13 months, abundance, advocate, babies, baby, belly, birth stories, black mother, black women, body, bold, boychild, breath, conversations, critical, dance, depression, destruction, dinner party, discovery, dream, emotions, fear, girlhood, good mother, grow, home, humanity, intimacy, invisible, mommy writes, motherhood, mothering, mothering bodied, mothering body, mothers, mothers and daughters, movement, new mommy, new mommy writes, one, one year, persistence, postpartum depression, power, private, public, ritual, shame, sharing, silence, sinking, speaking, storytelling, support, time, vital, warmth, wednesday's bloom, whole mother, women, writing, writing journey, writing process
60 weeks | The ritual has wings | no. 0054
I did not know where I was going when I began writing Wednesday’s Bloom. The munchkin was 8 weeks old. Routine showers and sleeping opportunities had been eclipsed by my newborn mothering rhythms. The hours were long and leaking, soiled sheets, stained shirts, damp washcloths. Nothing was ever dry, and this was oddly unsettling in a way that had not been anticipated. I often felt that I was sinking somehow, in all this moisture. Full of bliss with my baby, yes, but nevertheless being pulled under by some inescapable current of destruction. Who am I, now? They will tell you that a mother is born when she has her baby. They will rarely speak about the old self that has to die, though. And the process can take months, years even.
But still, there is remarkably so much silence around postpartum depression. The inner turmoil grows like a quiet flood. It murmurs the truth to you when you are at home by yourself with the infant you worked so hard to bring into the world. There is a terrible war between the soul of who your were, and the soul of who you are now. In your thoughts, you can’t help but feed this futile fear of losing again what you have already given up. There is no turning back once you become a mother.
But look at your baby, they will say. Aren’t you happy?
In those early days, when I found brief pockets of time to dream, I would sketch my intentions on large blank canvases of construction paper. I would draw out the possibility of another life. One where I was a mother and an artist, a producing artist that is. The vision mapped beautifully with my array of markers, colored pencils, and crayons. This ideal life design seemed so far away, though, like the horizon. Clearly visible, but altogether intangible across the vast sea of my current reality.
I was overwhelmed, but the language to unpack all the whys and hows was compressed with fatigue. I knew it was my responsibility to speak, and ask for support, but even that seemed like an additional labor. Writing became a way out of a tight space. This cramped and lonely existence that many new mommies just weather alone. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had succeeded at the solo grief thing after too many miscarriages. I thought it would be a pure waste to be one more mother reduced to her shadows. Something good would come from sharing, I felt deeply.
Tomorrow will be one year since the first edition of Wednesday’s Bloom was published. As I’ve been counting down to this special anniversary, I have been also taking a mental inventory of all the things that have grown from this ritual. If nothing else, I can say that I have a weekly writing practice. Some weeks I am able to generate more, but there is a simple satisfaction in knowing that not more than 7 days will pass without me spending some quality time with my own words.
If I had my way, I would write at least as much as I do every Wednesday four to five days a week. Don’t ask me how that would logistically work with all the other responsibilities I have at the moment! Still though, I wrestle all the time with feeling that once a week is too infrequent “for a real writer” to ever finish even one of these many book projects I’ve got brewing. But then I remember, I am a mothering writer. Being present with my maturing baby all day, taking care of my family, managing a household, this too is work. Many of those minutes I would love to devote to writing are claimed daily by urgent and fleeting tasks. I have to remind myself all the time that I am doing my best. Something great will come from this genuine effort, this I have to believe.
Another exciting reward of the Wednesday’s Bloom ritual is that it gave birth to the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop. It was because of this workshop that I was able to craft the definition of new mommy as “any mother who finds she is learning something new in this moment.” I think that’s every mother I know! So far, I have facilitated 7 workshops at local libraries and one day of virtual workshops online to serve my community of mothers and women active in their mothering. I kept getting questions from other moms, many of them my friends who I have known for years and who have children older than the munchkin, about how I was able to write every week about my mothering journey. I realized I was taking for granted that this intention to document my story was something extraordinary. Especially when considering that most mothers do not ever speak about their work, and their contributions to this life, I have since developed a greater appreciation for this singular act of writing a weekly post. I see that even from the tiny dot I take up on the globe, I am able to send out ripples of awareness each time I press publish.
So the initial premise of the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop was to literally show others how accessible one’s writing process could be to them at any time. And I also desperately wanted to create a space where mothering stories of all varieties could be shared equally. I knew that this workshop had to be for the moms, and also the women whose identities don’t outwardly read as “mother,” but who are nonetheless nurturing that part of their life, oftentimes in secrecy, or shame, or confusion. I call this work invisible mothering, and as a woman who suffered through the pain of not being seen for so many years of my mothering journey before the munchkin, it is vitally important that I explicitly welcome others who might be experiencing that same lack of visibility into the space.
Right now I am gearing up for the next phase of the workshops. There are several more scheduled for the fall of this year, and also an expanded version of the virtual edition at the end of the year. With each session I facilitate, I learn a little more about what it is I want to do and who it is I want to serve. I have been blessed with an awesome community of supporters who show up to these workshops, pen and paper in hand, hearts open, courage flowing as they each share something profound and personal with the other women in the room. It is this dynamic intimacy and healing warmth that I want to continue developing as I step further into this work, creating more space for mothers and our mothering work everywhere I go.
One of the things I have constantly pondered through the journey of the Wednesday’s Bloom ritual is the delicate and, at times, difficult dance of being both so public and so private. As much as I am an advocate for writing one’s personal narrative, and owning their story, I will be the first to tell you that I am in no way insisting that the way to freedom is through blogging! Being vulnerable, being naked in my words is a calling. It’s not for everyone. But just like I believe we should all be able to look at our unadorned bodies in a mirror without averting our eyes, I think that in the privacy of our own journals or notebooks, we should be able to write honestly about who we are and how we feel. I know this is extremely scary for many people, and so I write as an example of what bearing our truths can look like.
I write in this wildly public space where a good majority of readers are unknown to me, tuning in regularly from around the world and never saying a thing. It’s okay, it comes with the territory of sharing in an open platform. But I will say, it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD to me when people do reach out to me, call me, text me, message me, comment to me about what they read, and how they felt, and how it has inspired them in some way. There are days when I don’t feel like writing these stories. When all I want to do is chill with my family, pick a movie on netflix, and retreat into someone else’s storytelling masterpiece. There are days when I do not write anything amazing, but I put it out there anyway. Sometimes honesty is not very spectacular. There is an Octavia Butler quote I recently came across in an article highlighting famous black women writers. It is really helping me make it through the tough writing days. Butler says, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
That’s what the Wednesday’s Bloom ritual has become, persistence. I am showing up to this process, rain or shine, and saying something whether I am thoroughly motivated or not. The immediate fruits of my labor are not always delicious, but overall, I think my garden is now abundant. I have planted a lot of possibilities in these words. I have cultivated a sort of spiritual food for myself, and the mothering, and humanity. I think I have done well so far; I am eager to do more.
Another lesson born out of this Wednesday’s Bloom journey is the understanding that I will not always strike a balance, and however asymmetrical the outcome may be, imbalance itself doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible thing either. I usually run all my grand ideas by my mother, the engineer. I call her at work and give her the daily munchkin update, and then I tell her what I’m working on. She listens and then asks me how do I think I am I supposed to do all that while doing all this, and then she reminds me of something else I said I would already do. And we go back and forth like this, and I argue my case of why it is vital for the sake of some mother’s peace of mind–quite possibly my own– somewhere that I do this thing. And then after ensuring her concerns have been noted on the record, she then goes on to suggest how she can help me make whatever vision real.
The latest in these talks between me and my mother centers on a private dinner party I am hosting in a few weeks for some of the mommies in my community who have been consistent champions of my work. I have invited a lively and diverse group of women to come together and share our birth stories over good food and sisterhood. I realized while producing the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop in public space is an essential component of my mission, I still crave and need more intimate occasions to have these critical conversations about our mothering. As I am attempting to hold space for more and more mothers, women, and artists in my work, I am also being proactive and seeking out restorative, communal practices that nurture me too, and fill me up with the same love I am pouring out to everyone else on the planet.
A specific message I have for all the mommies, as I reflect on this one-year mark of the Wednesday’s Bloom process: Do your ritual, whatever it is. Even if you are tired, or frustrated, or uninspired, do something for your ritual anyway. Even if you only have a few minutes, and you need a few hours, go through the motions. Be real with your effort, always. Dismiss nothing; everything counts. Make a note that on such-and-such day, the ritual was shortened because of this or that. Stick with your ritual. Give yourself time to feel that ritual grow wings. Watch it take flight in your life. Acknowledge and celebrate the blessings that come from doing your ritual. Tell others about your journey. Help the mommies in your community tap into their ritual powers. Spread the light with your own story.
I will always recommend writing as one form of ritual, because there is a strong correlation between our ability to construct our own language about our processes as mothers and our ability to successfully advocate for ourselves and our children in the world. But whatever you need to do, whatever resonates, decide what that is and do it consistently enough so that it really means something to you. There is something phenomenal that awaits us when we feed the ritual. Every Wednesday’s Bloom post has been worth the discovery.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in this weekly ritual by reading, posting, sharing, commenting, and sending love!
HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY BLOOMS TO ALL!
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.