One month ago today, I gave birth to my daughter Milagro.
Several hours after the birth, a compassionate postpartum nurse was helping me prepare to walk across the room for the first time.
Your only job right now is to stand up, she said, putting her arm around my waist. Don’t even worry about taking a step. Just focus on finding the ground. I’ve got you.
While I’ve been fortunate to have mostly solid and reliable medical care in my birth experiences (a true privilege given the realities of the maternal care systems in the US) the afterbirth with both children has been painful and complicated.
In that moment, the pain was so severe the prospect of taking even one step felt inconceivable. Getting to the other side of the room felt like climbing an impossible summit.
Just focus on finding the ground.
It was some of the best advice I’ve gotten in a long time. I eventually made it to the bathroom, but only because she took the pressure off having to get there.
Have you experienced this paradox of process? The path cleared once I stopped obsessing about finding it.
Progress becomes possible when we allow ourselves to be exactly where we are.
This part of the creative process — whether it’s the afterbirth of a human or a creative work — is one we tend to ignore in our culture.
The moment a mother gives birth to her child she becomes invisible. Before a creator can even complete her creative project, everyone asks: so what’s next for you?
We have no cultural currency after we have birthed something. It can feel messy, disorienting, strange, sad, and mysterious, and by the standards of the cultural status quo, we aren’t “attractive” or “productive” in these states.
So we get 2 options: bounce back as quickly as possible, or let the world pretend you don’t exist.
But those options are:
- At odds with our human process
- HIGHLY SUCKY
So what if we’ve got it all backward? What if we are as essential when we are empty as when we are full?
And what if the period after we birth something – whether it’s a child, a film, a business, a book, a movement – is a portal to our next evolution?
Though we might feel empty in this part of our birth process — we’re actually in the process of birthing something else.
The postpartum phase of any creative process is when we give birth to a new self.
Creativity becomes us. Every meaningful creative project shapes us into the next version of ourselves, and the period after the birth is when we start to awaken to who we are evolving into.
When we release the pressure to bounce back or rush into plans and strategies we’re not yet ready for and summon the revolutionary courage to simply focus on standing (or sitting or lying down LET’S BE REAL) we can bear witness to the awesome transformation happening within us.
Maybe you’ve recently birthed a creative work or released a project into the world, and you, like me, find yourself navigating the shadowy and mysterious postpartum period right now.
Or maybe there’s an area of your life where you need to take the pressure off in order to get where you want to go.
Or maybe you birthed something or someone years ago, and feel like the you didn’t have the opportunity to grieve, transition, restore, integrate, and allow your new self to be born. And a part of you that is longing for that space.
The good news is — there’s no time limit here, and we’re not talking about a month-long sabbatical unless that’s what you need. Even just giving yourself a moment of awareness around this idea today can have miraculous affects on the next chapter of your creative life and work.
In some cultures, it’s believed that allowing a mother or birthing person time for restoration and integration will result in decades of good health. In my coaching practice I’ve been applying this principle to our relationship with our creative works and noticing a similar theme — honoring the space between projects in addition to the results brings richness and healing to your creativity for years to come.
So, to recap:
1. Progress becomes possible when we allow ourselves to be exactly where we are. Too much pressure blocks momentum.
2. We need to normalize the afterbirth and honor the postpartum period in all creative processes. Doing so supports our creative health, advances our creative process, and unlocks new depths in our future creative work.
3. Who you are in transition is as personally and culturally valuable as who you are in the before/after.
And here are some initial inquiry points, when you are in the afterbirth of anything:
- What’s present? How am I really? What do I need right now?
- What am I taking with me? What do I wish to leave behind?
- What’s emerging? Who am I becoming?
If you want to explore more of this alongside of me, I’m going to be starting my own Creative 15, which is my free 15-minute/15-day creativity experience that is designed to spark creativity during transitional periods in our lives and work.
You can start at any time, and beginning the day after you sign-up, you’ll get a daily email for 15 days with a prompt and some key ideas to cultivate space, joy, sovereignty, and wholeness in your creative process, without the pressure of results.
Join many of the members in this newsletter community who have been using this practice for years to breathe new life into their creative work – it’s a small commitment that’s proven to have a massive impact on our collective creativity.
If you want to do it with me, you can sign-up at any time.
This Creative 15 is actually going to be the beginning of a longer creative commitment I’m making over the next year — which I’ll share more about with you soon.
In the meantime, in case no one else has told you this recently:
Who you are right now — exactly as you are — is beautiful. Powerful. Essential. Who you are right now is who we need to build the new world.