This week the weaning of Ixchel began. As I sat down this morning to write about this process and how it related to the bigger picture of life, it occurred to me to see what the word really meant. “Weaning”, as defined by Wikipedia, means:
1. To accustom (the young of a mammal) to take nourishment other than its mother's milk, or 2. to detach from that to which one is strongly habituated or devoted to.
When I read this definition it occurs to me why weaning is harder than we may initially think. We are being asked to relinquish the source of nourishment that has been always constant and plentiful, and in the case of Ixchel, on demand. And nourishment in this case is not merely food- it is the comfort, safety and security of knowing that what we need is provided for, that the world is plentiful and we are always held.
Weaning requires that a baby expand its circle of sustenance twofold- it must learn to acquire the food it needs through other means, and it must learn to connect to a greater source, creating their sense of home. They cannot only rely on the mother anymore, for if it does, we create dependent beings unable to plant their own roots in the world.
Life is about inter-dependence. It requires we find our sense of self and our center and that we have the courage to intimately engage with others. John Welwood says conscious relationships require both of these things, engagement and spaciousness, and without their balance we will never find our trust in the ultimate sense of source.
Nevertheless, knowing this doesn’t make it easy. When my partner Zayin said Sunday evening that is was time to begin night weaning so that everyone would have a better night sleep, tears welled up in my eyes and my first response was “I’m not ready! What if she cries all night? What if she gets traumatized?” Ah…the natural desire of a mama to protect her kin. Yet the father stood strong and helped me see that it was in the best interest of all of us- I needed to regain my center as a mama (which was fading fast due to lack of sleep). Ixchel needed to trust that she was held by all of the world, not just me. And Zayin needed to step into the under-valued role of the father who can help individuate the child, initiating into a next stage of development. In theory it was a win-win for all, despite it not necessarily feeling that way.
Sunday night came and went. Much to my surprise there were no tantrums. In fact Ixchel did not really cry. Zayin reported that the overall feeling was one of confusion, as if her face transmitted the thought of “where is mom?” proceeded by multiple waking up in the middle of the night to look for me. Heart-breaking? Yes….and yet humbling. Ixchel has shown me from day 1 that being human takes tremendous amount of courage and I bow to everyone reading this blog- you too face growing pains every step of the way.
Yet the growing pains make us stronger. They remind us of what we’re made of and of our worth. Weaning invites us to grow beyond our current means trusting that life will catch up and still support.
Take that leap. The world is waiting. You will be held.