Many moons ago I would have had to choose a life of devotion as a Priestess or a life as a wife and mother, today the Priestesses in our midst serve their community while fulfilling and experiencing many other roles in their life as well. There are Earth Mother Priestesses, 9-5 career Priestesses, religious Priestesses, spiritual Priestesses, healing, psychic, playful, travelling, hermitted, botanical, activist, artistic, loving, raging, loud, proud, quiet, rainbow hued Priestesses, ad infinitum. The Priestesses role in society has shifted as the tides of humanity have shifted and we are both gifted and challenged with the freedom to practice our calling and magic with the world as Priestess while also fulfilling varied roles in our lives and in the life of our community.
How my identification with my Priestess self shows up in each individual circumstance or challenge is unique and often a mystery to myself, this was most definitely the case over the past month as my pregnancy finished with complications and the first week of my new Maiden's life was fraught with disaster and devastation.
I have personally never questioned my strength, it is one personal quality of mine that, despite vastly dark lows and ridiculously dangerous situations that I have faced in life has never left my side. I have wondered how I would make it through certain challenges in life, and I have wondered if I would ever be happy again, but I never wondered if I would be strong enough to face whatever demon or chaotic moment of life I was in at the moment.
All of that changed on March 8, 2017, International Women's Day.
I had an inkling that things were not going to go as planned, the Goddess has been working a deep lesson through me this past year, that whatever I expect to be the outcome of a situation is never so and that there is no amount of preparing that I can truly do to be able to pre-navigate a situation. So, while I had made the best decisions that I could for my pregnancy, and due to complications, had agreed to a scheduled c-section two weeks prior to my due date, each plan that I laid down to ensure that my daughter have the proper entrance to this world was tinged with a sense of foreboding.
I connected with my guru, Shivani Howe*, and she did a personal reading for me around the entrance of my daughter, much of what she picked up about her spirit, soul and essence was exactly what I had been picking up, I took diligent notes and felt uplifted and excited to meet her, what I didn't add into my notes was the part that she channeled about there being a 'hiccup' after the birth that would begin to resolve itself after the Full Moon which was squaring Saturn that following Sunday; she told me to rebirth her into a bath of flowers a week after her birth. I didn't forget those words for one second during the next week of her and my life, but I didn't write them down, I didn't want them to be true, for I know that what looks like a hiccup on the other side can feel like a downright disaster on this side of the veil, and that is exactly what was so for me.
Although I had done a lot of research (always planning) and had found peace with a scheduled cesarean section, and am actually an advocate for any woman that chooses one now, the process itself was much more clinical and out of my hands than I had anticipated. One of the highlights that became apparent to me the morning of the 8th, and which was to become a theme for the next week of my life, was women. My dear daughter was coming on International Women's Day and I was surrounded by women the morning of my birth. My OB, my family doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist were all women of all ages and cultural backgrounds, as my husband waited to be called in to join us for the birth I looked around at a sea of blue clad women laughing, and preparing for the birth of my daughter and thought how beautiful and surreal it was to be in such a clinical setting with such rich women preparing to help me to welcome my Maiden into the world.
Without getting into the gory detail and length of a scheduled cesarean I will fast forward past the glorious first cry of my daughter, the blissful kisses I delivered to her cheek over and over as I whispered "I'm your Mommy," and go right into the recovery room where I had made it crystal clear that I would be doing immediate skin-to-skin and nursing immediately....as it is that was hospital policy and nothing I had to fight for, but I was prepared to fight for my daughter in my arms, on my skin and on my breast, little did I know what the future had in store for us.
My first daughter had been born one day shy of 41 weeks via emergency c section after a three day labour and attempted home birth, despite everything I had read about the bonding after a cesarean being impeded my first daughter taught me how to breastfeed, the midwife had left her in my arms promising to be right back to show me how to put her to breast, and Gracious wiggled herself onto my breast and didn't really come up for air for the next three years. She was 8'11 a voracious eater and attached to me or her father day and night.
Our new girl, Estrella, was born two weeks early at 7'7 the complete opposite sign and opposite appearance of Gracious. As I held her tiny body against my chest and introduced the breast to her, she confusingly refused the nipple. The nurse gave a little chuckle and suggested she might be tired, I picked her up and held her to me allowing her to rest. I tried again, again, no latch. I asked the nurse if there was any suggestions she had and as she looked up I noticed her furrow her eyebrow, "hmmmm," she wondered if she was struggling to breathe. I looked down at my perfect, sleepy girl and didn't see for a single second what she was seeing. Before I knew it she was calling another nurse into the room who was scooping her off of my chest and onto a gurney to measure the oxygen being saturated by Estrella, "this isn't something we can wait on," the nurse informed us. And like that all of my most hard laid plans were tossed to the side, I had made damn sure that everyone knew that my daughter and I were not to be separated for an instant, something in the back of my soul had nagged at me, reminding me of this odd cycle I've been in where my certainty and hard-lined plans are turned upside down, but I had to advocate for her and I being together. As she was whisked away from me and into the NICU I insisted that the nurse bring me to her, they pushed my big gurney into the NICU so that I could see her momentarily and then brought me to my room where I was supposed to rest for eight hours.
Within the hour I was moving my legs and insisting that I could walk, I was put into a wheel chair and wheeled beside her cot. She had a machine breathing for her and tubes down her throat, it was a nightmare that I didn't realize wouldn't end for an entire week. The story of what happened that week could take up the entire article, however, my focus here is on how I walked through the most challenging time of my life and how this role of Priestess served me in my identification of Mother. To sum up the week that I had I will share that my daughter's breathing only got worse, her oxygen saturation worsened and by the second day the doctor was suggesting she be transferred an hour and a half away to a specialty hospital. She was transferred via ambulance and because I had had surgery the day before I was transferred in a hospital van a few hours later, my husband rushed behind the ambulance to be with my daughter when she arrived. I got a phone call from my husband and a team of doctors (all women again) describing what they wanted to do for my daughter, they wanted to insert a tube into her lungs and administer a substance called surfactant to help her lungs develop and to breathe on their own without sticking together. After asking the questions that I had, I consented to the procedure.
As I had been in our hometown hospital, I continued to beg for her to be put on my skin the moment I arrived at the specialty NICU, because it was a lung issue, nobody could consent to that, my heart was broken wide open, my daughter needed to be on my skin.
Estrella was in this speciality NICU for four days, on the third day she was finally placed on my skin, by the fourth day of life she was ready to come off of the breathing machine, by the fifth day of life she was ready to come to my breast and have her feeding tube removed. She also was transferred back to our original hospital on that day. On the sixth day of life her iv was removed and one week to her birth we went home. The details of what happened and how everything unfolded during that week and the darkness that descended upon me cannot be touched upon in such a simple summary, what I can offer are the lessons that came my way and the miracles that carried us home as a family.
I've written before about my Priestess path being dedicated to Grace rather than to a deity, and how for me that means allowing Grace to unfold my reality for me rather than my authoring the destiny of my story. As a Priestess I am the conduit between the higher realms where Grace originates from and this Earthly realm where it shows forth It's face as exactly what is needed in the moment. For years there have been instances in life that pop up that have challenged my commitment to Grace, instances where I wanted to jump in with manifestation tools, where I wanted to ensure I was the sole captain of my ship, and some of those times I would veer off of the path of Grace, inevitably finding myself in a pit of self will that didn't really fulfill me or feel like my highest calling. Grace called me it seems, rather than me calling Grace. In other instances I was able to stay true to my path and watch as Grace swept in, sometimes immediately and sometimes at what felt like the nick of time to "make the crooked spaces straight" and to reveal to me once again that the Goddess is an energy whose nature is utter fulfillment and joy. This week in the NICU I felt enslaved to Grace, there was not a single part of me that felt I had the power to change the destiny of my daughter and every part of me that felt at the whim of Grace. I was hyper aware that I stay tapped in, in whatever way that I could because what I feared the most was tapping into the medical field of consciousness and being influenced by them rather than by Her.
I had always felt so strong, so powerful, I had felt as though Grace was a choice, but I believed somewhere deep within that if I really wanted to I could will life in a way that would blow everyone away. I was utterly powerless that week, and it broke me. I don't cry easily, usually my tears stem from anger, that week they poured out of a well within me so deep and so untapped that I feared I would float away on them, a broken woman drowning in a salty river of despair.
When I first dedicated my life to a spiritual path it was a purely mystical path, one that gave zero credence to this realm, everything here was an illusion, the great goal was non-attachment and oneness with the All. After a few years of feeling cold and removed from my fellow sisters and brothers, the Goddess found me, in Priestessing I found a way to merge mysticism with Earthy spirituality, For the Priestess everything is both/and rather than either/or. Life is an illusion and it is a reality of the Goddess showing Herself forth as all. In Feminine Mysticism we don't aim to detach from the emotional field, rather do we attempt to fully embrace the energy of each emotion that rises to the surface, ready to embrace the lessons of each hue of energy. The very human aspect of me had resisted sadness for a very, very long time, in my traumatic Maiden years I hardened my sadness into anger and that is how I processed most uncomfortable situations in my life, with a fiery anger. In the Spirit reading I had received prior to Estrella's birth it was channelled that my challenging pregnancy was there to burn away the anger and to reveal what was beneath it, and that during my postpartum period I was to watch for anger, it would be a signal that I was doing too much. The week in the NICU tapped me into my sadness and years worth of unprocessed grief came flooding though, all of the times in my life where I was too scared to feel the vulnerability of feeling as though I had no control came to the surface as I stared at my still baby hooked up to machines and begged every doctor and nurse that I could find to just please pick her up and put her on my skin.
I was certain that if they would put my daughter on my chest, my little Star babe, that I would hold her and her breathing would regulate, I knew a miracle would occur, that is what the higher part of me knew. Yet, the Earth bound part of me heard what the medical team was telling me, they agreed with skin to skin, they wanted her on me too, but she couldn't breathe, any movement would be taxing to her, her lungs had been injected with surfactant she needed to stay still to let it take effect. I don't know if I had insisted and put her to my chest if my miracle would have taken place, that's one of the challenges of the Priestess path for me, navigating the gateway between human reality and Divine reality. I know that if I had ever been told that she was hopeless I would have grabbed her up and onto my chest and not let her go, I know that my husband, for better or worse, has much more trust in the medical field than I do and was very much in favour of following their guidance. And so I navigated the realms to the best of my ability, I bided my time, surprised and disheartened to find that an emotional Mom is still seen as being hysterical at times, my insistence of holding my daughter paired with my silent tears that streamed down my face and my insistence that I stay by her side had put the nurses on high alert and a social worker was called in to talk to me. It was at this time that I realized that women, even by other women, were still being labelled as 'hysterical' for allowing the full range of their emotional expressions to come through. One other area of contention that came up was my insistence on using shared breastmilk from a friend for my daughter, some nurses said it was against hospital policy, some doctor's said I could just write my name on it, the LC said there was no policy about milk shared milk, I spent a whole day going through red tape and trying to have logical conversations about my decision to give my daughter my friend's breast milk as I waited for my milk to come in, my daughter still hadn't been put to breast and so I had none in.
Those three instances, insisting on having my daughter put to skin, talking with the social worker, and opening up a conversation about milk shared milk was an opportunity for me to merge my integral wishes for my daughter with a desire to work with the women caring for her. In the past, when I was fully in the flesh and not working with spiritual principles I would have been fighting everyone and everything, the Warrioress that is alive and well within me would have been barging into NICU's insisting on my way. Now I saw that the Priestess work of being both/and, a Warrioress and a Peacekeeper was being called for. The night after the great milk share debate rang through the NICU I sat in the dark, listening to the beeps of the heart monitor's and the hiss of the breathing apparatus, cursing the smell of sterile oxygen that permeated the room and the words "look for the helpers," something Mr. Roger's Mother had told him as a child rang through my mind. Yes, I decided, I must start looking at these women as my helpers. I prayed to Ma Durga that night, I prayed that if it be Her will I get my daughter to breast. I couldn't even look at the future of coming home, looking too far ahead broke my heart, in that moment what I needed and if it was in alignment with Highest Will was for my daughter to come to my breast.
Praying to Maa Durga was a revolutionary experience for me that week. Shaven was in close contact with me throughout that week. She is very much a devotee of Maa Durga and while I know little about her in comparison I was so desperate I took whatever suggestions she offered. Because my path is the path of Grace I had stopped praying for anything in particular years ago with the sound understanding that all I needed was Grace, yet I had found that my prayer life had been lacking in the past years and one of my intentions for a while now had been to strengthen my prayer life. I found that in calling out in my desperation and asking for help, asking for what I wanted IF it was truly in alignment with the highest will invited Maa into my heart and into my pain.
The next day baby was at breast and those helpers I was looking for became apparent. I sat in the early morning sun with my daughter finally skin to skin as one of the nurses who had seemed the most opposed to me the day before sat down at the beginning of her shift to talk to me. The sun streamed in and shone upon her face as she lit up and told me about her morning meditation, about how I had entered it and how she had reflected on me and my request about the milk sharing the day prior. She marvelled at how well I had articulated myself, told me they hadn't given me enough credit for being as flexible as I had been in conversation and informed me that I had opened up a conversation that was ongoing and could have perhaps been a part of changing policy down the road for other mother's to come. She opened up to me about her path of attraction and suggested that I get to write the birth story of my daughter for her, I could tell her about her traumatic entry to the world or I could tell her about all of the women that surrounded her and cared for her as she entered the world. In the midst of the darkness I had been walking through I began to see a turn around, as I shifted and continued to dig deep for the Mother to help me my outsides began to shift. My daughter had her breathing mask taken off, her feeding tube removed, she was on my skin regularly, starting to nurse, we were transferred back to my home town, things were progressing and at a much quicker rate than I could have imagined a mere few days before.
Despite the progress I was not at rest, in my bones I needed my daughter home, when we returned to the NICU in my hometown it seemed ridiculous to be there at all. I knew she was fine now that her breathing had been regulated, but they wanted to see her eating and gaining weight and so she was placed in an incubator with children months younger than her on either side of her and I was left sitting beside her, vibrating with anxiety, remembering to work with the nurses and not against them and determined to feed my daughter out of the hospital.
In the end my great lesson came full circle, although the Mother had been gracious with me and answered some asked for prayers, my true lesson was to deepen the prayers and to get out of the realm of form, no matter how tempting that outside appearance may be. I did not do it perfectly, I still tried to ensure I was on the good side of the nurses in an attempt to get discharged easily, I still prayed in moments of great sorrow for a quick discharge, if it be Her will, at least I never lost that part of the surrender, yet what my guru kept pointing out to me was that the prayer had to come back to me, my fears, my anxiety and my desire to trust and to surrender. As I walked and navigated advocating for my daughter in the Earth realm and surrendering her to the higher Mother in the realms above, remembering that we were both Her daughters I clumsily danced a Priestess dance until finally we were discharged and sent home.
My pregnancy and the entire birth and postpartum period has shifted my reality and the reality of Gracious, (as is the case after any birth), it has been in this period that I have witnessed myself grieving what I had with Gracious; the simple life with my easy to move and get around body and our long, lengthy cuddly sleeps together. Grieving the past, fearing the future (ptsd remnants of our hospital stay that triggered childhood trauma in hospitals) and remembering how great an initiation bringing a new life into the world is, one that calls us to come back to the present moment, the only moment there really is, and steers us towards peace. When we were in the NICU and I was at my lowest I couldn't fathom even hoping for the future, it was all about that moment, getting through the moment's pain and hoping for the moment, I didn't hope to be home at a certain time, I hoped to hold her that day, or to put her to breast that day, anything further ahead than that simply shattered my mind, I couldn't handle hoping further than a day's length away.
Being home and settling into a new routine I have to call upon that deep present moment awareness, it is in the present that the Priestesses of the past have contacted their greatest power. On one particularly wrenching evening in the hospital I reached out to Shivani and told her that I couldn't be in the moment, it simply hurt too deeply. She encouraged me by pointing out that the lesson I was learning was to love unconditionally, to allow my heart to break open. I felt too ashamed to admit it at the time, but in my darkest moment I just wanted to leave, to pack Gracious and my husband up and to drive the 1.5 hours home. To leave that poor, sad, helpless little baby in the care of the nurses and forgoe any further bonding, I just couldn't conceptualize how I could go down that NICU hallway one more time, smell that sterile air and see that tiny baby who belonged in my arms, in our home, in our lives, hooked up to machines and inaccessible to me. I was shocked at my desire to run and also defeated as I knew that wasn't who I was I couldn't actually leave, it isn't in my make up, but in the dark recesses of my shadow self was the desire to escape the pain. I was there for the long haul and I didn't know how long my heart was going to have to break for. That was one present moment that I loathe to remember, the other present moment's that I remember are the talks with the nurses that were uplifting, the texts from my circle of women that were praying for us, the messages on Facebook from my Priestess group, the presence of my parents who just naturally came along for the ride and stayed with us the entire time. I remember the last day that I was in the NICU and was moved with my baby into our own room, I still had a feeding schedule to 'pass' in order to be discharged, I remember the nurse that I had bonded with over astrology and Abraham Hicks literally milking my breasts into Estrella's mouth and celebrating at her weight gain after every breast feed. I remember her calling the doctor and asking him for the okay to stop with the pumping and top offs, (something I was gong to stop doing at home but wasn't going to push for at the hospital, I just wanted out), the doctor agreed and I spent the final day exclusively nursing, no pumping, my daughter before going home.
In walking through this ordeal I was reminded, through my life experience, that the space where Heaven and Earth meet for the Priestess is in the present moment, regardless of how heavy or light, how happy or sad, the power is in the moment and running too far ahead or too far behind does nothing but bleed us of the power we have to be that bridge between the worlds.
Upon my return home Shivani reminded me that my role here is to remind my children that they are the daughters of the Goddess, that I am here to exemplify faith, trust, surrender and the truth that they are in this world but not of this world. I had been focused on manufacturing a Heaven-on-Earth experience for them and any situation that threatened to take me from them or to tarnish the joy that they had in childhood would make me stand up and fight what was, they weren't learning resilience or faith from me in those moments, they were learning fear and control.
My focus has become the redirection of my focus during these postpartum days, my human self and my Priestess self are not always in alignment. On the colicky days, the whiny days, the never ending nursing on the couch in my pyjama days I forget that there is a Divine role for me during this 40 day lie in. When I can get quiet and still and come fully into the moment I remember, that there is no task too small, too mundane or too challenging for me to call upon my Priestess self. In the evenings I lie down with Gracious as she falls asleep and we pray to the Goddess and the angels, she tells me and her baby sister about the Power that lives within her heart and how the more she breathes into it the brighter it shines, she was reminded of that truth by me. I hold my sweet little Star baby upright as she processes whatever it is that she is screaming out and her watery Pisces eyes focus on mine and we chat, "hi Estrella, it's tough coming down into this body sometimes eh? I'm here with you." And I behold her, I pray, I go deeper into my faith to actualize the truth that she is purely Divine and the appearance of distress is a manifestation of this realm, one for me to help soothe her through, but also one for me to not buy into as the ultimate truth, beneath her teeny baby rolls of snuggly flesh is the living breathing Goddess and it is my great gift to help that inner Goddess to emerge into this realm. Those are the Priestess moments when I am seeking and strengthening my commitment to the truth.
We are a month into our walk as a family of four now, the month began by bringing me face to face with my darkest fears, institutions, separation from my children, the lack of escape from pain and a sense of true powerlessness, from that darkness rose up in me an even more solid connection to who I am as a Priestess. As the month has progressed, the humility of being unknown to anyone but my tiny family as I cocoon into newborn life and give all that I have to caring for my children, marriage and self, has caused me to re-evaluate the true purpose that I have in my Priestess path. It's inspiring and exciting to practice my Priestessing when I can imagine myself on stage speaking to thousands of women, or on the cover of books inspiring millions, but when the same milk stained, crusty pyjama's and the day in and day out of reading preschool aged books promises that no-one might ever know my name as Priestess or as anything greater than Mom, I am faced with my spiritual path choices. Am I on this path only for the potential to be known in a big way? Or am I on this path to deepen my connection to the Great Mother and to the magic in this Earth~bound experience? Thankfully for me, despite the struggles my ego has at the thought of fading into small town obsoleteness, it is the latter.
Birth has, for a second time, revealed to me deeper aspects of myself and reminded me, that there is no situation on Earth that I will face where my Priestess self can't serve to deepen and elevate my connection to Source, to magic and to my Self. My Priestess consciousness is here to carry me through every life experience that blooms in my present moment awareness and for me, that is more than enough.
Until the next milk-addled month, be well and be happy.
Grace Be With You,
Priestess of Grace,
Candise Soaring Butterfly
to contact Shivani Howe about her services please visit: http://www.ishtadevniwas.ca