(Originally written 11-2-2009, about two years after my son’s birth)
The womb, the egg, intuition, and the mystery of the female experience. These are things that remind me of connectedness to earth, to time, and a sanguine color.
I have this pair of socks that I cannot part with. They are ankle socks – white with a scalloped trim. They are blood stained from when my water broke. Since they have been washed, the stains are a light sanguine. I store them in a special keepsake box.
Anyone else would have discarded them as trash. I cannot. I keep them like one would keep a lock of hair from a baby. No – it is more deeply emotional than that.
I keep them like one might keep the scent of a lost loved one by hanging on to an old article of clothing. To discard it is to discard the evidence of an experience that is connected to my soul.
Every mother has her birth story. Mine is no more notable than anyone else’s, but every birth story exists to give evidence to the essence of what it means to be female. I had a C-section. I had 34+ hours of labor. Without any warning (or my permission), medical personnel ripped apart my tissues – an unnecessary “stripping of the membranes” that was the single most painful part of child-birth for me despite my ultra long and intense Pitocin-ratcheted contractions.
By the time the emergency C-section was ordered, I was ready to be put down like a lame horse. At the time, I did not feel denied. I had experienced enough labor pain to suffice missing out on the pushing.
When my contractions were 2 minutes apart after so many hours, I didn’t think I could live through each subsequent one. Strangely, I both wanted and feared (terrified comes to mind) each building, pulsating, beating, searing, seeming to last forever inquisition that rocked my entire being.
My birth plan was for a natural birth. I dismissed my own instincts for the manipulation of my physician. He guided me toward inducement at 39 weeks, using the meconium threat and my high risk age (then, 42) as justification for scheduling an induced birth at the last minute.
He cinched the deal by scheduling his hunting trip out-of-state during my 40th week – instilling certain trepidation about “waiting” for this first-time birthing experience. Thus, I gave into inducement, which I am 99% sure he knew would end in C-section.
Before I knew it, Cubbie was 6 months, and then 9 months, 2 years… I remember wondering what his personality would be like. Looking back, I can see that little person he is now in the same eyes in the pictures of an infant. I just didn’t know what those eyes were saying back then.
Kids are babies long after we stop thinking of them as such. A vast majority of brain development occurs between birth and around three years of age.
Research is also evidencing that environment and attachment practices have tremendous impact on this developing brain, actually limiting or boosting intelligence and establishing a framework for social and emotional development for a life time.
Human genome* research is opening these doors for consideration, and even though we only know a fraction of a fraction about this new science (and have not even begun to uncover the infinite power our mind has on our body), I find it alarming that anyone would not come to attention and examine their own choices and philosophies.
[*update 2016… now confirmed by epigenetics]
I am so engrossed in caring for Cubbie that I cannot imagine another mother not seeing what I see. I realize that the polite thing to do is to say “it isn’t for everyone” to excuse the mother who bows out of the level of commitment I am so fortunate to be able to make.
I do realize not every mother has the opportunity as I do to stay at home.** But, in retrospect, knowing what I know now, I could have made it work at any age, not just middle age. Had I started earlier, it is doubtful I would have as much in my life materially as I do now.
[**another update, 2016… by now, epigenetics and prior developmental research should be impacting public policy to support the nurturing of children and delaying separation from primary caregivers, but institutionalization of policy such as in medicine, socioeconomics, and education are conventions connected to societal identification over generations]
But, if it came down to it, I think I would stop at nothing to be home with my child, even if it meant stepping down notch after notch on the socioeconomic ladder.
Armed with the knowledge I have now (I spent decades earning nice salaries while working in professional careers and running my own businesses), I would reject the dress clothes and work world, choosing domesticity instead. I would make family harmony my career goal, and I would make raising happy, securely attached, ethical children my life’s work. I assert that Mothering is the single most important profession, period.
I am sure there are plenty who would take me to task. I don’t think my own mother – as enormous as she is in my heart and as tremendous as her influence was on my life – gave to me the level of focus I give to Cubbie.
But, unlike my own generation that followed, hers was a generation that stayed home and raised the kids. I was never in day care. She was physically present. To me, that is as important as nutrition and sleep.
The rest of what I give to Cubbie is probably on the extreme end of what is the cultural norm in America – so many women and mothers draw limits when giving of themselves to their children in response to conventions that speak over their inner knowing. I had even convinced my self that I never wanted children of my own based on these external influences.
“Stop looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love – you have a treasure within that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.”
I think in about 2-3 years, I will long for the immersion in meeting the needs and wants of my child just as I long now for the pregnancy and infancy period.
I truly believe that this will be the most important four (give or take) years in my life (and Cubbie’s life for his future) and it is my ultimate responsibility. I believe it will pay dividends for years to come, but most importantly, I love being Cubbie’s mommy.
Life is but once. Each decade looks like such a short road when looking back. Early childhood development is a drop in the bucket of a lifetime. But, it is arguably the most critical for a life.
I long to re-experience the labor pains, that moment when my water broke, and to endure every contraction. I long to again experience that ultimate pain that bonds women of every previous and future generation on a level that is nearly ecstatic.
For decades, I feared child-birth. But, now I have these sanguine-stained socks to remind me that I embraced all that it means to live in the moment for the nearly two days that I spent giving life to my offspring. Had I known having a child would help to heal any leftover hurts from my 4 and 1/2 decades of living, I would have made it my career choice by age 30!
As for those socks… Once in a while I come across them, and I feel a connection with myself that represents immutable motherhood across every dimension, throughout all of infinite time and space.