write and reflect: marinating on our mothers’ shadow

I recently decided to take the plunge and become a doula. It’s something I’ve considered doing for a couple years and although there always seems to be some new certification course I have my eye on, I inevitably decide it’s not for me, or it’s too expensive, etc. But for this one, I closed my eyes, signed the check, and jumped. Thus, I’m on my grind: reading the prerequisite stack of books before my training workshop and filling my every waking leisure moment (and then some stolen from moments when I should’ve been working) with birthing techniques, the emotional changes after delivery, tips on bonding with newborns, breastfeeding, the whole gamut. My perception of womanhood is growing, twisting, transforming before my eyes. And here and there I find an especially interesting passage that I think would be of interest even to non-mothers and even non-doulas-to be. And perhaps, even to men as well. So I will share:

“A woman may devote a great deal of energy to trying to be as good as her own mother – or to be the opposite of her and to show that her way works best. There are often things we want to emulate, and others we are determined to do differently. Yet we find ourselves slipping into saying and doing exactly the same things as our own mothers, almost as if we have been pre-programmed. When this happens to you, you may feel irritated about it, or it may give you a new understanding of your own mother’s experience of being a mother.”

— Sheila Kitzinger, “The Year After Childbirth”

We all -men and women – have strong feelings about our mothers and fathers, in the way we bask in, or run from, the habits and personalities they seem to have imbued in us. If you’d like, take a moment to consider one of your parents or guardians for whom you have especially strong feelings (positive or negative – we’re all human here), and just sit on that emotion a bit. Let it marinate. Use the questions below to guide your writing and reflection as you wish.

1. What are the specific memories that define your relationship with this person? Try to describe one like a short scene of a play.

2. Make a list of all the ways in which you are similar to this person. List all the ways you are different.

3. Now take the list of similarities, and star your favorite parts of yourself that relate to that person. Write a short poem or haiku to illustrate this closeness, using a few key words from your list to get started. Try sharing this piece with the person in question. What is their reaction?

4. With both lists, underline all the parts of yourself that you wish you could modify and improve, and share that new list with a trusted friend. Brainstorm ways that you can stay accountable to making those changes in your life, and with your own friends and, perhaps, your children one day.

1 thought on “write and reflect: marinating on our mothers’ shadow

  1. So wonderful to hear this exciting news. I look forward to reading more about your journey. I am also a doula in-training. If you need any support, I’d love to collaborate, connect, or just listen 🙂


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