Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Twelve Year Milestone

On International Women’s Day I happen to be thinking of my own journey in motherhood.  My daughter turned twelve this weekend.  Each year as we celebrate her birthday, I also remember other mothers who are marking another year of parenthood.  Motherhood certainly isn’t the only way for women to make a difference in the world.  It’s been the most profound one for me. 

Here’s a favorite photo of my daughter, H., on Ruby Beach in  Washington State, taken last summer.  We arrived there on a rainy, chilly, day, but had much fun chasing the surf in bare feet.  I love this picture because H. is the only real color on the beach, and her feet are skipping over the surface.  (The beach is named Ruby because it’s said the sand has a reddish cast to it.  Do you see it?  I don’t.) 

ruby beach 2

(photo by D.L. Smith, Jr.)

This next photo shows what we saw the night H. was born as we drove to the birthing center in Fairbanks, Alaska, where we were living at the time.  Remember Comet Hale-Bopp?  It was out in full force that night, along with the northern lights. 

haleboppandaurora

I didn’t make it all the way through labor without medication, but ended up giving birth at the hospital at the Army base in Fairbanks.  I’d been hoping to avoid going there.  The room was stark.  The staff were all wearing fatigues.  But they were wonderfully professional and kind, and helped me through a tough labor without a C-section.  There were three giant pine trees out the window that I could see and that seemed like friendly spirits there for support. 

Very soon, I came to understand what my grandmother meant when she told me that soon I’d wonder how I could ever live without H.  Here’s a poem that captures that feeling, about three months into motherhood.

Postpartum

On this night within night                                                               of the blue arctic winter,                                                             my house shakes down to sleep.                                               Night light and slippers                                                                    I sink and sigh, too                                                                          O couch, be my lover.

Upstairs, hidden                                                                              is a glowing spark sleeping.                                                          She shines, possibility                                                             leaking under the door.

I love her

I miss her

the union we had when                                                                    my body contained her.

She plunders me,                                                                             wrenches me open.                                                                         I am the soft bruisy flesh                                                               of a fruit near its center.

Please, someone, somewhere,                                                         make up a new language                                                               for the smooth nap of hair                                                             on my lips, for the press                                                                of her kitten-paw fingers, her                                                       tiny clean earthworm of mouth                                                         on my nose.

Write down her notes       

which my ears                                                                                 were made perfect to hear.

Thank you, women everywhere, who nurture people, art, ideas, and causes for all of us.

11 comments:

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

A beautiful photo of your daughter! And I love that she is wearing red - reminds me of your pashmina!
Catherine

The Seeker said...

This is a great post my dear.

I've never been a mother, so I don't know the joyes, or not so, of motherhood.

But I know that this day is very important, for all the women who are struggling for better.

That picture is indeed beautiful.

xoxo

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

lovely images, thoughts, memories and words.

FFF x

Protege said...

What a beautiful, sincere and personal post. Not being mother, I can not claim to adequately understand the sentiment, but with my intellect and empathy and most of all my instinct, I identify with the meaning of your poignant words.
The picture of your daughter on the beach is priceless.

On a another note; I like your new profile picture.;))

Clare said...

This is a beautiful post. I have struggled as a cancer survivor and was told i would never have children. I proved doctors wrong twice. Although our first was stillborn, our second is a thriving 3 year old who I love with everything in my being. She has forever changed who I am and it is for the best.

david mcmahon said...

Came here from Carol Murdock's blog. I am a father who continuously gives thanks for the wonderful cornucopia that is parenthood.

sallymandy said...

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Anonymous said...

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Gal Friday said...

What a great entry to mark a very personal milestone in your life(amazing about the comet on *that* night!), celebrate your daughter's birthday(she looks like the Ruby on that beach!), and..mention Internat. Womens Day.
As a mother to a daughter roughly the same age(she'll turn 14 May 1st), reading this really resonated with me.

sallymandy said...

Clapping Hands: Yes, the pashmina! I think if she had been wearing anything but shocking orange it wouldn't have showed up that day...

Seeker and Protege: I don't think one needs to be a mother to have a nurturing instinct. We're all the same that way. Thanks...

FFF: thank you.

Clare: I'm so happy you have a daughter now. Good luck to you! It's a big adventure...

Thanks for visiting, David. Surprise! You're the first man commenter.

Gal: Thank you. Yes, the comet was a very special way to remember it. It was all kind of surreal. Happy 14th year of mothering a daughter.

Imogen Lamport said...

I love that photo on the beach - it's beautiful the way the red stands out against the grey.

Love your poem too. There is something so beautiful and lifechanging about having a child, something you can't understand until you experience it yourself.