Stephanie and Katie engage in a composite dialogue that demonstrates the unrest and confusion women can feel when their Mama Bear ferocity wakes up during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Oftentimes these sweet, pleasant, docile women are deeply shaken by their rage and volatility, particularly when it’s directed toward those they love most.
Where Katie’s previous episode “Princess and the People Pleaser” addressed what it means to be a woman in the birth space and breaking down stereotypes, this episode looks more specifically at the postpartum experience and the place for anger and rage and how those emotions are an important part of being a mother.
Katie shares her Mama Bear awakening story, which she felt was more gradual. She never felt like she fit the mold of what society expected of a woman. Plus, she is the oldest of seven children and had already tested those “mothering” qualities within herself. But her Mama Bear really revved up during pregnancy as she learned to navigate day to day health choices–she felt very protective of her unborn child and wanted to make the best possible choices on the baby’s behalf. As a mother a lot of Mama Bear energy comes out in protecting her children’s health and wellness. Anger and ferocity does come out occasionally, particularly in her doula work. Big Mama Bear rage can come out after a birth if she encountered cultural issues, couple dynamics, or a client’s loss of autonomy.
Stephanie shares her Mama Bear awakening story who relates to Katie in feeling like a Tom Boy who didn’t fit the feminine mold. Once she hit puberty, things got confusing as huge emotions opened up. She always felt a very strong fire in her belly her whole life that she believes is her Mama Bear energy. But, when she started to call upon that fire in order to cope in a challenging childhood environment with an emotionally and verbally abusive father, she felt a lot of shame for being so “unfeminine.” She was sassy, disrespectful, combative, and subordinate in order to keep her head above water. Once she left the house and went to college she tried to suppress that Mama Bear side of her out of shame and a desire to be more feminine. When she got married and had her first baby–she couldn’t hold her back anymore. So much rage and grief was unleashed during her postpartum.
So often new mother’s are so broken and ashamed of their own bigness. They feel that they are the worst mothers. Who becomes a mom, has a baby, and is suddenly screaming and exploding with wrath at her newborn or toddler or spouse? It so often leads to self-deprecation. Stephanie seeks to validate their desire to be a good mother and to not scream at their undeserving loved ones. AND, she equally seeks to validate the anger itself. Anger is actually not the problem but rather how it’s being directed.
Katie points out that men, in our society, are often told that anger is the only appropriate emotion to feel, and yet for women it’s bad. And women are supposed to feel soft and gentle and kind and men are ashamed to feel those ways. Stephanie teaches some basic concepts of what emotions are–that none of them are good or bad, but neutral. Emotions are messengers, and we don’t shoot the messenger for delivering unpleasant news. Every emotion plays an important role for us, especially in the birth space. Emotions are energy that want to be in motion, not stuffed down or suppressed. Suppressed emotions turn into an internal atomic bomb that is uncontrollable and wildly disproportionate. Many of us tell ourselves that feeling sadness, anger, or grief is weakness, but really it’s humanity–it’s an integral part of being human. Some emotions are heavy and others are light.
We have been lied to that it is unfeminine to be angry or rageful. That keeps women small. That is the suppression of women. Anger is the only emotion strong enough to get you to change something. The second part of anger is to move us toward protection of someone we love. Mama Bear uses her fierceness in protection of those she loves. If you have been conditioned to keep her locked up in hibernation your whole life and she’s awake now, it’s not uncommon for her to be attacking the very ones she intends to protect. That’s because she’s hungry and angry. She’s been ignored and pushed aside. That anger is your self-love that you have suppressed your whole life. That self-love is exploding out of you. Sometimes it takes the immense burden of caring for an infant in order for that Mama Bear to finally lash out and break out of her chains. But she is the voice of your wanting life to be fulfilling and something more. That is beautiful and sometimes scary but not something to suppress.
If you are willing, make that first courageous step to say: “Hello, anger. You get to be here. I’m not going to push you away anymore. I’m not going to self-deprecate. Hello, anger.” Say this with me: I will be heard. I will be seen. I will get my needs met. I will fiercely protect those I love. I will embrace my power. And this power is holy, good, and necessary.
To learn more about Stephanie’s work, visit bhavabirth.com and follow her on Instagram @bhava_birth.