As I sit on my side of the bed, my feet wrapped around one section of the pregnancy pillow my partner has gifted me for Christmas, the other section firmly securing my back, I start falling asleep. These days it’s not as easy as getting caught up in my thoughts and then succumbing to sleepwalking. The occupant in my womb likes to announce his presence right when I lie on my left side. As I place my hand on the right side of my abdomen, just above my navel, I can feel the outline of the leg pressing against my body. Sometimes the kick feels so obvious that I shudder a little in surprise. It’s as if this baby has intertwined my bedtime with play, which, I think, is a tiny indication of what my life will be like once motherhood is established as a fact. However, I am not offended by this intrusion. Indeed I have come to cherish this unexpected return to physical consciousness, an unexpected consequence of pregnancy. There is a secrecy to this entire process of conception that makes its experience so unique and personal, something about the individuality of each womb, and the cellular uniqueness of each growing fetus that differentiates pregnancy from other physiological conditions. This comes as a delicious revelation to me, given the many fears I had about treating my body as a potential mother.
The notion of a life form was developing in me and slowly emerging in the world which I could not understand for many years. As I enjoy the final seven weeks before the start of the next phase, I find myself thinking a lot about the concept of safe places over and over again, especially because, as the host of a life form In, I have had to make such a concerted effort. To ensure a perfect uterine environment for my guest. The strange thing about my long-standing fears about having a child was that whenever I looked at the innate bond between mother and child, I always felt a little bit of jealousy within me. I am talking about the different forms of motherhood here, as there are many ways to become a mother from adoption to surrogacy. Until I gave myself a chance to heal through therapy, I dreaded motherhood because I was afraid that my child would inherit my traumas. I feel that all my psychological effort to rediscover my own personality by bridging the gap between body and mind has given me a chance to rehabilitate. I became my own safe space, which meant I was less dependent on the need for other safe places to clear my consciousness.
I think of a personal safe space that is free of judgment, a site in which one can allow their cruel thoughts to be revealed uncensored and crude. By virtue of its function, this place should be a secular one and not attached to religious doctrine as all dogma is a form of control. Some therapists I follow on Instagram speak out loud in defense of adopting the Jungian concept of the shadow self. It is meant to refer to aspects of one’s personality that we do not always want to acknowledge, or the unknown, ‘dark side’. Through complex systems of validation and conditioning, we recognize what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes, and unconsciously or consciously filter them into our conscious mind. I think we often confuse our personality with our emotions. My therapist once alerted me to the importance of making a significant difference between what one is feeling and what one is. For example, in a moment of worry, you are the person experiencing anxiety. This doesn’t necessarily make you an anxious person.
But these subtleties become apparent only when one is able to reach one’s own shadow self, when one puts oneself in a position of vulnerability, enough to admit that one is experiencing a feeling that is not commonly known. are typically listed as negative, such as jealousy, anger, despair, sadness. Embracing the shadow self involves leaning into these feelings, acknowledging how they manifest within you, and then mining for information about the situation that is responsible for the emotion. This way I am understanding the situations that ‘trigger’ me to behave in certain ways. Doing emotional labor has helped me reach a more nuanced understanding of my motivations. My hope is that I can create an equally safe space for my child so that they can grow up without shame and that they can control their behavior from a more empowered place, not for fear of being punished or humiliated for the feelings they feel. They will, undoubtedly, feel it.
I wonder whether this kind of accommodation, creating a safe space for belonging, is always referred to as a sacred head space, a place of churning that fosters creative energy. I also wonder if this is somehow connected with an increase in my worldly sensations of bliss. I have found myself withdrawing from the world, withdrawing internally, rejoicing in the physical and psychological forms of domesticity. There is less and less need to share it with the world in more ostentatious ways. Instead I prefer more procedural forms of expression, like this column, in which I post my thoughts rather than posting things to like or even increase my own readership. I can align more carefully. I no longer need proof that I am being read, or that my words can have an effect on anyone. What matters most is nurturing this place as a place that is aware of its limits and is constantly expanding to make room for the future.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Roslyn D’Mello is a distinguished art critic and author of A Handbook for My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper.