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How it all started - The moment I thought about Mothers Circles for the first time

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

When I first had the idea of creating the Mother Circle, we were in a worldwide lock-down, my daughter was just over a year old. She was already a runner and I could barely keep up with her. I had been a lone mother since she was the size of a strawberry in my belly. Since the day they told me she was really there, bookedmy first midwife appointment and I left the hospital feeling invincible, as you do when you eventually discover that you have been included in the miracle of creation.

Since that day, time had felt like one long inbreathe, and I hadn't really had the time to process what was happening. Sofia was about 5 months old when the lock-down started and we had to make almost no adjustments to our life to adapt to that. Like many other parents of a few months old baby, we realised we had been in a 2-people-bubble since birth. When everything started, It was early morning and I had not slept for a minute, with my 15 month old daughter going from one breast to the other all night. Strangely enough that day I was feeling the same pull and pain you feel when you first start breastfeeding after giving birth. I was trying to get breakfast going, singing to myself, thinking this is the day we are going to get out of the house. After all how hard it can be, I was telling myself: "all you need to do is to just get showered, get the little one wrapped up and go down the stairs into the empty world out there. We don't even need to be clean, just dry and warm, you can do it, before it gets dark, before the rain comes in, before lunch time comes.... before she poops next time, before I get the next migraine, before ... before...." everything felt too much and overwhelming to predict, prepare for and deal with. I was just fine, trying not to feel too helpless or lonely, trying not to feel disappointed at things going not nearly close to how I desired them, I was stirring the porridge while a soothing mantra sang in the room, I chanted along, " it's ok, the news say that there is a killing virus out there it's normal to feel anxious, it's ok to worry that your child has abnormal behaviour she is a child of the lock down." It was all good that day until my daughter asked for juice, I mindfully squeeze 2 oranges, my wrists were sore from all the lifting and the buggy pushing, but of course I wanted to give her the best, she is my only child, I am her only family, I won't buy a cheap juice from the supermarket. I put the freshly squeezed juice in her bottle and quickly got back to the stove to a half burned porridge telling myself: "what the hell, you have two tasks, porridge and orange juice, it's not that difficult, you used to manage a team of people in 3 languages once, you can't fail these". I felt my rage turning against me. "I have not slept for months, that's what it is, I need to sleep more, it's my only chance to keep sane."

Sofia was dancing around in the kitchen with her juice I remember having to put a load of washing on, I went next door to gather the dirty laundry and this is when I heard splash! boom, waaaaaa a crying baby, that familiar much loved little voice that is perforating my brain day after day. I run back to the kitchen still holding a load of dirty clothes, the orange juice is all over the floor, my baby was screaming uncontrollably, I had not closed her bottle properly, tears start rising in my eyes, my nose itched at the smell of burned porridge, my heart sank, the world was ending, I wanted to hide in a cave of failure and the remote possibility of making it out today before dark, before rain, before cold, before before is lost forever, I crashed. I dumped the dirty load of washing on the puddle of spilt juice, I sat on it, my head was feeling hot, my breast bursting with milk wanting to fly into my baby's mouth, Nature knew where to go, what to do, but I didn't anymore. I was setting the porridge on fire and I didn't care, because I had two tasks and I failed both. It was as early as 10 am and my day was in despair.

Sofia came on my lap and latched at my bursting breast, while I felt the warmth of her nappy filling up with another poop on my legs. As she sucked on my nipples the centre of my belly pulled in and I felt an unfamiliar letting go, after more than 2 years of absence my menstrual cycle was coming back and I bled and bled and bled over the pile of washing over the spilled orange juice. The kitchen was silent, the house was silent, the town was locked down in silence. The whole world fell silent for a moment. I couldn't move, my little girl's eyes looked piercingly at me with that wonder and innocence, that made me cry, and think that I have lived in the jungle, I travelled across the world many times on my own, I was a strong capable intelligent woman that used to be beautiful too! I was a shaman, a meditator, a yogi... but right now all I could see was a three layered mess made of baby poo, menstrual blood and spilled orange juice. Who was I kidding with healthy snacks and weaning plans? I hugged my baby into my breast and I looked back at her with a smile. Then I reached out for the stove and saved the house from fire, I opened the closest cupboard and ate my feelings and fears in the shape of biscuits and dreamt of a magic hand that would make me a cup of tea right then and there on that floor. I had not spoken to a soul for weeks, I thought: "this is insane, something is broken in me, something is broken in us, something is broken with mothers, with society, with the expectation that we can do this alone, and do it well."

So from my perspective of a lone parent in a foreign country, I wondered how other mothers cope with having to deal with a partner while doing all of this, or with an hypercritical mother or mother in law and I laughed at the certainty that there were thousand of women out there, in that same moment, in every corners of the world, surrounded by partners, husbands, mothers and mothers in law, equally thinking how could single mums cope with all of this motherhood deal, lock-down etc, totally on their own. It can be hard in many ways, and in whatever way you look at it, we cannot escape it.

Suddenly that intense feeling of loneliness evaporated away from me to leave space to a warm and light feeling of forgiveness and compassion for myself and everyone. It takes a village they say, and we are all sitting alone in various corners of the same village crying alone, lock-down or not, there was not much difference. If anything, during the lock down we had to face that motherhood and fatherhood are very lonely isolating experiences, when we need others the most we are driven to disconnection and isolation. How did we get to this? While I was having all those thoughts, Sofia and I stayed on that floor, without even thinking who was going to clean that layered mess, and all I could think about was what could be done, what magic formula could be brewed to make all this slightly more baring and possible for every mother in any capacity. Mostly I thought about what I could do myself, just a mother alone with very little resources. Soon I realised my resources opened up an infinite number of possibilities. Mother Circles idea was born that same night. I did clean up that day, I also called a friend and laughed about how despair can take us so quickly and then quickly again we rise and choose the light, because after all I always choose the light in my life. I have always chosen life. This quality was passed on by my mother, it's clear to me now that I am a mother too. My mum, who never consciously meant to pass anything on to me, role-modelled these incredible survival skills: - choosing the light in the darkest of the nights - using all our resources to be of service to others, even when we think there is nothing left for ourselves. All skills that only mothers can generate from nothing, a capacity to surrender to the heart that only women can root into, even when everything else seems lost, and everyone else seems to have gone. I honour my mother for giving me the most fundamental survival skill of all times, and the women in my lineage of ancestors that passed it on to her.

That evening, I was very much relieved from my bleeding. It was like a rite of passage back into my woman's body after a long time being in my postpartum body. My animal body landed and felt safe in itself. After bathing and singing to Sofia, I sat at my desk and wrote the Mother Circle program. A safe space for mothers to find their tribe, share their stories, foster connection, self-care, come back to themselves and tap into their inner healer to look into possible wounds created in any of the stages motherhood. Soon after I received a grant to run Mother Circles for The Planetary Healing Center in their magical woodland in Balerno, and to run these gatherings in a Nature Connection style. We have received new funding for 2023 too and I am thrilled for how much can be done in this second year. The rest has been a sacred journey into healing and transformation, not just for the mothers on the Circles but for me in the first place. Today, almost two years later, I sat in circle with several mothers, explored different stages of the motherhood journey from the time we were socialised to be women to our fertility journey, into our pregnancy and birthing experience, up to the challenges and joy of mothering a baby, a toddler, a child. As my heart opened to my own healing, one woman at the time, one heart at the time opened too. I still trust my longing for this powerful work from mother to mothers, it has been humbling and empowering, and the more I go on the more I realise how needed it was, especially at the end of isolation. Like my mentor said once: " Keep offering your gift, every flower offers its all to life, it's sweetest scent and richest nectar, there is no guarantee that it will attract the bees or on how many bees it will attract but it offers its gift. If we touch but a few hearts truly in this life it is a blessing beyond blessings ".

Roberta Giovedi

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