My heart explodes with joy when I watch them sleep hand in hand. Only moments before, I was feeling so damn frustrated and angry because he woke up, and I wanted him to go back to sleep, and she wanted to snuggle him and help him feel better because she loves him so much, and he didn’t want it and was crying and kicking at her, and I needed a fucking break. And then he finally fell back to sleep and she laid next to him, held his hand and fell asleep too.
It’s her love for him that I fear I interrupted, interfered with when I would get so angry with her as a small curious toddler, naturally testing boundaries with me regarding him as an infant. My husband would get stressed, scared that she’d turn out like him, having wanted to kill his brother for taking away his mother’s milk. I consider sometimes that maybe our fear created what we didn’t want: Sibling rivalry. Competition for our love and attention. But now, here they lay, asleep, peaceful, in love.
The throes of emotions that Motherhood has revealed to me has been enormous. The back and forth, joy to anger, frustration to hilarity, sadness to hopelessness, complete sobbing despair to ecstatic laughter. I seem to experience these shifts so rapidly at times, not always prepared, and I snap, or retreat, or melt away at the absurdity and exhaustion of it all. The need to escape is regular, yet where to? I chose to bring these people into the world. Now we’re here together, and I feel desperate for a moment alone much of the time.
Recently, my dear sister invited me to participate in a Kambo ceremony with her, that’s Amazonian tree frog medicine. (I didn’t know either.) She’d previously had a positive experience with the medicine and wanted to sit again. I’m not usually one to go seeking medicine ceremonies, but I’m a total opportunist, so when it essentially showed up at my door, I said yes.
When we sat in the ceremony, first speaking our intentions. My intention was to release anything that was blocking me from finding an organized rhythm in my life so my businesses can thrive and we can have financial stability. Hers was to bring a higher level of commitment to her healthy choices into hers.
It was on.
Since I was the newbie, tradition is that I go first. This began a mostly silent drinking of two liters of water in ten minutes after having fasted for 12 hours. This was the hardest part. As my belly expanded with the liquid, I asked our guide why we had to drink it. She explained that the water is the vehicle that the toxins use to exit the body. Usually out of the mouth. Sometimes the other end. Yikes. Good thing I love water and have zero aversion to puking.
The medicine, the tree frog venom, is collected in the Amazon. The giant monkey frogs have a specific song that can be followed to collect them at night. Captive specimens are tied by the legs and harmlessly stressed to induce the secretion: a waxy substance scraped onto wooden splinters from the back and legs of the frog.
While I drank my water, our guide added a small amount of water to the bamboo card containing the medicine and scraped it with a knife. She essentially made little venom boogers. Next, she prepared my skin to receive the medicine by cleaning it and then making three tiny burns using a specific type of incense. As a first timer, my choice for body location for my burns and medicine were either right ankle or left shoulder. I chose right ankle, which she said would delay my body’s response by about 30 seconds. That wasn’t why I chose it.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to sit for this ceremony, he asked if I was nervous about it. My response was, “I’ve given birth twice, not sure a frog ceremony has much on that.”
The intensity was similar to the energy I felt during birth labor, and I used similar methods to ease the intensity. I breathed slowly in through my nose and out through my mouth, feeling deeply the surge of heat and energy of the medicine running through my system, pulsing quickly with my rapidly increasing heartbeat. Our guide then sat behind me and sang the most beautiful songs, drummed, and chanted to specific places on my back. Her voice echoed through my body, moving the stuck places, finding the old unhealthy patterns and beliefs that were holding me back, the ones I’d asked to be removed. At least I hoped this was what was happening. Otherwise, what was the point?
This was when I felt the need to purge arising from my belly. I wanted it, knew it would help me to let go, to grow and discover more about myself, to become stronger and better. My actual thoughts in the moment were on my hands. They were so full of energy, it felt like it was beaming out of my fingertips. I literally couldn’t close my hands. I carefully gripped the “wellness bucket” with my stiffly opened palms. Six times I vomited, the purge being the signal to my guide that my release was occurring, nearly complete, and it was time to remove the frog boogers to allow for rest and integration. Frog boogers! Lol.
I laid down on my left side, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket feeling warm, cozy, and relaxed as I held space next to my friend who was now experiencing her purge. Both ends for her.
After we each completed our experiences, our guide examined our vomit, “reading” the contents based on color, foam and anything else she saw. I did not know this was part of the experience, and felt immediately confused and ultimately grateful for what she shared once clarity came. My friend’s and my vomit was the same color - clear greenish, which indicates release of unhealthy patterns of self love and boundaries. We had previously discussed this and knew we needed improvement in these areas. Thank you for the reminder, Frogs.
What she shared next surprised me. She said the white foam on the top of my puke was the release of grief.
Then it dawned on me.
All once I realized why I felt so frustrated, angry with my first born child so often.
I remembered when she was very little, probably just a couple months, and I was putting her to sleep, hearing Jackson and his parents laughing and watching TV together in a nearby room and hoping, wishing she would fall asleep quickly so I could sneak out and go be a single person again. I wanted to be part of the adulting, and I was seething, furious that I was “stuck”, the only one able to feed my daughter and help her tiny body to sleep.
Those feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, have continued as she has grown, feeling this way toward her basic needs at times. I blamed these emotions on lack of sleep, undernourishment, living off grid without the convenience of modern amenities and the challenges that can come with it. I blamed what seemed logical and immediate. And then the guilt. The GUILT I would feel for feeling these things.
But the truth is, I now realize I have been grieving. Grieving a person who longer exists, a person whose body is still here but whose freedoms have gone. I have been grieving a person who I had finally learned to love after so many years of self loathing and comparison, searching for approval.
I was grieving my Maiden self, and for almost six years, I had no idea.
I was grieving the times when I could do what I wanted when I wanted. To think a full thought and create art uninterrupted. To quickly grab my things and jump in the car to the beach without a thought about school pickup or enough snacks. To make love in the morning and snuggle in bed for hours with my husband.
I’d finally decided to love the woman I’d become, and then that woman changed. She fell in love and decided to create a new human with that love. She did the most primal and powerful thing she had ever chosen. She grew and birthed another human. And with that choice, she committed suicide.
She had chosen to become a Mother, having no idea it was her death sentence, only to be reborn overnight a new woman. This one completely and totally responsible for another human’s entire life, all the time, every moment, forever.
You see, even when my kids aren’t with me, I think of them, I feel them. There’s an awareness of who they’re with, what time I need to go get them, is the other person happy or annoyed about being with them?, how are they being treated?, how are they treating others?, are they generally safe and having fun?, have they eaten?, did they nap? And on and on.
Once a woman becomes a Mother, we grow a telepathic antenna to each of our children. And it’s always out there aware, awake, listening, tuning in to see what needs need meeting, never allowing us to fully rest completely. Holy shit, it’s exhausting. I’ve never met a Mother who has said this turns off.
And so, I had been operating as if my daughter was the one who changed things. This probably my ego conveniently forgetting the conscious choice I made to create her. I blamed her and have treated her badly at times. I’ve been mean, unforgiving, shaming, rough. When I can catch myself, I hear myself speaking the exact voice inside myself that beats me up when I’m sick or mooning or just tired, telling me I’m not good enough, that I should be doing more, working harder, being better, that I should have known better, that I am undeserving, wondering what “They” will think. The self attacks. It’s clear to me that I have deeply neglected myself throughout my life, allowing these voices to hold me back from taking the breaks I desperately need, asking for help, trusting myself and my family that all can and will be well even if I’m not around.
I’ve been a Mother for six years, and it’s taken me this long to truly see that my needs for time alone and time to create are necessary to my own success as a human, a wife, a Mother, a friend, a land steward, a business owner. I’m glad it didn’t take longer, but fuck, undoing all these unhealthy patterns is hard work.
Speaking of hard work, after the flooding in April, we discovered a dam in the stream that runs around Stellar Gardens. I walked the path of the dam the day before I sat for the Kambo ceremony, and noticed some old debris and remnants from an old shower system high up in a mango tree.
Following the ceremony, I found myself talking with my ceremony sister and another friend about the dam and telling them about the makeshift shower system that used to be in the exact spot where the dam begins. It was the only hot shower on the land at the time, and I was 39 weeks pregnant with Stellar. I told them the story about how it was in that shower under the mango tree where I discovered that my mucus plug had come out and knew my labor would soon begin. I birthed Stellar three days later.
In telling my friends this story, the significance and symbolism of my mucus plug and the dam in the stream all came together in my mind. The dam needed to be cleared for Stellar Gardens to rebirth once again and grow to the next level.
So we cleaned the old camping spot where the dam began, and over a series of weeks, the men on the land worked hard with their bodies, chainsaws, machetes, and controlled fire to clear the dam and restore the flow of the water. They did one more push the day before the waters from Hurricane Lane arrived. Then one big storm pushed the rest downstream and cleared the blockage almost completely.
Now that the flow is restored, this land is restored even more, and I too am more restored, and so my relationship with my daughter is further restored.
It’s been six years since Stellar’s birth, and three years since Vervain’s. I’m now done breastfeeding, and I’ve spent the last six years primarily parenting, and I believe doing excellently, despite some of the above mentioned horrible moments. Yet I’ve been floundering in many other areas, specifically the ones that earn money.
When Jackson and I first came together, I had about $500 to my name, a bunch of credit card and student loan debt, a car that was being rented in Los Angeles, and was babysitting. I was getting by, but by no means thriving. Then Jackson’s mom found out we were on food stamps, and after questioning my motivation for being in the relationship, demanded Jackson support me with their family money. This was an unexpected turn. I’d been supported by my parents for my whole life and worked menial jobs for spending money, car payments and insurance until I moved to Los Angeles when I was 21 to work at a bank and pursue my degree, taking out said student loans and racking up the debt. I was never specifically taught to manage money. I did what I saw others doing, worked enough to get by, borrowed money to pay back at a later date with a high interest rate, until Jackson’s mom looked at hime and said, “Support her!”
We lived our life simply, happily supported by Jackson’s family, found the land, began to develop Stellar Gardens. This was a life I had never known, never understood, and found myself very grateful to be living, yet this also gave me insight into a life of having money. And it was far from sustainable, because as far as I understood, Jackson’s father was making the majority of the money. So when Jackson’s parents split, so, shortly after, did the money. I’m far more saddened by the current state of the family than I am by not having its financial support. When the money stopped, I wrote to him, thanking him for the years of support and also for setting us free. I saw how the comfort of having it was holding us back at the same time as supporting. It’s a hard paradox to explain.
We are still finding our footing after being on our own for nearly two years. We have intentionally chosen to set ourselves up with many varying streams of income because who wants to work a 9-5 and be away from their kids during their most precious years, when they actually give a shit about being with us? We share the land and host events and workshops, we clean condos, keep bees to sell honey and wax. We do odd jobs, trade our services for others’ like cleaning our friend’s place in exchange for their mowing. We share healing superfoods with people who need healthy organic fast food. We are on food stamps. We pay taxes. We have health care. And most importantly, we are with our kids. Everything else can fall to the wayside, but if we miss our kids’ childhoods and fail to pay the land taxes, we will be in a world of regret. So we keep going. Keep growing. Because of the children. They and the land are my WHY, my reason for getting up each day and continuing on when it feels hard or I don’t want to get up or make the next call. My children have shown me who I must become as Mother still embracing the love of my Maiden in order to create the abundance to support our family.
Through this ceremony, I have uncovered and rediscovered some deep unhealthy patterns and made connections where there were previously none. I have deepened my bond with my daughter, dear sister and the land. I am grateful for this experience and the momentum it has created and excited about what’s to come. Thank you for reading this tale of self discovery and sharing this journey with me.