I latched onto this at Sleepless in Cologne, and Bine sent me these really insightful questions. If you want to play too, comment here and I’ll ask you five questions (in no timely manner at all, I'm sure.) Make sure to leave an email address if I don’t have it, or a blog link and I’ll comment back with your questions.
1. although you have blogged about this before, could you sum up how you felt/feel redifined by becoming a mother? how much of it did you expect before setting out on this journey and what took you by surprise?
Being a mother became a primal calling- some powerful blend of biological imperative and mystical longing. In one year (I was 25) I fell in love with Bu, lost my mom, and my best friend got pregnant. I started daydreaming constantly about how I would feel as a mom. I wanted it so much and thought about it so much I seem to have really gotten a grasp on how it would change me. There weren’t a lot of surprises. Being in the experience of course is different from dreaming it, but it feels pretty much like I thought I would: exhausting and wonderful, challenging and fun. I feel empowered and more substantial from a psychological perspective, and I felt the deep shift from maiden to mother in a spiritual context. The changes were actually easier for me than I thought- I was worried I’d have severe PPD, given the hormonal ties with my depression and anxiety, but the smallish increase in anxiety is probably within normal range for a new mom.
The one thing that shocks me is the hard-to-define feeling that I’ve joined some secret society that I didn’t think I’d ever be allowed into. It’s not that I don’t feel worthy to be a mom, or that I ever really worried I’d be infertile (given my anatomical anomalies) but more that motherhood is so real and wholesome and, what:normal? that I’m kind of still vaguely surprised to be living it. That feeling might come from the idea from thinking in my adolescence and twenties that I wanted to grow up to be a cool loner drinking homemade absinthe and painting in oils with a bunch of cats and variously gendered interesting lovers running around. (I've always been wilder and fringe-y-er in my head than out.)
I’m dazed to find myself in a thoroughly unremarkable lifestyle with a little house, a husband, a baby, and dogs. It’s a good feeling, though, to find myself abruptly an adult in pursuit of simplicity. I’ve found that I’m grounded and peaceful at my center- however much I may write about my anxiety. I’m a sun now, with a little new planet dependent on my gravity. It’s come time to own my power and grow into myself. There’s been a sort of Persephone, Ophelia, female Peter Pan thing in my life and I’ve refused to own adulthood until now. It would be a huge disservice to Emsy to not rise to the occasion now. I want more than anything in this world to be the best version of myself so I can model real womanhood for her.
2. how and when did you get introduced to wiccan faith and how does it influence your daily life today? how many people around you are aware of this and/or share this with you?
As a child and teen I was very interested in fairy tales, the occult, and all the new age trappings- astrology, crystals, the Ouija board. I played with my mom’s Tarot deck. (She was a witchy-ish new age leaning Christian flower child.) In high school I was reading about paganism. I remember falling in love with the word ‘pagan’ in my English class. We were studying the Romantic poets (sigh) and one of the characteristics of the movement, according to my teacher, was a “pagan love of nature.” I quickly dug up stuff on neopaganism and decided emphatically that I was home. Initially, Wicca put me off as too organized and hierarchical- and too controversial (I had friends warning me it was “dark magic”- Ooh! Scary! Darkness Bad!). After I went to school in Pittsburgh, read Drawing Down the Moon, and found an informal class/forum in Wicca, I started identifying as Wiccan. I was studying pretty seriously for quite a while. After coming home to WV, I found the UU pagan group I refer to occasionally here. I met a priestess who was mentoring me in Pagan Universalism and who moved away as I got serious with Bu. My intent dissipated a lot, and since then I haven’t been active at all.
I’m definitely more interested at this point in being an active Unitarian Universalist than a practicing witch. They do overlap for me, and other pagan UU’s. It’s a lovely thing to have found a system that is so open and un-dogmatic that I have room to explore other traditions.
Having Emsy has really made me re-examine my passive approach to Wicca and UUism. I want to impart these teachings to her as she grows, and I am passionate about my faith. It does bring up the idea of openness again. I’ve never hidden my affiliation with Wicca, but I’m not as open as I used to be either. I rarely will be seen wearing a pentagram symbol (but I have one dangling from my rear view…Gaia is my copilot!) The grandies are aware that I worship God and Goddess entities of some sort and Bu’s used the word “witch” with reference to my faith. (Geesh- the word faith makes me really uncomfortable; just realizing this. I’m not faithful as such. I’m a “questioner” and don’t have dogmatic beliefs.) I do have some vague worries that Emsy will be denigrated by well-meaning, misinformed people if she takes to Goddessy-flavored UUism like her mama. Our neighbors and family are certainly not hip to earth religions by any stretch of this very stretchy imagination.
3. before you found out that your “birth defect” was non-genetic you were very scared that emsy might have inherited it. on the other hand i think you agree that it has made you special in a way. how did wanting her to be “normal” create a conflict for yourself?
It was a huge conflict. I lay awake in bed late one night early in my pregnancy, willing the little fetus to please, please, grow ten fingers, please. Every memory of self-consciousness was funneled into that moment and I just broke with it. I vented all the worries in that night and just bathed in tears. There was no brave child pretending to ignore stares from classmates, there was no haughty teenager telling herself, “He’s staring at me because I’m a hottie,” no snarky chick sporting a pirate hook on her tiny arm at Halloween and feeling like the Queen of Wild Beautiful Freaks. There was only a human animal feeling marked and completely isolated from her tribe and praying to her Mother goddess to please never, ever let her baby feel so odd and alone and conspicuous.
To allow myself to pray that prayer, I had to unblock a whole life of just stubbornly refusing to feel that primitive embarrassed difference. No, of course there is no shame or judgment intellectually, but there is a large and scary feeling to look this fundamentally different from everyone else I meet. Imagine something so much deeper than being fat in a room of trim people, or the ugliest girl at the prom. I know it’s not a disfigurement or a horror to look upon. I know I’m not monstrous or even that strange. But that awareness of not-normal just is. I never, ever allowed myself to feel that. I just didn’t let it be there. But I felt it somewhere, because I found it stored in me and projected onto my baby, and I couldn’t bear “inflicting” that on her. It would be my fault if she were deformed, because I didn’t get DNA testing. I would be responsible in a way my parents weren’t. They couldn’t have known or prevented it. I could have.
So it was a flood of relief when I found out about ABS (a probable cause, but not a conculsive diagnosis- it leaves unexplained the organ defects in my kidneys & uterus/cervix/vagina) and when the nurse pointed out two tiny vague hands with barely discernable but countable fingers on my ultrasound. Then, even better to hold her hands and touch ten tiny pink fingers. Now, I adore feeling her little left hand automatically grip onto the “handle” of the long finger on my strange right arm while my left hand grasps her right to lift her up. I love the way her head rests against the short little curve of my arm when she nurses like it was made just to cradle her.
4. you think your fear of making art is at least in part a fear of facing your “real self”. could you imagine treating this as a kind of therapy, for example choosing a fixed date every week like a doctor’s appointment you couldn’t call off or postpone, retreating to a studio and working for a couple of hours?
I’ve got intentions to do this. I need it, a little routine to break open the barrier I have made. I’m so intimidated by the time “wasted” by not making art. Like I have to start conceptually from scratch. I feel enormous pressure to be amazing, because I have seen hints of true, exciting beauty in my past work and I know it’s in me to be amazing. Instead of feeling blessed to know I have talent, I suppose I’m worrying that I really won’t find that spark if I dig for it. Part of it, honestly, is a fear of success. I’m scared the ideas or the energy are too big for me. It’s a weird mystic feeling for me- like I’m meant to channel something that’s too big for me or something? Gods, it borders on psychotic. It’s. Just. Art. It’s beauty and communication. I have to let go of this crazy obsession with the Artist as some powerful wizardy figure and just be a maker of lovely objects.
I want to start with art books, because they are safe and small and enclosed. Familiar and comforting. It doesn’t matter now what I make or how or the medium I choose. I just need to make, for me. Perhaps I’ll just think of myself as an artisan rather than an Artist and get down with the zen of creating tangible stuff.
I have to carve out a physical place and some time for it. Stop making it a big deal- clean the room and draw some pictures! I loved this question- I’ve always seen art as a therapeutic process. If anyone else is looking for a therapeutic or introspective approach to art, or just has a simple creativity block, The Artist's Way is a great tool. That said, I may mount an archeological expedition for my copy and use it as a map.
5. if you had a fairy wish granted, what would you wish for? what would you really wish for?
Oh, this is so difficult. This was my nursing marathon brain occupation last night. Came up with very little in the way of concrete answers. What I want is to see is more empathy and tolerance in the world. How specific does this fairy need me to be? I thought of other vague responses: For everyone to have enough. World peace. Global Enlightenment.
What I want most, in this moment is a huge, cold glass of very lemony water and a large serving of pretty pink sushi. (Caught fresh, prepared, and served by a shirtless Captain Jack Sparrow, if it’s a very nice fairy.)
*Edit* I've just gotten a big kick out of this: I'm Jack with his compass and no idea what I want most;)