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45 weeks | Between then and later, comes now | no. 0039
I am shedding something I used to be. While this is happening, I am growing a new layer of myself too. This is confusing, exciting, tiring. It’s really like the title of this blog says, “Be(come)ing Binahkaye”, as in simultaneously being who I am and becoming who I (already) am (going to be).
All this transition is happening in slow motion, depending on how you look at it. I mean, the munchkin was 10 months before he swallowed anything other than breastmilk. The banana has been his “first food” for a full week, well, and the piece of paper that he ate a few days before that. But that one shift feels like mountains have moved somewhere. They have. Inside of me, a new space opens up for life with the infant who eats solid food. Or rather, life with the infant who is learning how to eat food. The munchkin is expert at chomping on the pages of his books, but has not yet applied such technique to his fruit. When I think of how resistant I felt to him starting food, I am relieved to witness how slowly this integration of solids will actually be. Watching him labor over a micro-spoonful of banana makes me almost chuckle at what I was so afraid of. I think I feared being displaced overnight with jars of baby food. As it turns out, that’s not at all what is happening. I know most babies his age are onto bigger and more complex foods, but I am not worried about his ability to master the art of eating well. It will come to him, and come to him abundantly, just like everything else.
Another gradual, but enormous, transition is me dancing with clients and for conferences— with the munchkin in tow– several times in the past few weeks. I am so grateful for the opportunities to explore who I am as a mothering-bodied movement facilitator. It is a very new and wondrous thing to hold the space for others now that I have a baby. The preparation takes so much more because I have to plan what I am doing as a dancer, and coordinate the munchkin’s needs with whoever is going to by my onsite space advocate– usually his father or my mother– while I am working with people.
The other day the munchkin did not sleep heartily, as we’d hoped for, through my session. I could hear him fussing and knew he just wanted to be near me. I went to get him from his dad and he was hungry, so I nursed him while continuing to facilitate the movement workshop. I felt really empowered in my process as mother in that moment. It has taken me this long to begin to name it, but this is always how I saw life shaping itself. I loved that I was able to nourish my child and be present with someone else in their dance. To me, this is the most intuitive, honest, and joyful way to mother my son. To be with him, as I am being with others.
I wish the world were more welcoming of my kind of mothering, but I am also deeply moved to take up even more space with my process. I believe the more visible and vocal I am about my intentional choice to create mothering-friendly options for income and artistry, the more possible it is for humanity to shift into a rhythm aligned with recognizing mothers as whole people. There is no mandate saying that mothering must be in opposition to other forms of self expression. Everything I’ve done so far in mothering is to yell out loudly that they have been lying to us all this time, telling us to pick and choose what part of our selves to love.
That’s partly what started this writing about my evolution as a mother. I thought it was critical to contribute in a meaningful way to the dialogue around the space we mothers take up in the world. And the more I developed my own writing, the more I wanted to be in community with other mothers exploring their processes with writing. Enter my most recent adventure, the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop. Last night, a small, but mighty, group of mothers joined me in the space as I facilitated the first session. It was really transformative to ponder these complex questions face to face with women who are also committed to authentically crafting their own journeys as mothers. How do we cultivate our writing practice inside the momentum of our mothering? What does having a “writing discipline” mean when you are a mother? Why is it so vital that we take up public space with our discourse, and go through the arduous motions of traveling across town in rush hour, with our children, to meet and write in one room for two fleeting hours?
I stayed up late the night before the workshop. I was looking up writing prompts, workshop formats, inspirational quotes, outlining the map of where I thought our session should go, and thinking up a thousand ways to make this workshop feel relevant to any mom who walked in the door. I talked to my mother as I pieced together the elements I thought were most appropriate for the workshop. She asked me, in her engineerial way, what was the purpose of the workshop. I start going on and on about how mothers need space to tell their stories, and the world needs to listen to its mothers, and a whole lot of other things in that vein. I was talking about how the majority of resources I’d found on writing don’t acknowledge how vastly different a thing like “discipline” could function in a mother’s life. And that a lot of mothers look at what’s supposed to be the model writer’s practice and feel what they do falls far short of anything remotely plausible as what a real writer does. Then somehow I said something about “this workshop is for mothers to ask ourselves how we learn to accept and celebrate what it means for us to write, in the midst of our lives as mothers.” And that’s not even the exact quote, because even she couldn’t remember exactly what I said. But when I said whatever I said, she said, “That right there. Hold on. Stop!”– because I was still talking– “Just pause for a minute. That is what you need to say first. That thing about this workshop being about mothers writing in your reality.”
I jotted that down, made more notes, and finally told myself to go to bed and trust that everything would be amazing. The next evening at the start of the workshop, I did what my mother had said, opening the workshop with that intention. I had also come to the understanding that this whole production of the workshop, was itself a workshop for me in creating these dialogue spaces for more mothers. Literally, as I maneuvered the crowded sidewalks on my way to the workshop, with my sleeping munchkin in his stroller, and a long list of all the supplies I’d forgotten in my mad dash out the door collecting in my thoughts, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I was actually workshopping the workshop itself. This helped me to breathe a bit. Experiments disarm my worries that there’s ever a right or a wrong way to do something.
The workshop was really amazing, of course. A really beautiful sharing took place and we got through the whole menu I had put together. At one point we were having a solo work time, and I finally had my pen to the paper and could write. The munchkin was with my mother just upstairs from me and so I didn’t have to hold him in one arm and try to write with the other one like I usually do. Everyone was doing their writing. The room was spacious, well-lit, and quiet. And then the oddest thing happened. Nothing came.
I sat for almost 15 minutes waiting on that magical influx of words. A great ahaa moment to get me flowing in the direction I wanted to take the story. But no, nothing came. I started like 10 different paragraphs with sentences of varying topics. I took a deep breath, tried to ask myself what was on my heart to write. Still, nothing came. I thought, isn’t this ironic? I gather these mothers together for writing and here is this perfect moment to write, and I’m running dry.
It then occurred to me that my words had been spent in actions. My masterpiece of the day was the space itself that I was holding for these women. These mothers who came with their most vulnerable truths and trusted me to foster an environment of possibility for their writing practice. I looked at the disjointed sentences on my paper, the doodles sprouting in the margins, the minutes on the timer whizzing by. For a moment I panicked that I was wasting this rare writing time. But then I glanced around the room at these mothers getting busy with their writing, and I relaxed and felt 100% accomplished in my own writing for the day. It was a great lesson for me in seeing that the energy it takes to hold space for others must come from somewhere. I was reminded of that law in physics, that energy is neither lost or created, only transferred.
When it was time to get feedback on what we had written, I asked instead for feedback on the workshop itself. They gave me a lot to reflect on and encouraged me to keep growing this process. I felt like I had walked an important road by following through with the work of doing this workshop. When it first came to me a few months ago, so many times I second-guessed the whole thing and almost didn’t do it. But when I finally reserved the space it became very real and so I spread the word and moved forward with everything.
I am so glad I did. I needed to experience myself in this uncomfortable, in-between state of whoever/whatever is blooming in my life as mother/dancer/writer/woman. I needed to see that I don’t have to wait until I’m all rooted and balanced in this season of transitioning from only holding space with my baby, to now holding space with the community, and by extension, the world. I needed to see that right now is all I have anyway, so I might as well be a superwoman today and embrace all the stumbles along the way.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.