Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

I loved the mothering years of my thirties. I did not bear children, but we don’t need to have given birth to be a mother. The archetypal Mother is not only a biological parent, She is a Mother of Invention, as well. She produces and reproduces — be it children, enterprises, careers or political causes. She then labors endlessly to nourish and sustain the fruits of Her passion: Her family, Her business, Her home, Her job, Her projects, Her clients, Her students, Her community.

That was me. After my Maiden years of youthful exploration and adventure — both geographical and psychological — I felt pulled by the Mother’s instinctual need to nest, and settled into a more sedentary, domestic life. Daughter of Mother Earth Herself, I created a ceremonial center from which I lavished love and nurturing spiritual support on everyone around me.

I extended my affection and protection to a number of young people whose presence enlivened my heart and home. My dear foster son moved in with me when he was ten, and I mentored student interns and assistants at what I came to call the Mama Donna Auntie Mame School of Life. Through these nourishing connections, I claimed my Mother power.

But by the time I was forty, my golden days of Motherhood had turned tragic. Death invaded my life, and family members, friends, students and pets all fell ill around me. Mama Donna to my extended clan, I held the hands and rubbed the feet of the sick and the scared. I read, talked and chanted to the dying and sat with them in long silence. I laid out the bodies of the dead and counseled the grief stricken. I wrote obituaries and officiated at funerals. Hard circumstances forced me to become Mother Courage.

I spent a fifteen-year eternity in the hospice zone, losing nearly everyone and everything that I had loved —family, friends, animals, home, community, income, monthly blood, hormones, equilibrium, confidence, and what ever control I thought I had over my life.

My own needs relinquished, all of my energy was lavished on others. Sometime during that interminable period, somewhere between making Jell-O, changing invalid diapers and scattering ashes, I lost my center. I was off kilter and shaky, preoccupied with the process of disease, decline, death and decay. Menopause with its interminable insomnia, mood swings and hormonal surprise attacks definitely did not help. I was a walking wreck.

To top it off, I was all but celibate for long patches of time, totally disinclined to engage sexually. Surely sex could have been a salve in such hard times, but I refused the comforts that were offered and retreated like a turtle into the shell of my sad self. And the people in my most intimate life, friends and lover alike — those who were still standing — fled from me, frightened by my hands-on association with so much pain and suffering as if death were a contagious disease. All I managed to attract was trouble.

Caught in the quicksand of despair, I gradually became completely paralyzed, unable to help myself, too heartbroken even to lick my own wounds. Resentment and bitterness began to singe the edges of my anguish. In the end, I was no Mother Teresa. And it was not pretty. I made myself sick in every sense of the word.

Then, one day, I’d had enough. “Get a grip.” I scolded myself. “Enough is enough, already.” I was finally and completely disgusted with my sorry ass martyr self. “Yes, some terrible things have happened. OK, lots of terrible things happened. Life happened. Why should I be exempt? Get over it and move on already.”

Resolute, I began my struggle to repossess all of the body-mind-heart-spirit support skills that I had so recklessly tossed aside during my tortured deathwatch. I craved quiet time and serious sustenance to help me process all that I had seen, done and felt. I call this discipline Sitting in the Shadows.

Grieving is an active practice, a conscious engagement that comes from a place of tenderness, compassion and love, and not the same thing as wallowing in formless self-pity, bitterness and anger. As I mourned, I began to open to my pain and started to understand that to acknowledge grief and suffering, fears and foibles, vulnerability and weakness, is ultimately the best hope for maturation, expansion and wisdom.

Determined to process my experiences and emotions, I drew in on myself. Out came my neglected journal, which I embraced as a long-lost friend. I sought council between its covers and lost myself in its pages, seeking to find the way back to my misaligned center, my sanity and my true Self.

Yes, it is true, I realized, I had been called to an appalling task. Yes, I did rise to meet it. Yes, I had succeeded in being of some considerable help. I also acknowledged my feelings of helplessness. I had been to hell and back — alone with no one to support me, which, in retrospect, was precisely the lesson that I had been meant to learn: to be able to rely on myself alone.

In looking back with honesty, I realized that this excruciating transition was a proficiency test in the academy of life. Unless we are challenged, how could we ever expand our capabilities beyond our assumed capacities? Gradually over time, I grew to embrace the difficult circumstances that had been forced upon me, as well as the hard changes wrought from within, for the invaluable opportunities for growth and spiritual development that they offered.

By day I continued to do what I must, and at night I tried to write. Like Penelope, I spent my evenings alone in the dark, spinning yarns, weaving a comforting sense of order, pattern, and systematic interconnectivity around myself like a shawl, a silk cocoon. I sat in its embrace quietly quilting my own experience into the intricate complexity, the enduring continuity of That Which Is, looking for meaning, direction, and perception.

Like Madame Lafarge, I was knitting a running commentary on my duel with death, as a way to interpret the rules of engagement and the lessons of the fray. By handling the threads and passing the shuttle, I was attempting to re-weave what had been broken, and to repair the damage that I had both endured and inflicted as a result of my pain.

My era of selfless mothering of others was coming to an end and I began to direct my ministering attentions toward my own bruised and battered Self. Now that I was motherless, it was time to claim the responsibility for my own care and feeding, my own growth and comfort, my own self-healing. To be my own caring best friend, sister, daughter, mother and devoted advocate.

Slowly I learned — and am still learning — how to mother myself, to lavish upon myself that same unconditional loving kindness, encouragement, support and solace that I have always given so freely to others. To nurture my own well being. To hold my deepest needs in tender trust. To care for my personal concerns and inspire and encourage the development of my best potential. To honor my purpose. To celebrate my passion. And to embrace my power.

Eventually I realized that though not unscathed, I had endured the onslaught

of trials by fire and survived my middle passage of the soul, and I began to feel good about what I had achieved. I felt that I could do anything, because, in fact, I already had.

Finally my circumstances were calming down and my prospects were, for the first time in a very long time, looking up. Through my own intentions and concerted efforts, by constantly questioning and reconfiguring, by struggling to mourn and then release what was irrevocably lost, I was recovering my own misplaced vitality, interest and energy — and then some.

I was beginning to feel the tiniest inkling of the exhilarating force that I had been reading about, PMZ or Post Menopausal Zest (a cheery phrase coined by the anthropologist Margaret Mead) and to believe the promise of renewed vim and vigor displayed by my women friends who are in their sixth, seventh, eighth, and even ninth decades. And suddenly, miraculously, after all that anguish, I began to find my easy stride again and was soon trotting along with new authority, enjoyment and aplomb.

By the time I reached my mid-fifties, I was finally ready and able, and for the first time in my life, actually, consciously, conscientiously willing to accept the responsibility for my own life and living and the truth and complete consequences of my own dreams, decisions and actions.

I was a maturing monarch prepared to regulate all of the inner and outer realms of my own domain. At long last, I knew myself to be the uncontested mistress of my own fate. I had succeeded against all odds in turning my midlife crisis into my crowning achievement. And now here I am, standing in my full sovereignty, Queen Mama Donna, Queen of My Self.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

The World Record for having the most number of children officially recorded is 69 by the first of two wives of Feodor Vassilyev (1707-1782), a peasant from Shuya, 150 miles east of Moscow. In 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. The children were born between 1725-1765.

The modern world record for giving birth is held by Leontina Albina from San Antonio, Chile. Now in her mid-sixties, she claims to be the mother of 64 children. Of these, 55 are documented, birth certificates apparently being something of a less-than-serious concern in Chile.

The youngest mother whose history is authenticated is Lina Medina, who delivered a 6½-pound boy by cesarean section in Lima, Peru in 1939, at an age of 5 years and 7 months. The child was raised as her brother and only discovered that Lina was his mother when he was 10.

On April 9, 2003, Satyabhama Mahapatra, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher in India, became the world’s oldest mother when she gave birth to a baby boy. Satyabhama and her husband had been married 50 years, but this is their first child. The baby was conceived through artificial insemination using eggs from the woman’s 26-year-old niece and the sperm of the niece’s husband.

Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman, known as Octomom in the media, is an American woman who came to international attention when she gave birth to octuplets in January 2009. The Suleman octuplets are only the second full set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States. One week after their birth, they surpassed the previous worldwide survival rate for a complete set of octuplets set by the Chukwu octuplets in 1998.

Jayne Bleackley is the mother who holds the record for the shortest interval between two children born in separate pregnancies. She gave birth to Joseph Robert on September 3, 1999, and Annie Jessica Joyce on March 30, 2000. The babies were born 208 days apart.

Elizabeth Ann Buttle is the mother who holds the record for the longest interval between the birth of two children. She gave birth to Belinda on May 19,1956 and Joseph on November 20, 1997. The babies were born 41 years 185 days apart. The mother was 60 years old when her son Joseph was born.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity — a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.
– Rose Kennedy

 

Sometimes when I look at all my children, I say to myself, ‘Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin.'”
-Lillian Carter

 

I think a lot of our problems are because people don’t listen to our children. It’s not always easy. They’re not always so brilliant that you want to spend hours with them.
– Barbara Bush

 

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
– George Washington

 

All that I am, my mother made me.
– John Quincy Adams

 

There never was a woman like her. She was gentle as a dove and brave as a lioness. The memory of my mother and her teachings were, after all, the only capital I had to start life with, and on that capital I have made my way.
– Andrew Jackson, U.S. President

 

The greatest lessons I have every learned were at my mother’s knees… All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
– Abraham Lincoln

 

No one in the world can take the place of your mother. Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right. She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones.
– Harry Truman

 

Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently received a call from one of my Midlife Midwife™ counseling clients. She had been divorced for quite some time and this autumn both of her teenaged kids left home for school and work. So now she found herself on her own after 25 years of caring first for her husband and then for her children.

She called me on her cell phone from an aisle in the super market, sobbing hysterically. This was her first food shopping excursion since her nest had emptied and she was panicked because she had absolutely no idea of what to buy. None whatsoever.

You know how it is when you are cooking for a family — this one is alergic to this, that one won’t eat that, this one will only eat something else. And now with only herself to consider, she was lost. It had been such a long time since she had considered what she wanted to eat for dinner.

This is a sad story, a bit more extreme than most perhaps, but an empty nest can be very traumatic for many women.

With our family grown and our kids off creating lives of their own, women in our mid years now face the future with an empty nest. Now the departure of our chicks leaves us with huge amounts of unaccustomed time to use as we please. This would be extremely liberating if it didn’t also make us feel so lonely and insecure.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard women exclaim in jubilation as their 24/7 mothering days run out, “And now, it is my turn!” — the common mantra of middle age. Then they stop in their tracks, dumbstruck, as they realize that now, free to pursue their deferred dreams, they have no idea any more of what it is that they want for themselves.

After a couple of decades of serving the needs and desires of others, we have lost sight of our own. Many of us have sacrificed our early aspirations on the altar of nurturing others. Our once-upon-a-time dreams murdered by self-denial, dashed by adversity, and starved by neglect and lack. Lack of time, of energy, of financial resources, of moral supoport, of self-esteem, of courage.

Not only do we “lose” our children at this stage of life, we also often lose track of our sense of Self. As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis poignantly put it, “What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren’t supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown — watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?”

Our generation’s story is different from Jackie’s in that most of us have worked out in the world. But then, of course, we came home and worked a full time job there, as well. Now, with our responsibilities substantially reduced, we finally have the time to dote on us.

So take this opportunity to do what it is that you always wanted to do — someday. Take that half-finished novel out of the drawer. Take that class that has always intrigued you. Take that long-deserved trip.

If not now, when? Someday is today!

With blessings of a nest filled with Self discovery,
xxQMD

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

–Agatha Christie

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.