Archive for Motherhood Posts

published in Death, Family, Grief, Life After Loss, Motherhood by Maryanne | December 5, 2018 | No Comment

This the 3rd blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series:

When a Fear Demands to be Faced – Letting Hurt OUT

 

My friend Alan once said to me that perhaps not all our fears are meant to be faced. Some fears, he suggested, are best left alone – for they just might be in place for a good reason.

Some fears, on the other hand, demand to be faced. These are the ones that find their way to the surface and, like a tiger, make their presence known.

For while we can pretend, for a time, not to see an elephant in the living room; when a tiger waltzes in, we don’t get the luxury of ignoring it…if we want to survive, that is.

Such was my experience the day after my Mom passed away in the spring of 2014.

She died quite suddenly on a Monday morning. It was my brother Doug who phoned to tell me the news. By Monday evening, I was back in my hometown of Calgary with my family. Tuesday morning, we went to the funeral home to get the logistics sorted. After that, some of us piled into Doug’s truck and we went to the grocery store to pick up the makings for lunch.

And that, strangely enough, is when things fell apart.

When Doug and Pat returned to the truck from the store, they were carrying the groceries in plastic bags. And for some reason, I ignored the voice of reason in my head that said, “Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything. This is not the time to mention they should have taken re-usable bags.”

But of course, what did I say?

“You shouldn’t be using plastic bags.”

This, not surprisingly, was akin to poking an already wounded tiger – my brother Doug – in the bottom with a nice sharp stick.

KABOOM!

Now prior to this, I had never fought with my brother, Doug, in my life. And trust me, I never will again. Doug is one of my greatest fans. He gets me like no one else. I can do no wrong. This time, however, I did do wrong – and he let me know it. Let’s just say the drive back to my Mom’s apartment was a very loud and fast one, with Doug and I screaming at each other the entire way about who has the worst environmental footprint. Thankfully, the rest of the family members in the truck had the wisdom to know not to intervene but rather just let this play out— and hope to God they lived to see another day.

Now, I would like to say that by the time Doug and I got back to my Mom’s apartment, we had cooled down. But no. In fact, I think we were even angrier at each other by that point. So I jumped out of the truck, stomped over to the building entrance and yanked open the door, smashing it against a bench. Then I ran up the stairs and into my Mom’s apartment, past the concerned faces of my other family members who didn’t know yet what had happened, and into the guest bedroom. And then I did what I always do when I don’t know how to handle my feelings: I wrote.

Ten minutes later, I emerged from the guest bedroom – at the exact same time Doug was coming out of the bathroom directly across the hall. And before I even had to time to think, I threw my arms around him.

“I am SO sorry!!” I wailed. “This isn’t about the plastic bags! I WANT MY MOM!”

And then the oddest thing happened…something that has never happened to me before. I began to sob uncontrollably on Doug’s shoulder. It was ugly. It was messy. It was embarrassing. And it turned out to be the smartest thing I ever could have done.

Doug and I moved into the guest bedroom and sat, side by side, on the bed. And the best way to describe what happened next was that it felt like there was an alien inside me, trying to get out. By this point, I wasn’t just sobbing, I was heaving.

Doug wasn’t mad at me anymore; I think he thought I was possessed.

“Googie,” he said, using my childhood nickname. “What is wrong?”

“I can’t do this!” I cried.

“Do what?” he asked.

I turned to him and heard myself say, “Live the rest of my life without a Mom.”

And there it was: my fear of being motherless. That’s the alien that had been trying to get out. That was the tiger.

“You don’t have our Mom anymore,” he said. “But you still have all of us. And we will always be there for you.”

I managed a smile. “I know.”

“And for the record,” he continued, “I usually do use re-useable bags. I just didn’t happen to have any in my truck today…and it was the last thing on my mind.”

I nodded. “It was completely inappropriate of me to say something, today of all days.”

“Actually,” he said, “knowing you, it kinda makes sense. Because our Mom was just like Mother Nature…tough as they come and, in the end, she was going to do what she was going to do. Just like Mom, Mother Nature always wins in the end. Don’t you forget that, Maryanne. We are pushing Mother Nature to her limits and it’s just a matter of time before she really starts to bite back.”

As it turned out, my meltdown on Doug’s shoulder turned out to be very therapeutic, partly because it was such a physical release of the hurt, and partly because it brought to the surface a deeply rooted fear of abandonment. I cried after my Mom’s death like I never could after my husband, John’s, death – probably because I was absolutely terrified of facing the fact that I had been left behind.

But if I could turn back the clock and go back to John’s death, I would say to heck with the stoicism crap – and proceed to have the most spectacular meltdown/s imaginable.

Because now I know that the sooner the hurt and fears are out, the sooner we can heal.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series, please sign up here

 

published in Book Reviews, Childfree, Decision Making, Family, Health, Motherhood, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | June 24, 2017 | 6 Comments

This is the 8th and final Mothering Matters blog in the Spring 2017 Blog Series:

A Must-Read Resource When Making the Motherhood Decision…or ANY Major Decision for that Matter

 

 

“When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances, it’s easier to make your decision.”

– Ann Davidman and Denise L. Carlini, Motherhood: Is It For Me?

Book Review of “Motherhood: Is it for me?”

For many women, the motherhood decision is a given. For some, the decision not to have children is just as clear. But for many of women – myself included – the motherhood decision is not so cut and dry.

In fact, I spent two decades struggling over whether or not I wanted to become a mom. In the end, life – and my choices – pretty much chose for me.

And as glad as I am that I ended up not taking the path of raising a child/ren, I could have saved myself an awful lot of time and energy…that was spent thinking about the decision, if the brilliant book, Motherhood: Is It For Me? Your Step by Step Guide to Clarity, had existed to help me work through the process of making a decision.

Alas, it wasn’t published until 2016.

But for all the other women out there, currently struggling their way through the “Should I or shouldn’t I…become a mom?” question, I highly recommend reading this book.

And yet, here’s the thing: even though I read the Motherhood: Is It For Me? book at the tender age of 49 😊 I actually found it to be extremely useful in helping me make another major life decision over the past few months (more on that in another blog).

In my opinion, that’s the sign of a very good book!

But why, perhaps you may be asking yourself, would a 49-year old single gazelle have taken the time to read a book entitled, “Motherhood: Is It For Me?” in the first place?

Well, here’s the scoop: one of the authors, Ann Davidman, contacted me several months ago, after watching our documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood.

Ann is a Motherhood Clarity Mentor and a Marriage and Family Therapist. Ann has been helping women work through the motherhood decision for more than 25 years.

In fact, the book stems from the Motherhood Clarity Course, which is a 14-week program that helps women who are struggling with indecision about whether they want to become a mother.

Ann’s co-author, Denise L. Carlini, is also a Marriage and Family Therapist. The authors know from their professional experience that an analytical pros-and-cons approach often fails to successfully answer this most personal question.

Because of the Whatever Floats Your Boat documentary and the Mothering Matters blog series, Ann asked me if I would read and review their book. I said yes. And I’m awfully glad I did.

Right off the top, Davidman and Carlini explain the difference between determining one’s desire – what the heart truly wants – and making one’s decision: what course of action are you actually going to take?

This is important because: “When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances; it’s easier to make your decision.”

So often, we get caught up in trying to MAKE a decision before we’ve taken the time to really think through what it is we truly want…and that goes for anything in life, not just motherhood.

Here are just a few gems gleamed from the book…perhaps you might find, as I did, that regardless of where you’re at on your path, there is some very sage life advice here:

“Sometimes an important piece of information needs time to completely unfold, and sharing it prematurely can disrupt the unfolding…even the most well-intentioned feedback from others can disturb the feeling of safety you’ve been creating for yourself and push you off track.”

In other words: it is very wise to keep the early part of your decision-making process to yourself. Don’t let the riff raff in until you’re ready to let them in!

“Slowing down may indeed feel uncomfortable at first, but we’ve learned that allowing yourself time and space to examine and accurately perceive the various aspects of your life is far more effective than generating those pros-and-cons lists that only seem to keep you stuck in an endless loop of indecision.”

“Thinking is good, of course, but so much more happens when you write. The writing itself takes twists and turns in a way that thought processes can’t, creating a fertile environment for more and more to emerge.”

Ahhh…music to a writer’s soul.

“Bring intention to your process while you suspend judgement, and trust that on a deeper level something is happening.”

“Most women find that when they grant themselves permission to not know, they feel less fatigue and have more energy for exploring.”

“What needs to be known first is what you want for yourself regardless of the circumstances of your life.”

“Trying to make a decision based on your internal emotions and the external circumstances in your life at the same time creates all kinds of pressure…trying to figure out your desire and your decision at the same time creates gridlock.”

“There are no appropriate or inappropriate fears. There are only the fears that live inside you for good reason.”

“Human nature compels us to seek answers actively. It can feel excruciating not to know, and fluctuating between answers creates the perpetual illusion that at any moment the answer will come and provide relief…making a case for ‘yes’ and then making a case for ‘no’ doesn’t help you get any closer to getting off the fence; it only serves to temporarily soothe anxiety, nothing more.”

“When you relax into self-acceptance, the result is spaciousness. From there you can more easily gain access to the answers that are already there.”

“When you’re able to say yes to a big dream or future possibility, whether or not you know how it will come about, you move forward toward it and life tends to meet you, often filling in the details.”

“As you imagine your future, do you feel that you’re entitled to have things go the way you want them to?”

See? I told you it was a brilliant book 😊

Here is the link for further information on (or to purchase) Motherhood: Is It For Me?

“At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

Lao Tzu

Related Blogs

Getting to the Heart of the Matter – To Be or Not To Be…a Mom?

Undecided about Motherhood? A Motherhood Clarity Mentor Shares Her Personal Story and Professional Advice on Making a Decision

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.

This is the 7th Mothering Matters blog in the Spring 2017 Blog Series:

Undecided about Motherhood? A Motherhood Clarity Mentor Shares Her Personal Story and Professional Advice on Making a Decision

 

By Ann Davidman

 

“Ultimately a fulfilled or satisfied life is not about whether you have children. It’s about knowing who you are, what you want in this life, and making that happen.”

Ann Davidman, Motherhood Clarity Mentor

Thank you, Maryanne, for having the courage to produce the Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood documentary.

If I’d been on the boat in 2005, I would’ve introduced myself as a 49-year-old, grief-stricken, childless widow whose husband died 3 years earlier—and who still wanted to have a family. My husband and I had been together only 4 years when he died. I loved him and we had plans to sail around the world with our children.

Two years into our marriage he was diagnosed with cancer and told he had 6 months to live. The plan was to get him well, have children, get our boat, and set sail. It was ok with me that our plan was delayed; I was an optimist and I “knew” without a shadow of doubt that he’d recover. It never occurred to me that after an 18-month battle he would succumb.

We froze his sperm before his 1st round of chemotherapy. After his passing, I tried 6 IUIs with his frozen sperm but failed to conceive each time. I realized that I didn’t wanted to be a mom at all costs, and I didn’t have the drive to do IVF.

I had no fear of being an older parent. I wanted to marry again, become a parent through adoption, or meet someone with children. If I’d been on that houseboat for your documentary, I would’ve walked off the boat wishing everyone well and gone back home to meet someone who wanted the same. At 49 I did not want to be a single parent by choice.

But not long after that I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I made a very conscious decision to stop pursing motherhood. I came to know that I would not raise children, I would not be pregnant, I would not experience motherhood. The idea of what if I regret it never entered my mind.

I had tried everything that I knew to do and was willing to do.

I wanted to punctuate this decision by asking all the women in my life who were important to me to write about how I had made a difference in their lives. I needed to know that if I wasn’t going to be a mom, I still made a difference in the world.

I gathered all the letters and had a ceremony with the co-author of our book, Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity – we lit candles and she read one letter, then I would read another.

We took our time and felt the words of what each person wrote. This allowed me to see who I was and take in the difference I’d made in their lives. Ultimately that was more important to me than having a child or becoming a mother. Clearly, I was a mother to many. When I could internalize that truth, I was able to move forward with my life. This was my version of a No-Baby Shower.

After that, I was done. I would no longer be on the path of trying to become a mother. I had grieved that it hadn’t played out as I’d wanted.

Fast forward to 2017, and my life could not be more rich, more wonderful, or have more unmeasurable meaning. I’m delighted—overjoyed, really— that I do not have a child. I don’t spend a minute wondering what if this or what if that. If I had gotten pregnant in 2002 after my husband died I would now have a 15-year-old.

I would not want a 15-year-old at 61. Even though I remember at 49 being okay with being an older parent, I could not know then what I would feel like at 61.

Since I was a young person, I always wanted to impact the many more than the one. When I look into the eyes of my many nieces, grandnieces, and nephew with a kind of love that bursts open my heart, I know they see in my eyes how much I love them. My loving them is a privilege, and it’s what nourishes me.

I also make a difference in many women’s lives as a Motherhood Clarity Mentor—I help women gain the clarity they seek about whether to be a mother.

As a 61-year-old woman who has the advantage of looking back, I offer those women who are undecided on the motherhood decision this:

First go deep inside and ask yourself:

“Do you want to be a mom?”

“Do you want to raise a child, or do you want to contribute to the next generation?”

You need to know these answers deep inside of you before you can make a decision. Then you need to know why. Not because you should defend what you want and not because you owe anyone anything about your desire…but to know for yourself why you want to be a mom or not to be a mom.

You never need to tell anyone why you want to be a mom or not to be a mom, but you need to know for yourself. Because once you know why, then you are better equipped to make a conscious decision. I do believe if you make a conscious decision in that order, only good things can happen.

Children are amazing and, of course, raising them is beyond anything anyone can put into words – but it is not up to a child to make your life fulfilled. That is up to you. It’s up to you to help a child have a fulfilled life.

Ultimately having a fulfilled or satisfied life is not about whether you have children. It’s about knowing who you are and what you want in this life, and then making that happen.

Here are 4 suggestions to help you begin to move toward clarity – no matter how stuck you feel:

#1. Stop immediately making a case for YES and a case for NO. This will only create gridlock in your brain. The function it mainly serves is to protect you from feeling ambivalent. Ambivalence for many is very uncomfortable and most people will do just about anything to avoid the feeling.

#2. Instead, write down this statement: “At the risk of feeling uncomfortable, I will decide to not know on purpose. I will make peace with this before I do anything else. As soon as I accept that I don’t know, I’ll have access to more information than I’ve had access to in the past.” Then plan to not know, on purpose, until you can feel at peace with not knowing.

#3. Make a list of 3 decisions that you’ve previously made that you feel good about. Write a few sentences on each one, describing the sensation of how good it felt to have made those decisions with clarity. This is the feeling you deserve to have when deciding either YES to motherhood or YES to a childfree life.

#4. What verbal and non-verbal messages did you receive while growing up (from family members, society, your community, or your religion) about you becoming a mother? Some people don’t know how to want something different than what is expected of them.

Spend time entertaining these questions to help you think outside of your current circumstance. They’ll provide you with powerful clues about why you don’t yet trust yourself to know your desire and to make the decision that’s right for you.

Before you can make a decision you need to know and understand your desire. You also need to understand where it comes from and why. I ask you to accept this idea and understand that this is a complex issue.

Whether to become a mother is one of the most important decisions a woman makes in her lifetime. It makes sense that it’s not so simple to answer. But the cycle of indecision can end with thoughtful and compassionate guidance.

About Ann Davidman

Ann is a Motherhood Clarity Mentor & Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. For more than 25 years, Ann has been helping women decide about motherhood or a child-free life. Ann offers the Motherhood Clarity Course, a 14-week program (self-guided, online group, or private one-on-one) that helps women who are struggling with indecision about whether they want to become a mother.

In 2016, Ann and her co-author, Denise L. Carlini (a Marriage and Family Therapist), published their outstanding book, Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.