By C. B. Cabeen
My oldest child turns five this month, and I’ve been looking back at my journals from the first two weeks after she was born. I haven’t seen a lot of postpartum writing I resonate with, so I wanted to share a couple journal excerpts related to Samhain. I’ve edited them to connect pieces and make the images less fragmentary.
It’s late October and strangely appropriate that our place is so full of spiders, as if we were living in a haunted house. Trick-or-treating decades ago seems more real than now does, and seeing cobwebs on everything confirms it: we’re living in a memory of the past.
I read somewhere that it’s not just our ancestors who come back at this time of year, but our pasts and our old wounds, too. That’s what having a child at Samhaintide has done: split me open and brought my own childhood and my mom’s stories about becoming a mother closer to me than the things I did in grad school a year or two ago. I’m caught in emotional vertigo, with a chasm of past open in front of me and calling me down.
Where did those days go, anyway? How did we come to this? I know full well in my head how my parents died, but it doesn’t have much emotional truth right now. It feels like one of those moments that sometimes happens in a dream, when you notice an inconsistency and start to wake, until your mind comes up with a pat in-dream explanation (“oh, they’re dead!”). You don’t realize it makes no sense until later, when you really do wake up. How could my parents be dead? We should still be living together. That’s the order of the world. I learned that when I was young. Of course they’re still here somewhere! I simply misplaced them, like a kid sobbing in the mall.
And I’m worried too about not being there for my daughter. Worried, terrified, I don’t know–devastated? It’s like I’m already not there for her, even though I have her in my lap and my foot is going to sleep. I remember yesterday being distracted on my laptop while she was nursing, and then turning back and seeing she had her eyes open, big and liquid, and I wondered how I could possibly have let myself be distracted. She was so beautiful, and I just wanted to let her know that she was worth my whole attention, not someone who had to play second fiddle to a computer screen. I’ve been dogged lately by the fear of abandoning people and sense that I’ve been abandoned–but I feel like I’m incarnating someone else’s pain here, too: my mom’s? Because surely she wished for something else from her mom and siblings, and certainly from Dad, when he was looking at his computer screens.
So, now I’m Mom. My body and mind seem to be taking to it naturally, too, like they already know what to do most of the time. And I don’t know how I know how to give birth or make milk, but there it is. I’m doing it. And changing diapers, too.
The new world is gaping open in front of me, stretching and crowning, pushing through. It came to me the other day that I don’t need to know what I’m doing–not with my head, anyway. From here on out, our road maps are written in our bodies, and inscribed in our hearts instead of our minds.
This is the time of year when the rains come back like our ancestors. The new green grass is poking up through the silvery bones of its forebears, as the season turns toward the lush, dark part of the year. Where was I when the new grass greened? I was incubating at home with my freshly born baby, who sprang out five or six days after the rains came back, just like the grass did.
This season’s got a truth: That the past is part of the emerging moment, not part of some drawn out timeline that keeps it long ago. That I offer milk to my ancestors every time I pick up my daughter and nurse. That the past is most present every time we’re reborn.
Happy Samhain, kiddo.
C. B. Cabeen is a pagan who identifies loosely with Reclaiming. Her spiritual work focuses on storytelling and parenting her four year old and one year old, but occasionally she finds enough time away from them to tweet for Pagan Families.