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The Wrong-Way Umbilical Cord

By Phyllis Stein
January 05, 2010

The umbilical cord is fundamental to our connections with our mothers. Often, they are never cut until we choose to do that ourselves.

Like many of our mothers, mine was a taker - unhappy, bitter, incapable of empathy or compassion for herself or anyone else.  I was conscious, even as a child, of choosing to disconnect from her, refusing to caretake her, knowing that the price of caring about her feelings was to lose myself completely.  We fought and argued frequently, like dogs over a bone - me.


            Recently, I was remembering something that happened when I was about 10.  We had an elderly next-door neighbor who fed all of the stray cats in the neighborhood.  There were usually about 7 customers, twice a day.  At that time, I start going over to her house right after school, staying until dinner, helping her.  She was actually blind, but that did not stop her from going to the butcher shop to pick up fish heads and chicken necks and chicken feet and cooking them up on her old-fashioned gas stove, doing it totally by feel.  We both loved cats and she was very kind to me.  Suddenly, after several months my mother told me not to go over there anymore.  I don’t remember exactly why, something about being a bother and it not being good for me.  I argued briefly and then succumbed.  It did not feel good but I had no way to understand.  I am not sure I even spoke to the neighbor again.  It felt like she had become taboo. 


            Remembering it, I saw with sudden clarity that the real issue was that my mother was jealous.  I wanted to help the neighbor and I did not WANT to help her.  Suddenly the whole energetic system between us became completely clear and I realized that I had not disconnected from her at all, as I had believed.  Rather we were connected by an umbilical cord of pain, of her pulling on me to take away her pain and then blaming me for not doing it.  I realized that everything I did or said was completely magnified for her by the question, over and over again, did I care about her.  I saw that the pull was constant, as was the pain each time I energetically resisted.  I saw, for example, that the reason the whole issue of doing the dishes each night felt so yucky was that each time she was wanting me to WANT to help her, and that she could feel that I did not, was disappointed and blamed me for it.  I did the dishes but that was not what she really wanted.


            Suddenly I understood why I had thrived at summer camp, able to connect with others and have fun and why each time my parents came to visit there was a huge meltdown.  My mother was trying to re-attach to me and I wanted to be free.  After I got home though, she had me within a day and I waited for the next summer so I could live again.


            My mother died 13 years ago.  I thought that we were done.  I had become able to love her and feel that at the soul level she loved me completely and was thrilled to see me again in this lifetime.  I understood how bitterly disappointed she was that we could not share love.  I knew there was nothing I could have done.  So, I was stunned to realize that the energetic umbilical cord was still there.  I was more stunned, when I thought about cutting it, to hear someone inside say that we can’t do that or my mother will be injured and that I will somehow bleed.


            So I created a ritual, in meditation, to cut the cord.  I knew I had to tie it at both ends first, but I could not even do that until I created a new set of cords for each of us, cords of energy going to our hearts from spirit.  It was a literal spiritual bypass.  Only then could I tie off the cord connecting me to my mother and completely release her to deal with her own pain.  Once I did that, I could tie off my end too, secure in the knowledge that I had a new cord attached to me, one that was flowing the right way, bringing me light and love. 


            The cord is cut now, releasing my mother to finally separate from me and me from her.  I can see her sort of floating away.  I can feel that we are now separate and that there is an open feeling in the front of my body, space that I can now claim as my own.


            I believe that the formation of these wrong-way umbilical cords is probably inevitable, given the energetic vacuum of our mothers’ inner emptiness and the depth of our true connection to them.  And I am guessing that once we are ready, once we have healed what we came to heal with our mothers in this lifetime, once we are connected to a spiritual source of the love we need, that we may all have to literally cut these cords in some way to set both ourselves and our mothers free.


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