One of the books that has been sitting on my nightstand for a while is There is No Such Thing as Bad Weather. I finally got around to reading it, and had an epiphany almost as soon as I started: no more playgrounds for us! In an attempt to visit places where the little unicorn can meet others, we have traipsed all over town looking for playgrounds these past winter months. Beside the fact that more often they were completely deserted, I seemed to always be counting down the number of times I was going to carry her to the top of the slide or hold her hand as she walked over towers that are always slightly too high. I realised that most playgrounds are inanimate and uninspiring places made out of dead wood that are in fact not very child (or parent) friendly. So let’s go into the woods together to play hide and seek, climb over fallen branches, marvel at the fields of Indian Lillies, learn about ants and other small critters, enjoy our little picnic and visit the place where the fairies live.
Find your way
As with all rites of passage, it took me a while before I felt accustomed to my new role. There was no maternal instinct that kicked in on day one. As Lisa Marciana describes in Motherhood, the road was full of delays and wrong turnings. In the beginning I was overwhelmed with all the different parenting advice out there. I followed government regulations on sleeping, whilst reading books like Safe Infant Sleep that made more sense. So many people recommended sleep training, whilst a cousin referred us to the sweetest sleep coach. Over the course of the first year, I have figured a couple of things out for myself. I would sum up my approach as: What would the raccoon do? Would she lay her baby down in a crib, or do they sleep huddled up together, warm and safe, in a hollow oak? Would she let her baby cry so that she’ll learn to sleep through the night, or does she respond do their needs? Would she leave her baby with a stranger somewhere, or does she take them with her wherever she goes?
It took me a while to find the courage to write this, because I wanted to write that it was dream to have a baby. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know how to take care of a newborn, on top of recovering from giving birth and being sleep-deprived. My only preparation was sitting in my rocking chair in my beautiful, cosy nursery and reading Secrets of the baby whisperer. Needless to say, that didn’t suffice. There were of course rainbow moments that melted our hearts, but those first few weeks were really hard. Our friends and family came over to help and luckily some had babies with similar temperaments, because none of the general advice worked. After reading Raising your Spirited Baby by Mary Kurcinka I understood why our child struggled to sleep, fiercely crying every single time, and why we couldn’t get her to sleep in her cradle (i.e. a non-human sleep surface). So instead we carried, we rocked, we swayed, we BOUNCED, we danced to Capoeira de Besouro… until she would finally fall asleep on top of us.
Traces of you
It’s two years since my mum died on midsummer’s night. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I try to find her sometimes in familiar places, but she is never where I expect her to be. But then on a random Wednesday morning as I make myself a cup of coffee, I suddenly remember how we’d always enjoy a fika together – sitting out on the veranda or cosying up on the sofa. She’s there when I look down at my hands and it feels I’m looking at hers. When the tiny unicorn and I can’t stop laughing together, just like my mum and I used to. She’s there when a moth lands on top of my glasses or when I spot a bright green spider on a blossoming buddleia. She’s there when I come across a field of poppies. It’s moments like these that I lose my breath for a second and tears roll down my cheeks. Whenever grief pierces my heart like that, I think of the poem by Ellen Brenneman: “Think of me as living in the hearts of those I touched, for nothing loved is ever lost and I know I was loved so much.”
This wild life
It was during the Wolf Moon that our rainbow baby first arrived. I carried her for the next nine moons, dancing with her and singing lullabies. One fine day in the library I found the most beautiful book My journey within: Your way to a Free Birth and made a birth plan with sweet drawings. To reduce the risk of stillbirth we were offered an induction at 39 weeks, which felt like the safest choice. But as we got closer to the due date, we continued to struggle with the decision. I read all the leaflets and the underlying research, but it felt like an impossible decision. Science or nature? Control or trust? It was only when I remembered Women Who Run With the Wolves that I understood that there is a time for burying the dead and a time for birthing babies, and by choosing force to get her out we were superimposing our grief on her birth and disrupting the natural rhythm of life. So instead we created a despacho ritual to let go of the past and bless her birth, whenever she was ready.