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Walking Through Life's Portals: An Extraordinary Ordinariness

A reflection on the postpartum period and a reminder that these transitions begin at birth and continue throughout the entirety of life. We need support, reminders, and a community of people to explore and experience alongside. You can also view my interview with the Colorado Department of Public Health at the bottom of this post.

In 2019, as my daughter Alice was born, I went through a portal. The portal I walked through was the one I needed to walk through to bring my daughter, (a brand new life!), into this world. There was no language to describe what I was experiencing, there was no container to help me walk this path between "physical life" and "the unknown, unformed realm" from which we emerge from the womb.

When a mother gives birth she goes through a transformation. Yes, a mother is born, and a previous version of that person is grieved. This shift is something that culturally is starting to be recognized a little more frequently. But there's more to it. This more is something that we have a hard time talking about, because there are no words... that woman, that mother, she touches the mystery, the creative consciousness of becoming...and sometimes that mystery stays with her for a while. Anyone who is actively grieving understands this same quality as physical birth and death are intricately connected, a seamless meeting of the round of a circle.

Some cultures say that as long as a child's fontanelle is open they remain in touch with "the mystery or the spirit world." After it closes (around 2 or so) children begin their first stage of separation. It is the beginning of the birth of their ego or in the language I use, a"separate self." They start to perceive the world differently, experiencing life, which once felt like a connected whole, as no longer one with them. It is the age of "mine," and "no!" From 2-7, children remain in an "age of innocence" and magical thinking.

Around 8 or 9 years old the child explores a next layer of becoming an individuated self. At the age of that separation, in the Waldorf tradition, the transition is called "the loss of innocence." It is when children begin to understand death and impermanence, and leave behind the magical thinking and expansiveness of the younger years. In western language there is a" neurological shift in brain development" and the hormones change. And so it continues into adolescence, and young adulthood, and eventually adulthood, until one day perhaps, we decide we would like to explore again this undivided connected wholeness that we once knew intrinsically.

When we give birth to a child there are also enormous shifts in hormones and brain chemistry. We touch the mystery and otherworldliness of creation through ourselves and through our children. What if so much that we label as "postpartum anxiety and depression, even psychosis" is also a mis-understanding of the portals and places women have to go to in order to bring life into embodiment?

For many of us the birth of a child is our next chance to touch that mystery that we left behind when our own fontanelle's closed. It is a chance to return, but with a new understanding, to the realms of magical thinking and expanded consciousness that we may have completely left behind as children.

It is so "common place" to have a child, and yes it is an ordinary act! But it, is an extraordinary ordinariness that needs recognition, support, and different ways of being understood. This journey of meeting these developmental phases, portals, births, deaths, and transformations continues well past what we typically recognize as a "postpartum period." It is the journey of all of parenthood and all of life.

I recently participated in the Colorado Department of Public Health's program "Real Stories About Parenting, Pregnancy, and Mental Health." I told my story of asking for and receiving help for "postpartum anxiety."

The whole series of videos is available at this site. My specific video is at the end of this post. The project from CDPH is a great start to beginning to provide a container for parenting and postpartum.

In my private practice I aim to help my clients, whether they are parents, teenagers, or otherwise to find the right containers for their experiences, to normalize this extraordinary walk through life in ways that allow us to thrive, grow, and receive support in its many forms.

Text or email to schedule an introductory phone call.

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Paige Doughty is a personal counselor and creative business coach. My approach helps clients free themselves from the confines of their own patterned thoughts to live in the present with authenticity and joy. I draw from Eastern spiritual traditions, 14 plus years of spiritual study and practice and my experience as an educator, performer, doubt-filled teenager, and mother to guide people toward living without suffering.

Are you ready to step off of the “wheel of suffering” and experience the “un-caused joy” of life that lies within?

Text or email to schedule an introductory phone call.


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