Wildly Predictable: Nurturing the Wild Woman After Motherhood
This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 edition of She Who Knows Magazine.
I stand in front of a metal sink, water and glasses clink. Between my fingers, sticky, soggy pasta slithers closer to the drain. The baby cries. He can wait. He can wait…, can he wait?
The walls grows larger. His piercing voice shatters the space. I tighten my shoulders and turn toward him. My hand slips, the glass beside me dives over the edge and splatters onto the floor. My head floods the space. I step carefully to his chair to pick him up. I walk, I bounce. I coo: shhhh. He holds my long hair too tight, but he is quiet. A bird breaks the silence again with a gentle whistle.
The old wooden window creaks, and cautiously edges itself open. I see the tall Maple in our courtyard beginning to unpack her leaves. I take in the fresh air, and a bold pine tree sends her signature scent on the wind. Cedar sends her regards to the small curl of hair at my neck, which dances and tickles a smile from my tired mouth.
I wrote this anecdote in response to a writing prompt that asked us to describe a scene in which we come face to face with our greatest fear. To be clear, my terror lies in becoming domesticated and only finding a hint of the wild in my daily life. The image of a cow came quickly to my maiden mind whenever my thoughts wandered toward motherhood. I thought that having children would initiate an archetype in my blood that modern culture commonly portrays on sitcoms and in media as the tired, overworked, underappreciated mother. She has given up on her body, does not take time for herself. She is stressed, busy, tired, overweight and tormented by tyrannical children. She drives a mini-van. She wears mom jeans. She gave up on her career. In my mind, she is like a cow; slow moving, docile, tame. The certainty of that end was terrifying. I do not want to be a cow, and when I found out I was pregnant I began to actively unweave and reject this story I had created in my mind. What if I could simply associate motherhood with a different animal?
I am a panther. Panther kittens have mothers too, and are they no less wild for their mothering status? Panther is no less fierce, beautiful, and strong when she gives birth. Or maybe I am a horse. I choose when to come and go, I roam with my little one at my side. I live in the open fields of adventure….
These images help, but the fear and cultural rut created by decades of collective reinforcement is a difficult one to escape, even in my own kitchen. I lost my temper the other day when my partner asked me if I would start cooking more. Just because I work from home does not mean I have time to be a housewife. I rebel against the archetype that’s coming up behind me like a speeding semi truck down a steep mountain road. The weight of the mother, the woman, the housewife, seems impossible to avoid. I don’t want to be trapped in a house without my ability to dive into the depths of mystery and meaning that I find in my wild nature.
It was somehow easier to maintain wildness when I was pregnant. I was still just one body, and my hormones had acted on me like a washing machine. They swept me away, saturated me, spun me around, and I somehow came out on the other side fresher and clean. I can remember what it was to feel the surges coming, there is a kind of drawing in energetically like the tide before a tsunami. I raged against whatever dam was in front of me. My voltage increased, my stream of blood widened into a river that supplied two hearts with nourishment. My energy moved like the ocean, rushing over me and then withdrawing just as quickly. I learned to organize my day around what my body will allow. She had taken over, and I was wild as panther.
Since giving birth, I have found a new connection with my body. At first, I mourned the loss of the maiden body--tight and firm--I realized as I nursed my little one that my body was not simply going to go back to its former shape. I cried and raged that night before the dawn brought a new awareness; my body was going to move forward and change (and age) whether I had a baby or not. Unless I invent a time machine, my body would always be morphing and maturing. But body image is only one small aspect of adjustment required during the first year of motherhood.
Another challenge has been in the constant struggle to keep my home in order. I wish I could get out all the pots and pans and leave them scattered across the floor for someone else to clean up. Panthers do not have to clean up the jungle. They leave the zebra carcass right where it is when they are done. There are no dishes, and no kitchen sink in the jungle.
I don’t want to have so much to do. I want to drag sand and rocks in from the yard, finger paint with my sweet potato and scream at the full capacity of my lungs like my little boy sometimes. But I am his mother, and part of my job description, the one I have accepted, is that I will help him learn to put food into his mouth, I will tell him when he is too loud for the neighbors, I will take items away from him when they are sharp, toxic or burning hot.
Over the last two years, I’ve found the best reminder of my freedom is giving myself the gift of choice. Panthers do whatever they want, all the time. Most days, I am his neat space, and he is my wild. I am the structure, and he is the play. I am the quiet and he is the loud. And that is what it is, because I remind myself that I have chosen it. But I feel heat at the back of my throat if I let that dynamic go on too long. We must dance. I remind myself that I need to play too. Some days it is even worth taking out the glitter, just to see the mess shine. I must play, get messy, and for a moment forget that I am the one who will be cleaning it all up.
The distinction between work and play is that we have the power to define it for ourselves. If work is something we do to achieve a certain outcome, such as changing the color of the wall or getting a paycheck, then play is defined as what we do for the purpose of the action itself. Anything can be play if we enjoy it without worrying about whether or not we will get something from it later. In this play, I re-route my habits and enjoy the journey over new landscapes. It is my choice when and where my waters flow. Having found my own essential movement I explore what it means to move in relationship, to hold my center and shine my light with my little one and my partner by my side.
As a woman connected to this power of my center, my own internal ocean; I realize it’s up to me if I resent doing house work. Holding this center is the gift of sovereignty. It is my choice if cooking dinner is a chore or a welcome break from the computer, a time to play music, enjoy the smells and colors of ingredients and work with my hands. I am just at the beginning of my mothering journey, my son is now 14 months.
When I decided to embrace my new curves, and I found a deeper connection with my internal waters. The space of my womb is a tiny ocean. I’ve dropped into my center at my navel and I move through the world from there. It’s an intuitive, relaxing place to inhabit, and this new orientation has brought me fresh realizations as well. I can look forward to a fullness during my childbearing years like the full moon phase of the moon's cycle. And when the moon of my inner life begins to wane, my womb will close into itself like a cowry shell. As my hairs turn silver I will be able to harvest the strength and nourishment I used to spend externally on children and lovers, and instead relish the dark moon of the crone.
I maintain my ability to choose, my desire to play, and my deep search for meaning and beauty. My son needs my wildness. The next generation calls out for mothers who are Panther, Horses, and Lionesses. Yes. I am a mother, but I am not a tame one. I am wild. I am free because I belong to myself.
About the Author
Eila Kundrie Carrico grew up in rural central Florida, and her curiosity led her down a meandering path of discovery from a young age. She was inspired by her studies in journalism, anthropology and religion to travel around the world and teach in Paris, Ghana, Thailand and India. She studied yoga and embodied archetypes for nine years before completing a master's degree in Engaged World Psychology and then an MFA in Creative Writing and Consciousness in San Francisco. She is also an initiated Celtic Priestess.
Eila is a weaver and wordsmith who delights in the mystery and magic of landscapes and memory. Her first book, The Other Side of the River, was complete in early 2015. Eila lives in Berkeley with her partner and their baby boy where she teaches yoga and creative writing and weaves stories.