Motherhood exiled me from the world I knew at the same time that the pandemic isolated all of us from each other. This was, shall we say, not fun. My life broke in two: there was Life A, before motherhood, and Life B, after. I abandoned a cushy postdoc, turned down the ever-elusive tenure track offer, and shifted my attention to understanding the condition of modern motherhood.
I wanted to know if I was alone in experiencing motherhood as identity loss. (I was not.) I wanted to know if motherhood was a structure like other structures that we know to be constructed by power—gender, race, nation. (It is.) Then why, I wondered, had I never in ten+ years of Humanities training, heard a critique of the structure of motherhood? I searched for thought leaders on the subject and found many: Alexandra Sacks, the reproductive psychiatrist; Adrienne Rich, the feminist author of Of Woman Born; Oyeronke Oyewumi, the sociologist of co-mothering as feminism, to name just a few. But they were operating in the big “out-there” and most mothers I knew needed help with the here and now. We were the mothers that novelist Lauren Groff describes seeing "in glimpses, bent like shepherdess crooks, scanning the floor for tiny Legos or half-chewed grapes or the people they once were, slumped in the corners.” When you are bent like a shepherdess crook, you don’t have time to wait for structural change. You are politically atomized; you barely have time to google a therapist for yourself. But even when I turned to the private solution of a postpartum coach or therapist, I found that they were apportioned among two unhelpful camps. The first was physical: how to tighten your pelvic floor after birth and your belly after pregnancy, as if baby weight were the only burden mothers craved to shed. The second was instructional: how to be better at nursing or breathing deeply or whatever the fuck is supposed to magic away the reality that a baby collapses time and space. Without support designed for the type of person I am--an intellectual who identifies with my mind--I suffered, despite loving my son more than life, despite having a son who is luminous and fun. I could not then, and cannot now, bear the thought of other mothers enduring what I did. And so I set out to create a service designed specifically for intellectual mothers. To complement my doctoral training in narratives of trauma and recovery, I went back to school for Jungian depth psychology, and received my certification as a Jungian life coach. Unlike traditional coaching that focuses on surface beliefs and behaviors whose "fixes" are usually temporary, Jungian coaching harnesses neuroscience and the psychology of Carl Jung to access unconscious barriers to change. For instance, I work with clients' unconscious mother archetypes to uncover why they believe they need to behave in a particular manner, thereby freeing their path to the motherhood they actually want. I also structure our services to meet the unique needs of the different stages of motherhood; our postpartum option, for instance, is offered over audio messaging so that new mothers can send and receive support outside of standard time, even at 3am with baby in hand. For many, motherhood is a make-or-break experience for identity, for economic prosperity, for professional and creative futures, for marriage and friendship and community. Had I been the only empowered woman to lose herself in motherhood, I would have chosen to solve my problems privately and move on. But I am not alone. And nor, dear fellow mothers, are you. Together, we will make it better.