’t have any novel theological insights about community and motherhood and loss to report…but over the last few weeks and months, being there for my friends, and also coming to know this little life that’s growing inside me, I’ve come to the harsh realization that we are remarkably vulnerable creatures.  Torn apart by each other.  Torn apart through loss.  And yet, it seems to me, that this vulnerability is what reminds us of how much we need each other, and it demonstrates to us (in such stark ways) just how wonderful – and tragic – it is to love.  When we are broken down, it’s that same love – found in relationship, in community – that can bring us back together.

Anxiety and Grace

Posted on Updated on

by Claire Bischoff

In the middle of the coldest January most Minnesotans can remember, our family spent the late afternoon and evening at a large indoor amusement park (things that are usually outdoors, like playgrounds and amusement parks, get built indoors in Minnesota so that we can use them for more than two months a year). Since I am pregnant, I did not pay for the wrist band that would let me accompany my family on the rides. I contented myself watching them and reading a good book when the lines were long.

At one point, my husband and older son ventured off to go on the scary rides, while I chaperoned my younger son. As it turns out, a grown up can ride for free with a child when that child is not yet tall enough to experience the ride alone. So I went on the carousel with my younger son before he pulled me into the queue for Swiper’s Sweeper. I had been on the ride the year before and remembered it as being fairly harmless. As we waited our turn, my son pointed at the sign advertising the risks for the ride, saying, “Look, mom, no babies.” Indeed, the sign had an image of pregnant woman with a big line through her growing belly. I considered telling my son he would have to wait to go on the ride until we found dad and his big brother, but then I thought of all the times he has to wait or has not gotten to do what he really wants to do because he is the second child. So we went on the ride. He loved it; I spent the whole time trying to brace my body with arms and legs so that my midsection would remain motionless.

amusement park ride

Fast forward to midnight. I had been in bed for two hours and could not sleep. I was in the middle of an anxiety spiral, sparked by the thought that I had done irreparable harm to the baby growing inside me by going on that one amusement park ride. I could not shake an image of the fetus’s neck being broken by the centrifugal force of the ride. Then I started cataloging everything else I had done in the first fourteen weeks of my pregnancy that could have negative repercussions. I had fallen hard on my backside at least a dozen times when we had gone cross country skiing the week before. I had eaten cold roast beef on a handful of occasions simply because I love a good roast beef sandwich. I had not taken my prenatal vitamins and DHA supplement for a number of weeks in the first trimester because my nausea was so bad I could not bear to swallow them. Underneath all of this cataloging was a heap of guilt and shame that I had not always done the absolute best thing for this baby. How could I be so selfish as to eat roast beef? How could I be so careless as to go cross country skiing?

In the more rational light of morning, I started to interrogate my anxiety using a question I ask my students to use when doing cultural analysis: What human hands are work here, how, and why? Certainly, the consumer economy benefits from the anxiety of mothers. We are encouraged to buy a slew of products to safety-proof our homes and to enroll our children in activities starting just after birth to insure their well-rounded development (the newest trend: baby DJ classes). Toys increasingly are marketed to more and more defined age groups, so that every six months we find ourselves wondering, “Are these blocks made for a one-year-old challenging my eighteen-month-old enough? Might was well recycle the Harvard application.”

Mothers’ anxiety also can trap us in an individualism that allows us to focus on the well-being of our own children while ignoring broader issues that affect the well-being of all children. (This dynamic is similar to what Elizabeth Gandolfo wrote about in her post “D-E-A-D Is A Four Letter Word.) We are so sapped of energy from worrying about our children that we do not have energy left to organize and campaign to insure that all mothers have access to proper nutrition, clean air and water, and adequate prenatal health care. In the end, our anxiety is a force for separation, since it is born from a sense of scarcity and impending danger that drives us to get what we can for ourselves and our families, often at the expense of what others need.

So how can mothers break out of the anxiety spiral and its inward focus? There are two things that have tended to help me. First, I try to talk about my anxieties with others. Knowing that I am not the only one who feels guilty for feeling relieved that I have not signed my son up for a spring sport or that I am not the only one who spent an entire pregnancy feeling that I was one bad burrito away from disaster can help loosen anxiety’s hold. When we come together, rather than keeping ourselves apart, we may find out that what was not imaginable alone suddenly becomes possible in cooperation.

Second, I try to pray. By invoking a greater power in the universe, prayer reminds me that I am only human and in control of very little that affects my family and me. Far from increasing my anxiety, this frees me to attend to that which I can control and to let go of worry about that which is beyond my influence.  This feels like grace.

We would love to hear your comments about factors you see contributing to an increase in mothers’ anxiety and what you have done to help loosen anxiety’s hold in your own life. Please don’t hesitate to comment (either here, on Facebook or via Twitter @MotheringMatter).