How Motherhood Shifted Time and Woke Me Up

Good news, all! I delivered a healthy baby boy just over three weeks ago. Our family is acclimating to our new rhythm, so I've not yet written new content for this blog. Never fear though - I'll soon be back in the saddle! In the meantime, please enjoy this personal essay about motherhood, which was originally published on

The Motherline, collage by Krista Harrison
I’ve slipped into a time warp. As a mother of a three year-old (and another on the way), my experience of time is morphing. What once seemed so linear a journey feels more like a space opera.

I first noticed it while reflecting on the delivery of my son. Whereas the ten months leading up to his birth was a predictable journey through 39 weeks of checklists, OB appointments and fruits approximating the size of my growing baby, labor was like a rip in the fabric of space-time.

Contractions felt much longer than 15, 30 or 60 seconds. Moments seemed disjointed and without cohesion. I at once felt threadbare, stretched upon the rack of time and contracted within a handful of seconds. Upon looking back, what felt like an eternity seemed so short in comparison, as if in my altered state time had fallen through a hole in my back pocket.

During the early newborn and infant days, I existed in a cryogenic fugue. The hours stretched before me like a frozen tundra as my own childhood traumas defrosted under the heat of a smoldering, bewildering postpartum rage. I was a dated, red-faced caricature, ears piping with steam.

Inevitably a well intentioned person, almost always someone with years of parenting under their belt, would say, “These early years will be gone before you know it — enjoy them.” In my fugue state, this made no sense to me. This unrelenting marathon of feeding, diapering, holding, shushing and responding across a landscape of a sleep deprived, painstaking ego death seemed like the new normal.

This was it, and why the hell did I blow up my life?

Well, it turns out we were both right — me in my fugue state and the well-intentioned parent with the gift of hindsight. My time perception of the first two years of my son’s life traversed the spectrum of gone-before-you-know-it to eternity.

Mother's know that time is a shapeshifter. Yes, there are the concrete markers of time’s linear passage: holidays, birthdays, school graduations, sore knees, graying hair, aging parents. But there’s something ineffable to time’s nature that mothers sense.

The other day I sat with an elderly friend in her 80’s, a Japanese-American woman four decades my senior. As we looked through one of her photo albums, we found family pictures dating back to 1930–40’s Japan. Some of the aged, black-and-white photos were small, perhaps only an inch by an inch-and-half, while others were larger in format — all wearing worn edges and the romanticized blemishes of time.

She pointed out photos of herself. In one she looked to be about a year old. In another maybe two or three. A page flip or two later she was around six or seven, then nine. My heart — now a mother’s heart — sighed as I gathered up this little girl who grew up in the belly of WWII. This little girl whose innocence and as of yet unmitigated essence beamed through those old photos.

I could sense her now, still beaming somewhere within the agony and ecstasy of an 80-year epic. We jumped time together, and past became present. This is the ineffable face of time.

Once I encountered the purity of a child’s inherent essence, I was forever changed. My son, in all of his as of yet untempered glory, taught me this. I celebrate (and struggle with) his instinct to fill the room with his vital nature.

I also grieve for him. I know that no matter what my intentions and for all of my efforts, he will experience to some degree what it is to be tempered by the shadows of his parents, lineage, culture and society.

These days, I can’t help but imagine the innocent child within the adults I come across. The grown people we face today, the children they once were and the space where we perceive them simultaneously. This is the space-time rip that mothers, fathers, carers and guardians are privileged to peer into.

Even with the most repugnant figures — the predators, the con artists, the morally corrupt — I’m embroiled in a cacophony of anger, disgust and compassion for the innocent children these people once were.

For the person who we assert should never wade in the sweet waters of mercy, I still grieve for that vulnerable child hiding deep, deep within.

This is the gift of the rip in space-time that mothering reveals. It brings us face-to-face with dissonance. Turn our back on it and miss a golden opportunity.

Dissonance shines a light on our own self-recriminations and intra-psychic motivations. Dissonance is that uncomfortable place where the chasm of our shadow becomes accessible. To stay with this discomfort is to grow our capacity for discernment and presence.

Presence is the vehicle for compassion. Compassion is the poetry of the heart. And this increasingly polarized world needs more poetry, more heart.

Finding Magic on Tough Parenting Days

Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash
One of the main reasons I started this blog was to rekindle my love affair with living a magical life as a parent. With children comes loads of opportunities primed for magic, imagination, otherworldly lands, mythic creatures, beauty and love. You couldn’t have stepped onto a more magical playing field, right?

With parenting also comes a veritable smorgasbord of challenges that force you to dig deep, white knuckled, ragged and at times mystified by the turn your life took once you became a parent.

As much as you love your children and would literally die for them, there are days when you just don’t feel like doing it. Days when you’re not on top of your game, and you know it. Days when you feel like you’re failing your children, failing yourself.

Gray days that feel far removed from the kaleidoscopic, magical ideal you pine for.

I’m writing this on the heels of such a day. It wasn’t terrible in that it didn’t degrade into a complete shit-show. If anything, it was a run-of-the mill wrangling a sick, labile four year-old while eight months pregnant kind of day.

The day’s fulcrum rested more upon my inner state than the actual events and happenings that dot the landscape of life with small children. For example, my son is four. So of course he’ll insist on doing something beyond his ability all by himself, followed by a flat-out boycott on using his own legs to walk to the potty.

In my world, this is the new normal. On a good day I can see it for what it is and maybe even find the humor in it.

If I’m underslept, preoccupied, anxious, battling my demons or maybe just plain old hangry, the new normal seems like a barren desert, and I’m Mad Max, the Road Warrior, barreling through in an armored tank with a feral kid while evading a flock of savage marauders.

Not terribly magical.

In an Instagram-curated world where a wave of spiritual influencers and modern witches share lovely images of herbal infusions, cups of tea set amongst candles, flower studded ritual baths, tarot spreads replete with crystals and sage (you get the gist), it’s easy to step into the snake pit of comparison and lack.

But if the bones of magic is about focusing one’s intent and will to direct energy in a way that creates a desired change or result, then prickly parenting moments surely provide motivation and openings for engagement and practice. 

These days, the bones of my magic are subtle, nuanced and usually private. On one bone lives the moment I call in the Great Mother and allow myself to cry. I call this one “Release Into Her Arms”.

Another bone carries forgiveness magic and is conjured when my Inner Mother steps in to transmute the worn grooves of shame and perfectionism.

As with any magical working, sometimes my magic is on. I come into the grit of the moment - I mean, really meet it - and work that shit.

And sometimes I’m not so on, and I slip and slide and spiral for much longer than I think I need to and the magic seems lost - except that somewhere in there I took a breath or forgave myself or simply allowed myself to be, warts and all. That’s magic too. It’s a shift, an expression of will, even if only for a snot-drenched moment.

What I’m saying is that magic is always available to us, as the magic I like to practice is ultimately predicated on love. And love, at least in my understanding, is the substrate of literally all there is. It’s the binding agent for all states of consciousness, timelines and possibilities.

So, even on those tough parenting days when I feel stuck, stagnant, lonely, frustrated or inadequate, there is a field of Big Love surrounding and filling me at all times. It’s with this Universal support that I can call upon my bag of magic bones to be with me, hold me, alchemize me one moment at a time.

For more on my spiritual beliefs and the Big Love, check out my essay "How Psilocybin Saved My Life".

Psilocybin Saved My Life

Photo by Aperture Vintage on Unsplash
Note: This personal essay was originally published on Medium.

With the desert before me, the night sky above and psilocybin dancing within, for the first time I understood true unconditional love. Little did I know that this experience would later save my life.

When I gave birth at 38 years old, I assumed that having children later in life would ensure my capability as a new mother. I was also trained as a psychotherapist with years of personal therapy, alternative healing and seeking under my belt.

When I finally copped to the fact that I was impacted by a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), it was with a mixture of resignation and a strange relief. Living within the craggy landscape of PMAD warrants its own article (or two or 10, which in time I’ll write). It really is a complex, layered land deserving of proper exploration.

In a vain attempt to package the two years I struggled with postpartum depression, I offer you this: it’s like bearing the ferocity of a hurricane with only the myopic lens of tunnel vision to guide you to calmer waters.

As the responsibilities of parenting often feel relentless, so does postpartum depression. It’s a persistent, stubborn beast that grinds a person down. It ameliorates whatever protective husk you think you can find comfort in.

My emotional state became so worn that my mind travelled to secret places. On most days, I thought of taking my own life. I researched suicide. If the day were to come, I knew where and how to do it.

Please know, this was an impossible place. I loved my baby. I knew this would burden him for the rest of his life. My family would be irreparably devastated.

And still, something terrifying was happening within me. Something that was so dark — so out of my control — that I at times couldn’t see a way out. Postpartum depression dredged up my deepest pain. My most loathed parts.This underworld journey wasn’t without its magic. Magic was witnessing the wonder of my baby. Magic was laughter fueled by the sometimes absurd nature of mothering.

But there was another layer of magic that I believe new mothers channel. I intuited things more acutely. I’d think of someone I hadn’t seen in years and run into them minutes later. I knew things out of the corner of my mind, saw things out of the corner of my eye.

My dream life split open: out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming, sensing non-corporeal beings as I hung in a hypnogogic state. In that first year of motherhood, I mastered the sleep paralysis that had tormented me since childhood, transforming it into astral experiments.

These strange happenings reignited the teachings of a psilocybin trip (also known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”) I had two years prior. It wasn’t my first psychedelic experience. As a young adult, I fell into the rave scene of the mid to late 90’s where altered-state inducing substances abounded.

During my 30’s, I dove into a deep study of shamanic practice and worlds unseen. By the time I reached my 36th year, I had grown into something of an animist. I regarded all forms as holding their own imprint of intelligence and consciousness. I also understood the importance of “set and setting” when traveling into altered states, be they substance-assisted or not.

So, in the middle of the California desert five miles from the Nevada border, my future husband, his friend and I embarked on a psilocybin trip. I held the dry, pungent mushrooms in my hands, acknowledged their wisdom and set out to receive the healing I most needed.

Then I was off.

The details of my psilocybin trip are safely preserved in a journal. To describe the cosmic awe beyond the edge of consensual reality — that’s its own writing endeavor for another day.

What was most instrumental in resurrecting me from the underworld of postpartum depression — of essentially saving my life — was what I learned about unconditional love.

During this psilocybin trip, I perceived the infinite nature of existence. I couldn’t hold a cognitive understanding of it, but I knew it — Love, Source, God, All. That which is everything.

Tears streamed as I understood this consciousness, which is absolute love, as the substrate of everything. It’s everywhere in every moment, in every reality, within every being, every atom.

This consciousness is so vast and omnipresent that it meets even the most wretched beings with unconditional love. It is the most wretched beings in the darkest corners of the Universe and our psyches.

It is the glue that binds and the crucible that holds.

Like an archaic Rolodex, my mind spit out images of my most shunned, shamed aspects.

The loving consciousness was unflappable and met all of me with complete acceptance. It modeled an unconditional love I had never encountered. It showed me that self-love and acceptance, which had been elusive to me, was indeed possible.

Like an outside thought placed into my brain, it reassured me, “I’m always here, even when it’s darkest.”

Two years later, motherhood held my feet to the fire. It called forth what was disowned, what needed to be reclaimed.

As I floundered in the maelstrom of postpartum depression, these memories — this medicine — of unconditional love and acceptance flooded back into my awareness.

It had rested in the alcove of my psyche, waiting for the moment when it knew I’d be most ready — and most needing — to integrate the powerful lessons I encountered that night in the desert.

For me, psilocybin gifted an intelligent elixir of unconditional love, self-acceptance and rebirth — and it took a plight through the underworld (along with the support of an open and skilled therapist) to fully receive it.

And in those lonely moments when I questioned my ability to continue on, the words of that absolute loving consciousness lifted me.

“I’m always here, even when it’s darkest.”

So I stayed.

Disclaimer: Though there is much research and education underway about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, an emerging field of psychedelic-assisted therapy and a movement to decriminalize psilocybin, it’s still classified as a Schedule 1 substance. This writer does not suggest the use of illegal substances (especially while pregnant, nursing, or in the presence of a child), nor can can she assist you in procuring such substances. Please do your own research and use your discernment when making personal decisions about your healing and wellness.

Creating Values-Based Traditions for a Spirited Home

I tend to hit a wall when it comes to creating home and family-centered traditions: those rituals and moodscapes that anchor a home and nourish it’s heart and spirit.

One day it dawned on my husband and I that, yeah, we’re the parents and the tenders of our home hearth.

I imagine there are others who, like me, feel a call to tend the hearth and craft traditions, but have trouble putting this into practice. You may feel full or overwhelmed, as if just getting by in life. Or perhaps it feels as if you’re missing something - a template, a memory, an instinct or something ineffable.

An elder friend once said to me, "You know what tradition is? It's bringing your values to the hearth."

Let's take a closer look at my friend's wise nugget.  

What is tradition?

Tradition is defined as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.”

Mining my childhood for positive family traditions allows me to re-awaken and pass along experiences that evoked in me a sense of continuity, safety and belonging. Like banging pots and pans as the clock struck midnight at my grandmother's house on New Year's. Or listening to the Howard Stern Show in the car with my father during my summer visits with him.

Ok, I might not share the Howard Stern of the '80s with my boys, but this memory of a morning ritual that I (and I alone) shared with my father is precious with me. Why? Because of the feeling I associate with it - of feeling connected to my father.

In other instances, letting go of old traditions and creating new ones allows me to affirm my voice as I reconfigure aspects of my lineage that feel less aligned with my truth. I'm not Christian, so I don't attend midnight mass for instance.

What is hearth? 

There are a number of definitions for hearth. Literally, it’s the floor of the fireplace and the concrete, brick or stone area surrounding it.

Metaphorically, hearth can be experienced as the feeling of home, or the heart of the home so to speak. Hearth also refers to a vital or creative center: the vital energy of a community, a family, of one’s Self.

What are values? 

Values reflect our beliefs and ideals about what holds importance for us. They are lenses or currents that shape our priorities, behaviors and movement within our lives.

I believe that while many values surf the crest of the wave (and in this are easily identifiable), others inhabit the currents beneath. Though they influence the nature of that wave less visibly, their impact is no less powerful.

So, let’s return to my elder friend’s statement: Tradition is bringing your values to the hearth.

What do we do with this? As a deep diver, I’m going to encourage you to do a little excavating.

You can use any or all of these prompts in a variety of ways depending on what feels right for you. Here are three suggestions: 1) as journaling or art journaling prompts; 2) as inspiration for Tarot or oracle card pulls; 3) as meditation or journey inquiries.

  • What are some traditions that were handed down to you? What are their underlying values and energy?
  • Have you created new traditions? What are their underlying values and energy?
  • How do you experience your sense of values? Are you clear on them? Do they feel fuzzy or slippery? Do they shift depending on your relationships and perception of others? 
  • Were the things that mattered to you most as a younger person respected or even celebrated by family, carers, peers, etc.? Tolerated? Unseen? Invalidated? Met with punishment? Something else?
  • What values have a noticeable impact on your life? 
  • What values do you imagine affect your life in a quieter, subconscious way? Because these may be in your blind spot, allow your imagination to guide this inquiry.
  • Of these values, which feel most innate and resonant with your truth? Which feel most supportive of a positive experience of home and hearth? Which, if any, feel sticky, crunchy or contradictory to your truth?

If you need a little nudge around identifying values, you can access Brene Brown's Dare to Lead List of Values PDF here.

How to Start Your Hearthcraft Journey

Download my Hearthcraft Deep-Dive Refection Guide.

As a younger person, I spent as much time being away from my home as possible. I was the adolescent who could always be found at a friend’s house. I was the twenty-something who showed up to all the parties, but never hosted. I was the thirty-something who rolled my eyes at my partner’s unwillingness to uproot and move every few years.

I was a restless soul, and didn’t feel at home anywhere - especially within myself.

Then came motherhood. Somewhere amid the non-stop demand to be on and connected to a vulnerable, utterly dependent being, I ran into this restless soul - and she was pissed! She felt like she was on lock-down, her freedom stripped.

Fast forward. I now have a four year-old and one on the way. Even though I still feel the shiver of restlessness, I’m much more invested in finding the magical within my life as a mom and hearth-tender.

As a former psychotherapist and eternal deep-diver, I find the best place to start a new practice is within: to ask yourself powerful questions that evoke self-reflection and illuminate your psyche.

There are so many currents moving below the surface that potentially influence your relationship to hearthcraft, such as:

  • The beliefs, stories and meaning you hold about tending hearth and home: Does it feel like one more thing to do? Does it inspire you in some way?
  • Your expectations: Does hearthcrafting need to be grand endeavor? Simple? An organized effort? Intuitively driven? Pinterest-worthy? A beautiful mess?
  • Where you draw energy and inspiration from: Being out in the world? In your own space and interiority? In nature?
  • How you run your energy: Flying by the seat of your pants? Head in the clouds, feet unaccounted for? Feet firmly rooted with a desire for predictability? Concrete and structured, flowing and flexible?
  • Messages about home and hearth absorbed as a child/adolescent.
  • Emotions and patterns concerning safety, place and belonging.
  • Traumas, wounds and/or generational imprints that impacted your sense of home (both your inner sense of home and your tangible, manifest home).

This isn’t an exhaustive list, nor is there a right answer or mandate to enter into an intentional hearthcraft practice.

Rather, these prompts are an invitation to plumb your psyche and better understand your relationship to home and hearth - and where you might center yourself should you decide to embark on a home-based spiritual journey.

For inspiration to get you started, download my Hearthcraft Deep-Dive Reflection Guide.