I started writing to my son, Arlo, six days after he was born. One week after going into labor and birthing him in my home studio in Brooklyn, New York. He was born under a Pink Full Moon. I have continued writing to him on each full moon. This is a writing practice that tethers me to a new materiality. Motherhood. A new way of making.

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Dear Arlo,

What a week. When I felt you come through me I thought I was going to die, or at least break open. In a way I suppose I did both of those things. See Your Birth story is also My Birth story; as I roared you forth under the Full Pink Moon, I too was (re)born, as a mother and as a woman of immense power. I can’t thank you enough for that. As you made your way through my pelvic bones, pausing to rest at each roadblock of bone and muscle, we talked…

“My boy”, I said, “I don’t know if I have the strength to do this…” And you replied,

“Here, let me help you.” as you rotated your fragile head just enough to traverse the bone.

In that moment I felt relief and wonder, and I thanked you.

Then when your shoulders came up against my hard bones, we talked again. “My boy”, I said, “I think I might die if this goes on, is there any other way?”

And you replied,

“No. The only way is through. But don’t worry, you won’t die, you will just break open, so I can come through and heal you.” As my skin stretched and tore I trusted you. When your beautiful head crowned and pushed its way past the threshold of my body, I trusted you. We paused as you sat deep underwater, between two worlds. That last push to free your shoulders from my body’s grasp required every ounce of strength I had left. And when your body slid out of me I felt every piece of you; the length of your arms and small fingers, the girth of your torso, your long legs and tiny feet, and lastly, the umbilical cord pulling tight inside of me as our midwife Shar guided you to the surface and into my arms.

Arlo Tangaroa Swan, ‘Our Birth’ was a perfect collaboration, and in six short days on the outside of me, you have healed me in ways I could never have imagined. You have been true to your word. I am filled with love.

Yours always,

Mum xox

Dear Arlo,
Happy first full moon anniversary. A full flower moon. Full bloom. Full of life. Full of growth. Full of new beginnings. Full of pollen and potential and promise. Heavy with scent but light enough to float and dance on the wind. You have taught me well over this past month, I’m slowly learning to walk in motherhood.
Yours always,
Mum xox

Dear Arlo,
Happy second full moon. A Strawberry moon, the first full moon of summer. A time of carefree growth, laughter and heat. But this morning thunder rolls through the sky and rain pounds from the heavens. Just as in life, nothing behaves as predicted, but it’s all perfectly as it should be. It’s an honor to watch you land in your body more and more each day. You bring unpredictability, pure joy, a smattering of exhaustion and so much love my heart hurts.
Yours always,
Mum xox

Dear Arlo,
Last night was your third full moon on the outside of me. I listened to you breathing heavily in deep sleep and wondered where your dreams took you. The moon was blood red, and in total lunar eclipse. But the July full moon is also known as a Thunder moon, and true enough, the sky was wild with thunder and lightening. Though I couldn’t see her, she spoke to me of ideas we must release ourselves from. You have also reminded me of a few of these since I last wrote. As your smile has grown wider, your giggles emerge, and tears have rolled down both our cheeks. You have reminded me that it’s ok to have feelings you don’t understand or can’t articulate. Sometimes we just need to be held and allowed to feel. To cry, to release, to laugh. I will hold you, and you will hold me. Also, you learnt to blow bubbles.
Yours always,
Mum xox

Dear Arlo,

I’m writing this as I lay awake in bed after your 1am feed. You have drifted back to your dreams and I just caught a glimpse of the Harvest Moon high and full in the sky. Our fifth full moon together on the earth side. Happy full moon darling heart. It’s the end of summer, we have done all we can in this season. The Fall Equinox is upon us and as we honor the changing light, it’s time to let go of what we can no longer hold, and to create space for what is to come.

Becoming your mother has turned me inside out. It has exposed parts of me that I didn’t know existed. It has forever changed my skeletal structure, and continues to be both a thrilling and terrifying ride back into myself. Back to my truth. Back to some kind of ancient knowing. It still blows my mind that I grew you inside of me, and still, you are sustained solely by me. The only nourishment you have had is via my body. This knowing fills me with love, courage, strength and a take me to my knees weakness that I can’t really put words to. Lately I love watching you test your vocal chords and try to find your voice as you yell, squeal and laugh. Please know that I will always hear you. I will always honor your words, even in moments when you can’t find them yourself.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

I’m writing this as I lay awake in bed after your 1am feed. You have drifted back to your dreams and I just caught a glimpse of the Harvest Moon high and full in the sky. Our fifth full moon together on the earth side. Happy full moon darling heart. It’s the end of summer, we have done all we can in this season. The Fall Equinox is upon us and as we honor the changing light, it’s time to let go of what we can no longer hold, and to create space for what is to come.

Becoming your mother has turned me inside out. It has exposed parts of me that I didn’t know existed. It has forever changed my skeletal structure, and continues to be both a thrilling and terrifying ride back into myself. Back to my truth. Back to some kind of ancient knowing. It still blows my mind that I grew you inside of me, and still, you are sustained solely by me. The only nourishment you have had is via my body. This knowing fills me with love, courage, strength and a take me to my knees weakness that I can’t really put words to. Lately I love watching you test your vocal chords and try to find your voice as you yell, squeal and laugh. Please know that I will always hear you. I will always honor your words, even in moments when you can’t find them yourself.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Happy sixth full moon my sweetest love. The Full Hunters Moon in Taurus, your sun sign. The first full moon after the harvest moon when the fields have been reaped, the veil pulled back, and the hunters eyes can wander the horizon uninterrupted. Rising at sunset and setting and sunrise, the Full Hunters Moon hangs in the sky longer than any other. Rather fitting as our nights have grown longer as well. I can see the white tooth buds behind your gums. They stand to attention on the edge of the threshold they must traverse. Their journey is slow and unpredictable and I’m doing my best to help you through it and all the woe that comes with a pain you can’t possibly understand.

Today you just needed me to lay with you. I understand. You rest easier when you rest on me. As I lay with you nestled into the crook of my arm I whisper gently into your ear “...give it to me, give me your pain, I can hold it. Come on my love, let me take it from you, just let it go, give it to me, I’ll hold it for you. I’m strong enough...” And you breathe, sigh, release and drift off to sleep. And I hold it for you. I will always hold it for you. I am strong enough. I’ve got you.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo

It’s been a handful of days since I watched our seventh full moon rise and fall overhead. I’ve had trouble finding the right words or a still moment to write them, until this morning. As you lay across my chest sucking your thumb, your small body nestled into the curves of mine. Your head on my heart. I had a vision. I saw our bodies melt into one another as if we had released our skins and our flesh knew we were one in the same. Our breathing fell into sync. I saw in that moment that even as you find more movement in your body, we will always be one. You are an extension of me. I am your island, your sanctuary, your place of refuge. We curve and flow and breathe and move together just like the rivers and mountains do. Just as we did when you were on the inside of me.
So happy seventh full moon my love of loves. I look forward to watching you grow and explore as you move into the world and I will always be the home that you will return to.
Yours always,
Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Happy full moon my love of loves. Tonight is our eighth full moon together. Rising just one day after the Winter Solstice, she marks the long night, the darkest day of the year. We are resting, bathing in the night, being held by darkness but drawn forward by the promise of more light. This full moon marks a turning point for me, I feel as though I’m transitioning into a different stage of becoming, and you, as always, are right by my side whispering gently to me and giving me the courage to lean into it all. Your infectious grin encouraging and calling me fourth along this wild path of motherhood. When we swim in each other’s eyes during those early morning feeds I see your soul layers. Your past journeys. Your knowledge. It’s then that I see the ways in which you are stronger than me. During our birth I told you of my fears and you showed me that my most fragile edges were stronger than I had ever imagined. Now you are my kindest teacher; a hand holder, my souls favourite travel companion, here to walk with me across thresholds that are revealing themselves daily. As you find the strength in your little legs you give me strength in myself. While you learn to taste and swallow new textures and flavours, I taste metamorphosis. While you discover determination and intention in your movement, I see a brave new way of living in the world. I cannot thank you enough for the expansion, the snort giggles and for holding me.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Last week I watched our ninth full moon rise and shine from our kitchen window. Today you are nine months old.

I’ve been lost for words in the space in between those two places, knowing that soon, you will forever be in the world longer than you were inside of me. This feels deeply profound, and yet, it’s just one more threshold that we will cross together. When I started writing this letter I was in bed with you snuggled deeply into the crook of my arm. Your head turned up to mine, your breath heavy. It was the eve of our ninth moon. A super moon and total lunar eclipse. As she hung heavy, swollen and glowing in the sky, dripping with promise and encouragement. I was reminded of something a very wise woman told me shortly after you were born. She wrote to me from across the sea and said; “Holli, he comes fresh from the otherworld and it will make you remember that place. He is your grandest and greatest protest.” My dear Arlo, you are just that. My grandest and greatest protest. You make me shine in the face of it all. You are challenging me to redefine and reimagine life. To embrace my uniqueness. To stand strongly in my authenticity - even when my knees are weak. You challenge me to sing loudly and with courage. Motherhood is radical and YOU are my leader, my beacon in the dark night, calling me forward, with your fist in the air. I love you.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Happy spring my love of loves. Happy equinox. Happy full moon in libra, our 11th here together. I can’t believe how time fly’s. The winter has been long and dark. It’s felt like we were moving through a dense fog at times. Quietly hopeful at others. Four teeth have finally poked through your tender gums. We have watched you becoming bolder, more determined in your body. You are fearless and full of humor. You bring us the deepest snuggles, claw at our faces and then offer up the most tender of gestures. As you lay your head on my shoulder you stare so deeply into my eyes, examining every every nook and cranny of my soul. No part of me is safe from you. I can keep no secrets and hide no fears. We are learning how to navigate this new world together. With our breath synced.

After a long winter cocooned in wonder and lack of sleep, our movement into spring is an unfurling. I emerge with you holding my hand as I follow my heart into birth-work. With the gentle support of two incredible mentors and a community of people who have truly SEEN me, I’ve moved through a 13 week Doula mentorship and Postpartum Doula training; all while processing my own birth as a Mother. See, I always knew you would be my greatest teacher. Thank you for coming through me and showing me the way.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

When I look at the sky tonight all I see is a vast sea of stars. They are as familiar as the back of my hand. I’ve longed to be back under this sky, longed to show it to you. It covers us like a dark cloak, strewn with constellations I’ve traced with my finger since I was a child. And I know somewhere up there is a Full Pink Moon. Happy twelfth full moon my loves of loves.

You lay in the kind of deeply exhausted slumber that rewards a day lived to its fullest. While I sit alone, wrapped in the dark cloak, surrounded by the familiar and a deep sense of calm. I am home. My feet are back in the ground. My body is back in the ocean. My heart is nourished watching your eyes sparkle as you explore and breathe in this beautiful land, Aotearoa. Welcome home Arlo Tangaroa Swan.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

This is you, one year old. One year earthside. But you have been here before. You and I have lived lifetimes together already. I knew this before you told me, I could see it in those big blue eyes of yours. They are as deep and blue as the ocean, filled with a complicated network of underwater caves that map the lifetimes you have spent in this realm. I trace them with my finger as I do the stars. Joining the dots. Learning the lessons.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Motherhood is messy and unrelenting, but I’m grateful to be yours.

Love always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

I could lose hours watching you sleep. These moments of stillness occur only when you’re dreaming, while in the waking hours your little body is in constant motion. Being your mother is the hardest, most confronting thing I’ve ever done, a profound unraveling of self. Our days a tangle of need, negotiation and joy. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve been swept out to sea and drowning is inevitable. Other times, we gently float in harmony together. Either way, it’s all deep learning and I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

I swim in those eyes every day. They contain all of our stories, our past lives lived together, our joy, our fears. They call me forth gently when I’m weak and sparkle with determination as you lean into every boundary I build. And when we are still, I watch you swim in mine. Eye to eye we travel together.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

I started writing this letter on the eve of the full Strawberry Moon, and I’m finishing it on the eve of the Summer Solstice. Happy fourteenth full moon, happy summer, happy solstice my littlest love. The joy I see in your face as you tear into a plump juicy strawberry is rivaled by none. They leave their summer stain on those sweet lips of yours. With six large teeth in your mouth you’re tearing into everything with gusto, including my body. There is a certain physicality to motherhood that is trying at times. My autonomy has dissolved. My body is your jungle gym, your resting place, your source of nourishment in all forms. I’m left bruised and bitten as you throw yourself about gleefully. Your growing strength and determination stretch my edges every day. But as you pause in this dappled light, naked and surrounded by new spring growth, the hard parts slip away. I see a soft, playful, kind soul looking deeply back at me. Simultaneously asking for reassurance and calling me to follow. Challenging me to just expand more when I feel my toes curl over that edge. To keep walking and trust that the ground will still be there. Those eyes of yours conjure a sweet headiness in me that I cannot evade. I understand in that moment that no one can prepare you for the journey across the threshold into motherhood because it’s not a singular journey. It’s a dance. A duet. It unfolds as a sort of tandem energetic quest. It’s magic contained in your ability to surrender to the unknown. Thank you for joining me on this quest Arlo Tangaroa Swan, but you can stop biting me now.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,

Happy 15th full moon my darling. This one has been big! We have traveled far over this last moon cycle. From East coast to West. From stifling humidity to dusty dry heat. From our home, your place of birth and the only home you have known outside of my body, to a nomadic fluid space filled with unknowns. We asked for adventure and we sure did get it. We’ve had the rug pulled out from under us more than once, but we have found that there were dear dear friends waiting to catch us. I am reminded of that call to trust and the deep surrender that a birthing space insists upon. I have had to reconnect with my gut as we navigate this journey. You, my littlest love, have adapted and flowed alongside us and boy, have you found your will power and autonomy. You and I are so grounded in our attachment but there’s no pulling the wool over your eyes. You know exactly what you want and when you want it my love. I hope I am able to nurture this innate intuitive knowing you possess. It will serve you well in life.

Yours always,

Mum xox

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Dear Arlo,
Last night I watched the moon rise out of a new bedroom window. She was sluggish and dripping. I watched her slowly move across our new view, from our different house, in this new city. Her familiarity bringing me comfort. Happy full moon my darling, your sixteenth full moon in these earthly arms of mine and boy have I been holding on tight. All this movement and change has brought the sweet taste of adventure to our lips, spiked with a succession of unknowns. A deeper realization that the stakes have gone up in this life and while we do our best to keep the family ship sailing true and straight, the seas have been turbulent and the waves high. I sometimes cling to the rudder not knowing if I should head for shore, or further out.
We have struggled with sleep. We have struggled with communication. I have struggled with my enoughness. You have learnt to walk, and to fall. But we have settled into our new home and it’s mostly filled with sunlight. So as I lay with you and watch our heavy moon friend rise from our new window I am thinking again about tethering to my gut, about leaning into the uncomfortable, about riding out the storm. I never fathomed just how much learning we would do as we wade through these long nights. I know we have been here before and this won’t be our last journey, but how much growing are our souls capable of? And how is it that I somehow have the capacity to love you more and more the harder it gets??
Yours always,
Mum xox