Saturday, March 11, 2006

A decade of memories

Brew of the day: Actually, I've not got near the kettle this morning. Instead, my cup is full of our delicious breakfast smoothie ~ rice milk, banana, loads of cinnamon, and a few spoonfuls of Gillian McKeith's Living Superfood. Yummo.

Bethany, my first born, is ten years old on Monday. This past decade of my life has been full. I’ve lived a whole lifetime within Bethany’s lifetime. She was conceived within six weeks of Paul and I getting together (we just *knew* we were meant for each other and moved in together the next day). I can’t tell you how liberating it is to begin a relationship without wearing masks and acting as if you’re a perfect human being. I think this helped immensely with our rather quick jump into co-parenting.

When pregnancy was confirmed, I knew without question that I’d have a waterbirth at home. We sought out an independent midwife. It didn’t occur to me to have an unassisted birth ~ I’m not sure why, given my three youngest siblings were born at home this way.

During my pregnancy with Bethany we went to the north of New Zealand to swim with dolphins. I’d not long been back from a six month working holiday in the UK where I picked up two waterbirth books. Strangely, I’d been woken from a dream one night where a voice told me I’d write ‘The Beautiful Birth Book’. I didn’t know what that meant but it was one of those very strong, vivid dreams. That morning I went into a local new age book store and the two waterbirth books fell off the shelves. What was particularly disarming was that I actually didn’t ever want children. How quickly that was to change. These books were beautiful and I soon found myself pining for a child. The desire was so strong that it wouldn’t have surprised me if I’d opted for being a single parent had I not met Paul.

I read everything I could find on waterbirths ~ at that time there actually wasn’t that much about, so we set up the National Waterbirth Trust in New Zealand. This acted as a clearing house for information: a point of contact for parents; and after Bethany’s birth (which we had professionally filmed) we showed the video to doctors, midwives and parenting and birth preparation classes. During pregnancy, I’d asked Paul (a professional voice over) to record some affirmations I’d written. His friend Rob composed music to go with it. This evolved into the Peaceful Pregnancy CD which we now sell on The Mother magazine website.

Bethany’s arrival into our life triggered so many changes ~ not least was my 12 cup a day coffee habit. It died in an instant when Mr Right came along and I knew there’d be some baby-making a happening! I took everything I knew about nutrition (blessed as I was with an aware mother who raised us as vegetarians) and became very diligent about what I put into my body. Bethany’s body was made on Spirulina. I don’t think a day of my pregnancy went by without me making a blender full of the stuff.

Pregnancy with Bethany was blissful…prenatal yoga, aquanatal classes, long walks with Paul. I listened to lots of music. Mostly Mozart, some Pavarotti.

Her birth was everything I imagined. She arrived after an easy labour…into our bedroom. Candles were lit, soft music playing, me indulging in the warmth of the waterbirth pool. Paul massaged me, loved me, caught our beautiful love child. Moments like these are forever etched in one’s memory. For it is here, in the most precious spaces in time that we forget the past and let go of our worries. Truly living in the moment, we are embraced by the true meaning of life.

For the next 22 months I sincerely believed I was the best mother in the world. I loved life. Every day was a magical journey. I thrived. Bethany and I would spend much of our time in a friend’s coffee shop; during our mornings at home we made walnut and banana muffins; we’d go swimming or play at the park. At the time, Paul was working as a broadcaster on radio, doing the breakfast shift. He came home from work just as Bethany and I were crawling out of bed. I enjoyed the easy pace of life.

And then our precious Eliza arrived and my illusions were shattered. Two kids under two brought out exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion. There is no other way to describe it. And yet, despite the unimaginable sleep deprivation, I stayed true to my natural parenting ideals and fully breastfed both girls. They were never left with baby-sitters and I carried Eliza in a sling just as I had with Bethany.

What I’ve since discovered about the absolute torture of sleep deprivation is that (at least for me, but I have witnessed it among other mothering friends) it seems to set off a creative fire. It is a bit like all of one’s creative juices are in a pressure cooker...and eventually something has to give! I still love sleep as much as ever but cope on far less sleep than in my youth. I’m also far more productive with my time as a result of having two kids arrive into my life in the space of less than two years.

I had a chuckle to myself the other day when a friend with a toddler, who is in a new relationship, said her partner was complaining about being tired and not getting enough sleep because the little one was waking at 6am. I just shook my head, thinking, ‘he has NO idea!’ Women are lucky that way ~ the hormones of birth allow us to somehow (miraculously) get through those early years.

When Bethany was 2½ we moved from NZ to Australia as the radio station Paul worked at had closed down and we felt Australia would offer us more opportunity. Wrong! We’d been wrongly informed by immigration. That I was an Australian didn’t give him the right to work in Australia ~ he had to wait two years and then apply for permanent residency (at a cost of $2000) with no guarantee he’d be accepted.

We’d sold everything to move to Australia…so to arrive there with two little, teething children, next to no cash and no way to earn money (without me going to work and leaving my two young daughters) was soul destroying to say the least.

Within six months we decided that if we came to England (with Paul being English by birth) at least Paul would be able to work and I could continue staying at home with the children. Being a full time caregiver to them has always been my priority. Clearly we were meant to come to the UK, as Paul won a Christmas carol competition on the radio and the prize of $1000 to be spent at the local shopping centre meant we could buy air fares from the travel agent there.

Leaving Australia on a scorching 38 degree Celsius day (with 80% humidity) to arrive in chilly Cumbria when it was minus 12 degrees and snowing was surreal to say the least. I was thankful, however, that we’d at least landed in a rural area. And here we’ve stayed for the past 7 years.

I immersed myself in natural parenting literature and then studied to become a breastfeeding counsellor with La Leche League. Four years ago, I took my passion for natural parenting into the public arena with the launch of The Mother magazine.

And now, as my daughter begins her second decade of life, and the second decade of my life as a mother begins, I wonder, how I can balance my needs with my children’s needs. It is as if their own lives have a full time agenda which requires a chauffeur, chaperone and chief meal preparer. How on earth I can do all that and follow my own tune in life is becoming increasingly trickier.

Some days I yearn for a 48 hour day just so I don’t have to keep burning the midnight oil. I’d made a pact with myself to start going to bed by 10pm. Easier said than done when I can’t get their eyes shut before then.

They’ve always got some thing else to do: su doko with Dad; just one more page of Harry Potter; sewing; violin practice; a drawing; a letter which has to be written. All things which, for some reason, never seem to get done in the day time. I feel like I need two lives. One to be ‘just’ mother and be at the beck and call...and the other life where I can explore my passions and desires without time constraints. That’s the trouble with sleep deprivation and creative explosion… You can’t just sit on it...somewhere, sometime it has to be released.

So, although I’m not sure what the next decade will bring, I do know that it will be quite unlike the first ten years of Bethany’s life.

One of my strongest passions is to find our family’s soul-home. When, where, how ~ I don’t know. It is calling from within the deepest part of me. Daily, it haunts me. And yet I know that somewhere is a home that will mirror who we truly are. A place to nurture, comfort, inspire ~ a haven to share with our friends.

I also would very much like to take the messages of The Mother into a mainstream forum like television and expose it to the masses. This has come about since the documentary (Extraordinary Breastfeeding) was broadcast and seeing how little people know about what should be basic common knowledge. The magazine really, for the most part, preaches to the converted. That is no longer enough for me ~ the messages have to go further. A real shift in humanity’s consciousness needs to happen ~ for all sorts of reasons ~ but mostly because life as we know it, will be unrecognisable once the oil wells run dry. (If you don’t know what I mean, read The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. Startling, yet very empowering reading.)

Metaphysical Law states that we become what we think about all day long…watch this space!


milkmumma said...

This is so exciting Veronika!
Lovely and uplifting to read, and may everyone with this passion spread it with our hearts and souls...and actions!

baker st jones said...

I am so glad to have found your blog, and I really enjoy it. We've talked a lot about the 'extraordinary breastfeeding' show in our breastfeeding peer counsellor course (in west london) the last few weeks! I am also an Australian now living in the UK. I'm breastfeeding my 10-month old son and I wondered whether it would have made any difference to you to feed a girl or a boy full-term? (i'm pretty sure i can guess your answer... but i remember you mentioning that your girls would no doubt breastfeed once they were mums, because of their experience, and that got me thinking about the impact it might have on a boy, in our culture, to be breastfeed til he was 7 years old...) any insights? anita

Veronika said...

Thanks for your comments ladies!
As for breastfeeding boys full-term, I'd suggest reading Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce. The journey from conception, for boys, is harrowing. It is amazing that they even make it to birth. And then, if we consider that academically in the first few years of life, they tend to struggle a bit behind the girls, I think it it all the more reason to educate people about breastfeeding boys.
So yes, if I had boys they'd have been breastfed until they were ready to wean.
Personally, I believe that one of the reasons men in our culture are obsessed (as opposed to appreciative) of breasts is because they didn't have that very basic need met as a child.
how do you find the uk weather, Anita?

Carla said...

Another wonderful post. Thank you, Veronika! I met up with two friends of mine in Edinburgh last week, who have a two month-old baby daughter. My friend was openly and lovingly breastfeeding her daughter in front of me at dinner, and I felt so welcome and warm in that situation - somehow it brought all of us closer together. I wish you luck in bringing the messages of The Mother to a far wider audience. Believe me, there are many people who would be receptive to what you say, who just don't know it yet.

baker st jones said...

i actually don't mind uk weather...esp when i hear how uncomfortably hot it's been in oz! english summer breezes are so lovely and delicious, so mild. the coldness/darkness of winter feels almost exotic, but familiar because of books (like dickens, thomas hardy, etc) ... so, i guess i like it. anita

emma said...

oh Veronika! So pleased to have found this.
I too feel I am looking for my 'soul home'. We plan to move to NZ via Oz (cannot get into NZ directly) but who knows may end up staying in Oz.
I am breastfeeding my almost 4 year old and 6 month old and although I have not seen the TV programme it has helped me to 'keep the faith' as it were. I know my daughter and I are the only ones comfortable with the continuation of breastfeeding so YOU and your magazine give me a fantastic much needed boost.
Thanks again
Emma xx