Liminality was first introduced in 1909 by anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep. Describing the rites of passage as a three part structure: Separation; Liminial Period; and Re-assimilation. The liminal phase in particular, is that of a period of time where a person has not yet completed the rite of passage to their new status. Liminality was further extended by anthropologist Victor Turner and described as “Betwixt and between.” The right of passage for ones physical, psychological and social self.
It was only until recently that I truly identified with the experience of the liminal phase. This was during my first pregnancy. My husband and I were ‘ready’ to become parents and we welcomed this next chapter with open arms. As my first pregnancy progressed I would experience natural waves of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and joy. However whilst parts of my life were progressing (in particular my growing baby and changing body!) it also felt equally suspended.
I particularly remember an encounter on Mothers day when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I was wished a ‘Happy Mothers Day’ that was quickly intercepted with “well not yet”. I didn’t know how to feel about this comment. Slightly uncomfortable? Agreeable? Or both? This highlighted to me this space of time between a woman and a mother; a non parent and parent. I am a woman but not the woman I was before I was pregnant but not yet a fully fledged sleep deprived, loved up mum to my offspring. I was somewhere ‘betwixt and between.’
So I thought to break down and relate the three phases of the liminal period to a three part journey of becoming a mother.
By reflecting on this excitingly unnerving time I now recognise that this Liminal Phase I experienced was deeply profound and actually really normal. After all, it was the biggest transformation of my life! I was moving forward from the person I grew to know and shape for 32 years, to enter a whole new chapter of my life. Looking back, at times I was feeling on edge. The edge of stepping into the most important role of my life where there is no stepping back.
In highlighting this rite of passage I hope to shift the perspective of a woman living through an intense ‘hormonal roller coaster’ to that of a natural and necessary process. This is normal in the transformation of becoming a mother whether it be the first or one of many. The deep spiritual side of pregnancy and birth is a rite of passage where nothing is right or wrong. It is just individual and unique to you. Show yourself kindness, compassion and patience in this new role, motherhood is a marathon not a sprint.