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59 weeks | It can make you dance | no. 0053
In the mornings, I am trying to get up before the munchkin to spend time in my body. Some days, he wakes anyway, and joins me in whatever organic flow I have found myself in. I could be stretching my hamstrings, doing booty roll sequences, swinging my arms, reaching out to my sides, spinning in circular patterns, squatting and breathing in the new day. I don’t set a time or have a routine. I just start moving and see where it grows.
There is usually music on, but rarely in English. I am always trying to escape known ideas when I want to listen to my body. Words are so charged for me, which is not surprising since I am a writer. Instrumental can sometimes feel lonely though, so I like to have songs that are in other languages. I love not understanding anything, but still feeling the fullness of journeying through whatever story is being told.
Before my days as a mommy, I always started my dances in the booty, the hips, the pelvic sphere. This is where life comes from, I thought. It just made sense to feel for the roots and follow them into the dance. I still initiate the movement here, but I notice that almost every time I touch my belly while opening into the dance. It’s like I have to revisit the munchkin’s first home. It remains here, protruding, reminding.
I never thought I’d be in a rush to get “back” to a flat stomach. In fact, I think it’s a myth that your body can go back to its literal pre-baby existence. It might appear from the outside that the former body has returned, but inside that would be impossible. A whole human being grew from a speck of cells into a baby. It took the entire body to build this baby. There is no “going back” after that. Everything has been moved, the organs, bones, circuits forever changed. I don’t think my muscles are trying to forget all the work we did to carry this life. Because of this lack of amnesia, my abdomen sticks out even though the munchkin has been earthside for 13 months. My hands find its abundance whenever I start to sway. It’s always warm here, my belly so full of memories.
The emotional body is very connected to the physical body. Long ago I learned that fear lives in the belly. This was extremely hard to reconcile during my pregnancy with the munchkin. I had many fears, but I also had many hopes. I wanted to fill his womb space with all the good, pleasant, positive feelings I could find. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t keep out the heavy, worrisome anxiety feelings too. It seems the truths of who we are at any given moment can coexist, however conflicting they may be. I read all those things about how your baby can feel everything the mother is feeling. At first I felt guilty about marring my baby’s nervous system with my drama, but then I realized that my rich emotional landscape, lush with joys and sorrows, was nurturing my baby with the complete spectrum of very healthy and human emotions. The world needs more people in tune with all their emotions. Sadness was something I need not shield from my baby.
Now that the munchkin is here, and maturing everyday into his own person, I experience a different conflict with my emotions. I am very aware that the things that scare me don’t yet, or quite possibly never will, scare the munchkin. I worry at times about transferring my fears to him. Sometimes, I wonder if I should pretend I’m not afraid, so that he won’t develop a fear around something. But then I’m torn, you know, because I’m all about being authentic. The truth will come out anyway, right? I feel like in my own girlhood I could sense what troubled my parents and other adults that were close to me. Even if they never acknowledge it, I believe parents ultimately know that their children can see right through them. But isn’t there something to keeping up appearances?
It’s easy to see how I can get really tangled up in these thoughts. I know I can be very critical of myself, and especially as it relates to the munchkin. As I unravel my feelings, what I come to most often is that I see my fears as weaknesses, limitations on life. Yes, I also see them as growing spaces and learning opportunities, but in the moment when I am wracked with a particular fear, and something has the pit of my stomach on the floor, I’m thinking it would be so awesome if the munchkin never ever has to know this sensation, this certain unrest in the soul. Naturally I want what’s best for my child. I want him to not be bogged down with the weight of his mothers anxieties. But he’s got his own emotional terrain to discover. I know this! I couldn’t possibly be the sole architect of all that. Still though, I think it’s the mothering that keeps me thinking that I can try to at least shape some of it.
This is when it helps to dance. Fear gets extremely uncomfortable in a dancing body. Over the years of be(come)ing a dancer, I have seen this happen time and time again. It’s really challenging to maintain your fear space when your body is in motion. Booty shaking, hip twirling, leg dipping, back spinning, arm waving, all of this dislodges fear thoughts. It’s like a earthquake in the belly where fear had found its home. A few minutes of some deep, heart-pounding movement and your worries get so small, shrinking back into the meager doubts they once were.
In fact, when I’m dancing, I am feeling strikingly able, and confident that everything will be okay, and downright wonderful. I love the look on the munchkin’s face when I really get into a groove. He stands for a moment, unsure of what to make of my transformation. Then he starts following me around, trying his best to make sure he stays close to the action. In these little dance jams I am very happy. I feel like, since I can’t hide all my fears from him, I might as well saturate plenty of his memories with the jubilation of a dance-powered space.
When the munchkin was in the womb, I didn’t have to make an effort to show him all my feelings. We were one; it was so seamless. Now I have to be intentional about expressing emotions with honesty when I can, and not giving myself the blues when I can’t. This is a fluid process, an ongoing experiment in navigating life’s ups and downs. In many ways, it’s like a dance.
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.