This winter I find myself not just a mama, but a pregnant mama.
This two-fold mothering is more exhausting than I ever would have imagined, and I find myself struggling, especially in the depths of winter, to find ways to nurture my mothering spirit.
What works best for me is to dabble in a variety of ways, allowing my energy level to determine what fits best at any given time. As a religious person, I find that each of these ways is also prayer for me.
1. I write. Writing helps me get my emotions out on paper (or on the screen, as the case may be). I write to my daughter in a notebook I started when I was pregnant with her; I write in another notebook for the baby that grows inside me now. I write blog posts, intimate emails, and personal journal entries. Every day, I write.
2. I sing. Throughout my life, song has been the most profound vehicle for expressing what lies deep in my heart. Psalms and table songs from Christian liturgy resonate with me, bringing back years of memories. In my sung memories, I find solace and hope.
3. I read. I read my daughter’s favorite books aloud, savoring each word and basking in her joy. I read for my own pleasure, taking a half an hour on public transit or an hour after work (when my husband is up for it!) to do nothing but steep myself in a story or an idea.
4. I create art. A dear friend of mine introduced me to collage journaling recently, so I have saved scraps of this and that for creating page after page of colorful, multi-layered visual art. I also sketch, albeit poorly, and sometimes my favorite art is the kind I make with crayons on plain paper with my daughter.
5. I walk. In particular, I love to walk in areas bursting with trees, whether residential neighborhoods or forests. I love the scent of life long-lived, a smell even winter can’t break. The shadows cast by tree branches comfort me, and the light that dances around the shadows delights me.
6. I take pictures. I remember one snowy winter evening in my childhood when I went outside, armed with a film camera (digitals didn’t exist back then!), and I snapped photos of my backyard. The sinking sun glowed red and pink and orange, casting sparkling hues off the untouched waves of snow. I managed to capture startling beauty with that little camera of mine. Even now, when I am outside, I look for small wonders. When I seek them, they find me.
7. I practice hospitality. There is only one thing I love more than dinner with my family: sharing a family dinner with guests. I love bringing the sacred liturgy of meal-sharing into my home, sharing the stories, tastes, touches, sounds, smells, and sights with dear friends. I love the preparation, the extra care, the special recipes, the ability to pull together a rich, familiar, memorable feast.
8. I laugh. And this is one of the many ways I know I married The One, because my husband manages to make me laugh every single day. He is particularly good at getting me laugh when I am grumpy (and as a tired mama, grumpiness develops more often than I’d care to admit). In addition to the laughter that my hubby miraculously inspires, I have voice messages saved from my best friend who, in the first three seconds of any message she leaves, produces some bit of unique silliness that has me chortling for hours.
9. I pray to G-d as Divine Mother, Daughter, and the Love that binds them, reimagining the Holy Trinity as a wholly feminine Presence. (In keeping with Jewish tradition, which I greatly revere, I do not write out the vowels for the names of G-d.) I also love the metaphor of G-d as Father and Son, but by praying to G-d as Mother and Daughter, I find myself immediately and overwhelmingly in profound understanding of the way G-d is in relationship to the world. If G-d loves Her Daughter the way I love mine, I can imagine no greater source of awesome wonder.
These are some of my favorite ways to honor my holy, marvelous role as a mama without forgetting the rich person I was before I became a mama. Even in winter, if I take a moment for myself in one of these ways, I end up enveloped in warmth and light.
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Kate Allen is a Christian mother of two: one outside the womb and one still in the womb. She has an M.A. in Liturgy and Scripture from Saint John’s School of Theology*Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota.