She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."
Becoming a parent on the other hand is a completely different kind of awakening. It happens slowly over time and it re-occurs over and over. Of course everyone knows and understands that becoming a parent changes your life, but you cannot know the ways or the hows or the whens and whys until they actually occur. I was trying to think of an appropriate analogy to describe parenting as a recurring, growing awakening and a few came to mind. Maybe it is like a wave that starts way out in the ocean, looking so tiny because it is so far away, then grows and grows until it finally crashes on the shore. (In this analogy, Unschooling would be a smaller wave overtaken and becoming part of the larger wave.) Or maybe parenting is like a snowball at the top of a hill, and as it rolls down it gathers speed and snow getting bigger and bigger as it goes (and unschooling was like a ramp that my snowball hit, catapulting me - well my snowball - high into the air for a short while). Ok, that one's not working for me so much.
Then I thought of sunrises and new days. I remember how when I was a teacher one idea that helped me so much was that every day was a new day and I got to start over. Parenting is like that. We are always having new realizations. But that wasn't just right yet. So I thought of a seed. And how when we are born we are like a seed, just waiting for water, fertile soil, and sunlight. And with time and these important resources we sprout and begin to grow, taller and taller. Maybe the seed is of a Cherry tree. Did you know that it takes most flowering and fruit trees several years to mature before they can bear blossoms or fruit? I didn't till I just searched for it now, to see how my analogy might work.
So we grow. The first time the Cherry tree blooms is what I think it is like to become a mother. (Trees apparently reach maturity and the age of discovery faster than we do. But they still have their childhood!) But every day the sun rises on that tree and the tree keeps growing. And it goes through many seasons - sunny, abundant, green summers; brisk, windy, rusty colored autumns; and cold, snowy, white winters. And of course spring again every year. Discovering unschooling was like one of those springs for me - the beautiful blooms seeming to appear overnight and lasting only a few short days. But motherhood is like the sun rising on that tree every day, and the seasons changing it every year, and its blooms always reappearing, even after the cold winter. It's what makes life so exciting and new even when every day you are doing normal, mundane things like the laundry and dishes. It's your kids learning something new or telling you that you are the best mama ever. It's the first time they say "I love you" or pucker their little lips to give you a soft, wet kiss.
So the arrival of Marisol truly was the beginning of a new life for me. It was the beginning of feeling I had a true purpose and passion in life. I thank her every day for this gift, the gift of making me a mama. I've been meaning to write out and post her birth story for quite some time, and the Monday after Mother's day seems an ideal time.
I have transcribed her birth story from my journal almost exactly - down to underlines and smiley faces - everything. The only few small changes I have made were to make the writing a little clearer (remember I was writing just days and weeks after having my first baby!)
So if you are into Birth stories I invite you to read. It's heavy on details, because I couldn't bear the thought of forgetting any, and therefore is quite lengthy. I am going to split it up into at least two sections for this reason. Before her birth story I want to leave you with a couple of paragraphs from an essay that really spoke to me. This mama has a way with words and it explains what my heart is trying to say.
"When I did get back to me, I was gone. This is the thing that women don’t tell each other about motherhood. That you will never be who you were. That you will not see anything the way you used to see it, you will never hear language the way you used to hear it, music, color, photos, friends, family, career path–nothing or no one came through my transition from single woman to mother unexamined. Least of all myself."
"A new self did emerge. This is what women do not tell each other. I want to say it here: You will die when you become a mother and it will hurt and it will be confusing and you will be someone you never imagined and then, you will be reborn. Truthfully, I have never wanted to be the woman I was before I had children. I loved that woman and I loved that life but I don’t want it again. My daughters have made me more daring, more human, more compassionate. Their births have brought me closer to the earth and they have helped me pare my life down to its essentials. Writing, quick prayers, good food, a few close friends, many deep breaths, love, plants, dancing, music, teaching-these are the ingredients of my/this new self. I waited for this new self in the dark, in the bittersweet water of letting go, in the heavy heartbeat of learning to be a mother, against the isolation, I grew and emerged laughing and crying and here I am, sisters and brothers.
Here I am."
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie
Rebirth: What We Don't Say
(written on July 12, 2006)
Friday June 30, 2006
I started having contractions late Friday night. At first I wasn't even sure if they were true contractions. It seemed like they were Braxton-Hicks... I played solitaire on the computer and listened through the whole Dixie Chicks CD (2012 EDIT: it's still Marisol's favorite!) I started feeling very anxious - what if these are really contractions? Am I ready for labor? Am I ready for the baby? I was starting to pay attention to how far apart the contractions were - they were getting stronger - I could barely focus on solitaire :) I mentioned to Mike a couple of times that night that I was having a lot of Braxton-Hicks... We were both in bed by around 11:30.
When each contraction came I would look at the clock... I was surprised how close some of them were. I was also starting to feel more cramping down low - not like the tightening in my belly (that was still happening too though)They felt a lot like period cramps - they also started to burn in my back a little - some were 10 minutes apart, some 7, some 3! There wasn't a clear pattern though...
I was not sleeping at all... I think I took I think I took a bath that night... I still hadn't told Mike. At 3:30 am I woke Mike up and told him I hadn't been asleep yet... he said, "Why?" I said, "Because I really am having contractions!" but I reassured him they weren't that bad and they weren't regular (They were "irregular") I went downstairs to have a snack because I was hungry, and next thing I know Mike was down there with me... I was like - I knew you wouldn't be able to sleep! - he said, "It's like Christmas!"I got him to go back to sleep by going back into bed myself.
So, I was in bed long enough to make sure Mike fell back asleep (2012 EDIT: haha, this must have been practice for the kids!) then I think I was back up. I finally slept for about an hour and a half I think ~7-8:30 am (on the couch) I think I put some laundry in and put Pelo out in the cat run... poor kitty :) I believe we called Marry Ann (our doula) that morning - and she agreed it might be early labor...
It was a really nice relaxing day. Mike and I went on a walk that morning... the contractions kept coming all day but they did not get stronger or closer. Every time I thought they had stopped I would get another one. I rested from about 11-1 but didn't sleep much. I don't remember much else of what we did that afternoon - I just remembered - I started re-reading the book "Little Alters Everywhere" What a great book and distraction! I think I finished laundry and watched NASCAR with Mike. (2012 EDIT: Oh my goodness - my last day without children for a really long time! What a different life!) I remember Mike was very laid back - he really hung out with me and wasn't trying to work on any projects like the bathroom or the yard. I was so glad he was home because otherwise they day would have been so long! We ordered pizza and ate. Then we actually went on another walk and went over to his parents' house - his mom has a couple of pictures! (2012 EDIT: I might have to dig one out and scan it!) We didn't stay too long - I had a couple of contractions there and hid it pretty well :) but pretty soon I was like, "Mike - I want to go home..." I'm pretty sure I checked over our stuff that evening to make sure we were ready.
We started to watch Harry Potter. I remember noticing around 11:30 the contractions were coming closer - so I started timing again and they were 5 min... Mike soon wanted to go to bed... I had read to call the midwives when contractions were 5 min apart for at least an hour... I think they were supposed to be getting stronger too... @ 12:30 I decided to call Mary Ann - they were pretty strong and I didn't know what to do. I definitely woke her up! She was groggy... We talked for a bit and decided to see what happened. I decided to have Mike sleep and I would get in the shower. I was a little put out that she didn't mention coming over but I didn't want to ask... 2 minutes later the phone rang and it was Mary Ann! She said, "I realized I didn't even ask you if you wanted me to come over!" That made me feel better... I felt like I had a plan so I said no, I'm ok for now...
It was another long night - but I was not bored and had no desire to try and watch TV or read. I did a little of everything - 1st shower then kneeling on the birth ball, then bath, then birth ball. I got about an hour - 2 hours of sleep on the couch where I slept 5 minutes @ a time then woke up with a contraction! It doesn't sound like much and it wasn't great being woken up that way - but the sleep felt great and I'm sure it helped later.
I also walked around downstairs - pacing in a circle like Mr. Pelo does through the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I set myself little time goals - like "I'll stay in the tub until this time then go downstairs..." The second time I got back in the tub it was ~ 4:30 am - I decided to go back to bed ~ 5:30 to start waking Mike up... I lay with him and told him I wanted to get up @ 6 make breakfast and pass time till 7 - @ 7 am I knew the midwives switched so I figured I may as well wait till then... I was so excited/happy that April was on that Sunday. I called almost exactly @ 7 (after Mike made us scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, which I ate a little of) April was paged and called back ~ 15 minutes later - she listened to how things were going and said I had 2 choices - come in to get checked and if we weren't that far we could go back home, or wait a little longer. We decided to call Mary Ann and stay at home.
Around that time (8 am ?) I was feeling really tired - it also seemed like the contractions were getting farther apart rather than closer and stronger. Those two things discouraged me - it was probably a low point for me. (side note - earlier that night in the tub I really gained confidence that I could actually do this whole thing the way we planned - I was handling the contractions - I was really proud of myself for laboring the whole night - 12:20 am - 5:30 am by myself. I also had figured out that a low "ooh" sound helped me a lot on the Birth ball and really worked on my breathing..._
So after all that labor and doing all those things I was actually in bed when Mary Ann (our doula) arrived - I round that ironic and thought I must look pretty exhausted... I certainly felt it. Mary Ann just starts talking about things like our wedding photo on the wall and prints from Rome... And I don't know why, but the contractions start picking up! I guess she just helped me relax.
So she suggests standing for some contractions and "slow dancing" with Mike. Oh yeah - I also walked up and down the hall some... then she suggested going downstairs to change the scene... next thing we know the contractions are coming closer! They were about 3 minutes apart and seemed pretty strong (stronger)... Mike called his parents to bring Mary Ann some water - we called the midwifes again - we started getting all of our stuff together - and what a load of stuff! (birth ball, backpack with clothes, CDs, toiletries, CD player, baby car seat, diaper bag with baby stuff, food etc. but we used just about all of it!! :-) April (midwife) wasn't calling back and I was getting anxious to go (Mike's mom had dropped off two 6 packs of water 0 right when I was having a contraction! I remember her poking her head in...) So Mike called back and gave his cell phone... Mary Ann drove separate - I knelt in the back - my knees on the floor facing the back seat - Mike spoke to April then called my parents to let them know we were going to the hospital - they didn't even know we were having contractions - I hadn't spoken to mom since Friday morning - They played golf with Paulsens then went to Ithaca (where my sister, Laura lives) Friday - stayed over night and went on the boat all day Saturday. Mom called Saturday night but I didn't call back - I didn't want to get them all excited :) Anyways - dad was home and mom and grandpa at church - I guess dad was so excited that he called them at church...
To be continued... I know the suspense is killing you!