Halos and hailstones

Meditation, Mental health, Motherhood

We can be saved in tiny ways every day by people we meet, even just once.

Five years ago, a month after the birth of my first son, I was saved like this by a midwife at the Coombe hospital. I’d had four weeks of steadily worsening mental health. I knew a lot about depression – but this was something very different. My brain was being bombarded by a relentless onslaught of intrusive, nasty thoughts about harming my baby. These thoughts weren’t just occurring, say, every 10 minutes or so. They were happening every moment, every millisecond, with such frequency and force that I could not speak.

I didn’t understand what it was but I knew I was in trouble. I went back to the hospital and sat there. Words were not coming out, but I was crying. A lot.

This midwife took me into a small office, and said: ‘Just trust me. Do something with me, for a moment.’ I had no clue what it was at the time but I did what she said. I thought about my feet, I thought about my legs, I thought about my stomach, my heart, my breath. I followed her words and for a few minutes – moments really – I found absolute respite. Peace. It was Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, the crack: there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. Just enough light seeped in so I knew the dark could not end me. I went home to my baby, called my husband. He came home.

I know now that what the midwife was doing was something called a body scan. She had just completed training in mindfulness. She was able to help me slip out of my broken mind and into the comforting solidity of my body. She saved me, on that day.

I can’t tell you her name because I didn’t ask. She is one of the beautiful, hardworking midwives who save people like me, every single day.

I want to thank her.

being stable as a parent


Meditation, Motherhood

‘You, the unstable, must become a tree’

This is what we have to do as parents.

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter where you are, how often you have messed up, how many bad choices you have made, your roots come down when you have children. You stop letting the wind carry you here and carry you there. You stop looking over your shoulder.

You are the shoulder.

Before my three babies arrived, I was like a dandelion clock. I was fragile. I let life blow me around on its violent and gentle whims. I allowed my past to fully dictate my present, like a childish bully desperate for attention.

In the long months after my first son was born, as I clawed my way through a dark and stifling cloud of post-partum mental illness, I began to understand that I had to get stronger. A lot stronger.

I started to meditate.

By increments – and it took a few years – I started to see that the strength was already there. It is there in all of us. The tree had been planted. All I had to do was let it grow, let the good green leaves breathe in the cold fresh air. Sense its solid, immovable trunk. Observe its leaves fall and peek out again triumphantly, marking Spring. I already was the tree.

So are you.