You know her and love her- or if you don’t then you WILL! Catie Atkinson is real and raw, equally full of grace and creative fire. We are so grateful to Catie for the love she has shown us, the reflection of the gorgeous messy truth of it all, but most of all for her enormous heart that just continues to warm all the internets.
Thank you Catie for sharing your journey with us- we sure do love you!
Can you tell us about your entry to motherhood?
My son Tai was born seven and a half years ago, on a mattress on the floor, surrounded by moving boxes, in a tiny loft apartment that my husband and I had just moved into weeks before. I was 24 years young, but had already spent a decade longing to become a mama. Tai came into the world in a rush– my labor with him was less than three hours long and he was born encaul. His birth was medicine for my soul and my love for him absolutely consumed me, but it was also the most challenging time of my life- caring for a high needs baby while working full time and navigating the transition to parenthood with my partner. About a year after becoming a mama, I began creating art in an attempt to capture and process the intense emotions I felt around motherhood– and from that art, Spirit&Sol was born!
What do you remember experiencing/feeling during your postpartum periods? Were they different?
Full confession– I’m terrible at the postpartum period. Resting, taking it slow, and asking for help are some of the most challenging things for me, and I pushed myself way too hard after both births. Partly due to financial necessity and partly due to my own stubbornness, I was back at work 4 weeks after Tai’s birth and 5 days after Koa’s. Needless to say, it was a long, hard recovery! Because I didn’t give my body what it needed (rest, nourishment, support time for healing) I ended up feeling exhausted and depleted throughout the postpartum period and beyond. And my body suffered for years as a result, with recurrent mastitis and other infections, fatigue, and a very low immune system. But….those experiences and these past few years connecting with wise women in the birth world have taught me how incredibly important it is to honor the need for rest and healing in the postpartum period, and I’m committed to doing better next time around!
How does being an artist weave into your mothering journey?
Art and motherhood are so intricately connected for me that it’s hard to pull apart the threads that weave them together. My experience as a mama inspires my art, and my art allows me to process and express the complex, intense world of motherhood. But ironically, these two interwoven roles of artist and mama also pull me apart. When I’m in creative mode, I find I’m more irritable and less patient with my boys. And when I’m in mama mode, I find myself feeling guilty for the constant flow of ideas and inspiration that pull me away from being present with them. I often feel such intense inspiration that I want to lock myself in a room and paint for days to release the creative energy inside me. But, as most mamas know, this is nearly impossible with two kiddos! I’m learning to honor the waves of energy that pass through me– to create (without guilt!) when I feel inspired (even if it means letting my kids have too much screen time) and to fully sink into mama mode whenever I can, by turning off my phone, ignoring my to-do list, and just playing with my boys.
One of the things (the many many MANY things!) we love about you is how you are always keeping it real. Can you share with us some recent mom life realness?
I so love and appreciate you mamas for the same reason! (Among many others!!) My most recent raw moment of mom life was on our trip down to Peru. I was flying solo with my two boys and I ended up with a stress-induced migraine on the day of our trip. I was actually really excited about this trip because it’s the first time in many years that I don’t have a child in diapers and/or breastfeeding and I thought it was going to go really smoothly. But…about 20 minutes into our international flight, I got hit with the intense nausea that accompanies migraines. Combined with the turbulence of the plane and a questionable airport salad I’d eaten earlier in the day, I knew it was only a matter of time before everything came up. My 3 year old, Koa, still won’t let me out of his sight, so I scooped him up, squished us into the tiny airplane bathroom, and proceeded to vomit into the toilet– hugging 45 lbs of screaming, squirming child with one arm and holding my hair back with the other. When I finally got cleaned up and got Koa settled back in our seats, I completely lost it in a fit of sobs and self pity. All I wanted in that moment was to be at home in bed, with my own mama taking care of me. Instead, I was alone, thousands of feet in the sky with a pounding headache, surrounded by strangers, responsible for two small beings who were exhausted and grumpy and needing me for comfort. I ugly cried for half an hour, watching the boys fall asleep curled up in their seats, feeling totally overwhelmed by my love for them and by the heavy responsibility that comes with being a mama. This motherhood adventure is far from glamorous, and definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but if I can manage to puke into a tiny metal bowl on a rocking airplane, while simultaneously holding and comforting a freaked out 3 year old, I’m pretty sure I can do anything. I’ve learned that the hardest, grittiest, rawest moments are the ones that leave me feeling like a bad-ass once the dust (and vomit) has settled.
In what area do you shine as a mama?
I’ve always considered myself a very patient person, and that’s where I shine most as a mama. I have two wild, firey, hot tempered boys who are constantly testing boundaries, pushing buttons, and expressing their emotions very loudly. I’m generally able to keep my cool and meet their intensity with patience and grace. (But not always…I’m definitely no super mom!!)
You serve the birth community in so many ways- how do you stay tethered to yourself through so much giving?
Motherhood and the birth world have taught me so much about the value of self care, and I’m learning to how to incorporate it more deeply in my life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a strong desire to serve — my family, community, and the greater world– but I’m learning that I have to temper that drive and desire with an equal dedication to self care so that I don’t burn out. Definitely easier said than done, but the amazing women in my life (you two being at the top of that list!) continue to inspire and support me in my own self care journey.
If there was one thing you wanted to say to mamas in the early parenthood trenches what would it be?
I would give mamas the same advice I wish I’d given myself (or rather, the advice I wish I’d listened to!) Slow down. Ask for support. Rest. Trust your intuition. Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right– just do what works best for you, your family, and your baby. Don’t worry about bouncing back or getting back to “normal.” Embrace this messy, raw, vulnerable chapter of your life as the sacred transition that it is. Allow yourself to cry, to grieve, to reach out for help, to be mothered by others, to be seen. Find little things that make you feel happy, sexy, and strong— fancy lattes, new underwear, a yoga class. Let go of the guilt and the expectations you have of yourself as a mother. Put your own oxygen mask on first and don’t forget to take deep breaths!!
You can find Catie on her website heading up her passion project Pranamama.tv (to which we are contributors!) on IG @spiritysol and this May IRL as she launches her conference MOTHER bringing together parents, artists, activists and womxn of vision and change (we will be there!) tickets here