• Cynthia Dagnal-Myron

That empty nest is a symbol: YOU are free to take flight now, too...

My first grandchild is only days old. And I have been helping her mother and father face the temporary terror of being new parents caring for a newborn.

I was delighted and eager to do this, It was, I believed, my duty, as mother of the new mother. That nest is never really empty, you know.

I remember Joseph Campbell helping his audience to understand parenting with a story about these little birds he and his wife watched from their veranda.

"Motherhood is a sacrifice," he said. "On our veranda in Hawaii, there are little birds that come that Jean likes to feed. And each year there have been one or two mothers, mother birds. And if you’ve ever seen a mother bird plagued by her progeny for food, that the mother should regurgitate their meal to them, and the two of them, or five of them in one case, flopping all over this poor little mother, they bigger than she in some cases, you just think, well, this is the symbol of motherhood. This is just giving of your substance, every thing, to this progeny."

I wholeheartedly agreed. My sole purpose in life for many years was making sure my own hatchling, who I raised alone after divorcing her father when she was still in elementary school, was well cared for.

But when my hatchling had a hatchling of her own recently...something interesting occurred to me, as I watched her struggle mightily through those very first days of motherhood.

I now believe--my daughter won't until she's gotten through the rough seas we all endure with newborns--there's more to the story than sacrifice. I believe that sacrifice is a gift. And that in giving our all to our babies we parents are born again.

In fact, the entire family--maybe that entire "village" they say it takes to raise a child--is renewed. Healed. And eventually freed up to start a whole new life informed by the wisdom earned from all that parenting.

As for our family, we've been on a roller coaster of emotions--family and friends celebrating and "recalibrating" far and near.

But it's us "near" ones who have experienced the most remarkable metamorphosis, having to acknowledge and adapt to all the new dynamics that this birth symbolizes.

And I believe I've felt it more deeply than many.

My baby had a baby. Which makes her less a "baby" and even less mine, in a way, given hat she now truly has her own family, unmarried though she still may be.

Her betrothed has a large family, too, you see. Which is just as overjoyed to welcome that little hatchling she birthed the other day.

So we did the "mother/daughter" thing that often goes down during pregnancy. But now that wee one is here, decisions about her life will be made by "committee." A very large, doting committee of families all jockeying for position.

But first and foremost, all decisions are made by baby's mother and father. And I have to step back and watch. Even when it's painful.

And believe me it can be excruciating.

At first, I just could not decide who to be. Who I was allowed to be. Supposed to be.

And WHO was this grownup woman I was suddenly having to take orders from? I mean...REALLY?

Oh, the battles. The confrontations. The old wounds reopened. The new wounds inflicted. The wars of words. The battle lines drawn and boundaries built...

And then, the other night, after one of the biggest explosions, I sat with my ex and talked of other things. Spiritual things. Silly things. Lovely things.

Still smarting from the big battle, we'd spent the day cleaning our daughter's new nest, and found ourselves talking about our own lives. Dreams. Decisions.

And gradually...the clouds cleared.

We were getting on with things. There would be more sturm und drang to be sure. And recalibrating--endlessly, that.

But we'd been fire baptized, the both of us.

And we were realizing that life would not only go on, it would be even better now. Because, not inspire of, the battles.

We'd given our all. So now, we both had room for more life. Any life we wanted to pour ourselves into. Or that poured into us.

So yes. The nest is never empty. Not for long. When the hatchlings leave, we can fill it with our own things.

I think Joe Campbell would approve of this hypothesis...


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