Birth Story #9 Nadine Richter
From France, living in Mallorca
When did you become a mother?
I became a mother 15 and a half years ago, at the age of 24. It was a conscious decision to have children early, as I wanted to be a young mother. The timing felt just right.
What need did you feel back then to become a mother?
I have always felt like I have a lot of love to give. Perhaps the need I felt was the need to give love.
How do you understand motherhood?
Being a mother is how I choose to serve in this life. I see motherhood as the spiritual expansion of my being. It invites me to continue to become my ever evolving self. I see motherhood as a very conscious journey. To me, growing into consciousness is daily hard work. Letting go of the need to control my children or want them to be a certain way, opens up a path of trust and wonder that interests me. My children are my teachers. I’m sure I learn more from them than they will ever learn from me. I find it a delicate quest to find a balance between taking charge and surrendering when interacting with my children. There is beauty in both. The work of showing up, every day, doing my best -that best will be better or worse depending on the moment-, making amends, expressing needs and boundaries, clearly and simply being present. This takes a lot of dedication. It is so much more difficult than I would ever have thought to truly see and accept my children for who they are. That takes me to see and accept myself for who I am.
Did you ever imagine that you would have 4 children?
Yes. I come from a big family, I have 3 siblings. I wanted to be a mother from as far back as I can remember. Being the eldest of 4, I was used to taking care of my siblings and my earliest memories are of playing dolls with my sister and dressing up my brother in our dresses. My partner too is the eldest of 4, so the vision of a big family came naturally to both of us.
How different were your 4 pregnancies?
My 4 pregnancies were very similar in the sense that I absolutely loved being pregnant and I had very easy, uncomplicated pregnancies. I had odd cravings with each of them. That is how I differentiate the memories I have of them! Ice cubes, gherkins, meat (I have been a vegetarian since I am 18!). I have the fondest memories of carrying my babies. I have never felt more beautiful than whilst pregnant. The pride and honor of carrying a life is powerful. I was in awe of my body and my skin. The transformation of my being fascinated me.
Could you tell us a bit about the births?
I gave birth to all 4 babies naturally. The first birth was quite intense, because I planned on giving birth in a birthing house in Berlin, but when my waters broke they were dark green, so I had to be admitted to hospital urgently. I was very lucky, because, after a fog of doctors advice and some confusing hours of labour, a wonderful midwife arrived after a change of shift. She looked me in the eyes and told me she knew I could do this. She sent the doctors out of the room and told me to visualize a volcano erupting and then to be that volcano! And i did! I erupted and L was born. I will never forget that midwife. She spoke to the wild woman in me and reminded me of my power. The next 3 births were very similar, in the sense that they all took place within the warm and cosy rooms of the birthing house. I knew what my body and mind were capable of.
Each birth experience mirrored the personalities of my children. My kids love to hear the stories of their births because the ways in which they were born are so true to who they are. For me, they were the most primal and instinctive moments of my life. I met my wildest most powerful self and that will stay with me forever. It is hard to describe what it is like to know what to do. Like your body just knows what it needs. And the power of the mind in letting go. I felt like an animal. I felt like a woman. I think that with every birth, I became more of the woman I am today. Because every time, I caught a glimpse of the power that resides inside of me.
How important would you say it is today for women to understand what they are capable of? And to understand our own power?
In my opinion, authenticity is freedom. The more free a woman is, the more powerful she becomes. There is nothing more exciting and beautiful than a free woman. That is why I think it is so important for us to find our authentic self. It is through my own growth that I have come to truly understand how necessary it is for women to reclaim their power. I am still breaking out of layers, one after the other. It’s like I have been wearing glasses all my life and I am removing the filters through which I have lived my childhood and early adult life. Gender inequality, the depth of the patriarchy, the pain of women in this world, white privilege, western world privilege, the superficiality of consumerism, the role models we are force fed through the media. Like a loud speaker in my mind. Lowering the volume and opening my senses and my heart to my inner world have taken me on a truth seeking journey.
I am looking for answers in history. Learning about my ancestors, about where I come from. But also the history of women. There was a time when women where honored and worshipped. The visions they had during their monthly period where what the men based their decisions on. I am looking for answers in nature. The knowledge we once had about the plants and the trees, our natural habitat, has been taken from us and yet, we are lost without it. I am looking for answers in sisterhood. The destructive patterns of comparison, competition and envy have created a society where women are lonely. I believe only compassion and empathy can teach us to hold each other as we once did. To stop judging each other and rather help each other rise. This process begins within ourselves. To speak to ourselves with compassion and empathy and to stop judging ourselves. Only then can we extend this to other women. I have to remind myself every day not to compare myself, not to judge others and not to gossip about other women. I am looking for answers inside of myself. Every time I embrace my truth and speak it, I gain a little bit of power. It’s like training a muscle.
Exploring the wild side of myself has been a good compass. By wild I mean the emotional, intense, spontaneous, brave and unpredictable sides we all have. What does it mean to be wild? We are all so moulded into being the same. I like to explore my own boundaries. Not those set by society. Making my own agreements with myself and re-examining the agreements I live by. Did I actually choose them consciously? If so, do I choose them again today?
After experiencing four births, could you share some advice for the postpartum time?
Listen to yourself and your needs. Whether it is quiet, sleep, a hot water bottle, help, food, music, a cry, a good talk with a friend, a break or whatever... Take this time as an invitation to voice your needs and to trust yourself and your intuition. Don’t expect anyone, not even your partner, to know what you need and when. Therefore, it is so important to listen to your own inner voice. Be vulnerable and soft. Take your time. The world will still be there when you emerge. The magic of the moment is once in a lifetime. Everything and everyone else can wait.
As children grow up, does it get easier or harder?
I think it becomes more interesting. It all depends on your willingness to grow, I would say. There is a major shift that occurs when your child begins to reject you. This is a natural occurrence and it is so important for the child to create its own boundaries and formulate its own opinions about things and learn to voice their will. However, they can be clumsy about it and it can get very hurtful. When they are younger, your role as their guide is quite clear and they are generally accepting of it. They look up to us and love us above everything else and take our word as truth. When they hit puberty and the hormones are all over the place, they have deep voices and are two heads taller than you, things change. They trigger you and challenge anything you say, rejecting most of it… These are moments that demand an insane amount of consciousness. To pause and breath, to not take it personally. To act rather than react, to pick your battles wisely and to be impeccable with your word. This is very difficult.
It takes a great amount of courage and will to put my pride aside and apologize for reacting too quickly or discharging emotions onto my kids. But these are the most rewarding moments. Showing them I am just human and that we all make mistakes. To show up and simply be a kind, honest human being who takes responsibility for their actions and words. I don’t believe in authority. I believe in respect and accountability. But it's hard work. I have always tried to let my kids lead the way, following their changes and therefore the way that we interact with each other. Their questions and needs have changed over the years and I have given them the space to approach me when the time is right. Instinctively, I have tried to take a step back and trust that they will lead the way, while staying very open to anything that they bring to me.
In which ways would you say that motherhood has changed you?
Motherhood gives me a deep sense of purpose and I realized early on that I am fascinated by the experience of parenting. The layers I have shed of things I thought I have to do, roles I thought I have to fulfill, society’s expectations on us as women, as mothers. Shedding these layers is a long process and such a relief. Allowing me to keep getting closer to my core as a woman and therefore as a mother.
I consider motherhood a fundamental part of my journey to myself. Being a conscious parent demands authenticity, which demands vulnerability and in my experience vulnerability is the most creative state of being. Understanding the power of vulnerability as a parent changed my life. Because I became a mother at a young age, the mother and woman inside of me are interwoven. I was a very young woman before I became a mother. Today I would call myself a mature woman and a huge part of that is thanks to my experience as a mother. Motherhood has made me softer, more emotional, stronger, it has taught me gratitude. Motherhood is like an all or nothing ride. It will show you the darkest, most frightening parts of your soul, as well as your brightest light, kindest and most loving self. With kids at home, it's like therapy 24/7! A constant invitation to show up. To do better. To laugh more, to listen harder, to play more, to remember the child in you… Motherhood has also taught me compassion. Compassion towards mothers, including myself. The bond that binds two women as mothers is unique. I have travelled around the world and some of my deepest encounters were with other mothers with whom I could hardly communicate, but we knew we had so much in common. A look of compassion goes straight to the soul. Motherhood is an essential part of my life. It is an honor to witness my children’s stories unfold and to be mindful about the role I play in them. Motherhood is a huge responsibility. We are constantly creating memories with our children, laying the fundament for their future adult selves. And yet, for me, the most delicate part is keeping their lights as bright as possible. Like a lighthouse protecting a flame.
Did you read any particular books or make any particular course to help you in this path?
The three books I would most recommend, those that profoundly touched and changed me, are: “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and my parenting bible, “The Conscious Parent” by Shefali Tsabary. I did 18 months of intense work with a wonderful life coach whom I never met in person, all my sessions were online. Her name is Terri George. She inspired me to want to become a coach myself and accompany others on their own journey. She taught me to dig deep inside. I then did just that and took a course to become a life coach at the Dr. Bock academy in Berlin. Another element that really changed my life was the women’s circle I held in Berlin for 12 months. This opened up a whole other dimension of healing to my life. I can highly recommend, to any woman reading this, to join a women’s circle or to host your own.
How do you find time for yourself?
This is something I had to learn and am still learning. I used to only take time if it suited everyone around me. But I have learned that I need to take time when I need it. Even if it's not ideal for my kids and partner. I am learning to be more in tune with my cycle and to be kind to myself. We are so wired to be productive and achieving. Society can be so judgmental. As a woman, I see it as my duty to reclaim my right to be soft, slow, sad, tired, emotional, hormonal, and to celebrate it. To take time for all of me. Not only the strong, happy and productive me. So I take time very single day. I often ask myself: how am I loving myself today? Whether it's a half an hour in the garden with a tea staring at the wind in the trees. A moment reading a book on the couch, even though the washing needs to be hung and the floor needs a sweep. Or even a day’s hike up a mountain alone. I find it helpful to communicate my me-time to my family members. Rather than stealing a moment here or there, consciously communicating it to my partner and kids, so they know I am not available. I encourage them to do the same.
Could you tell us an example? How did you love yourself this very day?
Today, I took a walk in the rain and cried. Because sometimes it’s all too much and the emotions need to come out. I then danced to my current favorite song “People I’ve Been Sad” by Christine and the Queens. Another moment I really enjoyed was walking bare feet with my daughters through muddy puddles and wet grass. Sometimes, doing something for my inner child gives me so much joy and energy. And finally, sitting here, drinking tea, answering these questions, has been a moment with myself I thoroughly enjoyed.
Has the relationship to your own mother changed since you became a mother?
When I was younger, being the eldest of 4 in a family where boundaries were blurred, I took on a lot of responsibility. When I had my first child, a shift took place inside of me: it became clear to me that I was solely responsible for this child and for myself. Not for anyone else. I was able to begin the process of letting go of the roles I had taken on within the dynamics of my family as a child in order to take on my new role as a mother. Becoming a mother myself opened up my heart. I was able to see my mother as a woman. I learned to let go of judgment and resentment and that allowed space for forgiveness and empathy.
I became a mother around the same time as when I experienced a shift in perspective, as I think we all do sooner or later, when I began to see my parents as fellow human beings, no longer through the lens of a child. This was a fundamental change in our dynamics. I recognized my mother had done her very best as a mother and that I was immensely grateful to her.
It is a powerful experience to watch my mother be a grandmother to my children. This has brought us very close over the years. She is a source of unconditional love and support in my life, today more than ever. I treasure the gift this is. I have never been closer to my mother than I am today. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, for her story and for her choices. She is a big inspiration to me. So yes, the relationship to my mother changed after I became a mother myself. I have always tried to honor my children’s relationship to my parents without influencing their relationship. I try to be mindful about what and how much I tell my children about my parents. The glimpses I get into my children's thoughts are fascinating because they have their own feelings, intuition, and perspectives on everything. Now that my eldest children are old enough to discuss and reflect differently, they are beginning to ask more questions about my past and the dynamics in my family. We can discuss in a more mature way. I enjoy this and love hearing their thoughts. They are mostly very refreshing and remind me how personal our past is. How filtered through our minds and emotional experiences it is. I am so grateful to be part of this circle of life in this way. Being able to enjoy my parents and children, all at once.
Which is in your opinion the best advice for a new mother?
You have all the answers inside. Calm the outside noise and advice! Listen to your inside world. Trust your intuition. You are enough. You know your baby the best. You know your children the best. What is right for some, may not be right for you. Communicate your needs and wishes. Speak up.
— Photos: Nadine Richter.