Sunday Morning ~ Mothering
Ncembere ya mapasa izigona cogadama. ~ A mother with twins should sleep on her back.
May 21, 2023
Mothers Day was a week too early for me forty-three years ago. I was alone in the capitol city of Lilongwe, uncomfortable, bored, lonely, and eager to go into labor. My husband arrived a few days later and after a thirty hour slog of fearful contractions, my son was born, lusty and huge by Malawian standards. Today is his birthday. I spent yesterday with him as he balanced on the roof fixing some in the greenhouse, a capable, skilled, smart, and sober man. I went up and down the ladder handing him tools wondering how differently the course of his life would have been if our family had been smaller. He grew up fast with four younger siblings. I’m so grateful for him in my life now, having had an estrangement for several years. After all the worrying I did for him during that time it’s endearing to hear him voice worry about me traveling on my own. How sweet. I’d long ago stopped imagining this.
I love being a mother. I wanted to be a mother as far back as I can remember. I find this interesting because my mother didn’t seem particularly happy to me growing up, so it wasn’t from watching her. She was always harried, worried about my father’s reaction to everything, constantly cooking and cleaning, impatient with us, and generally making the role seem tragic. Though she never said so, I knew she loved me and I always longed for my own baby. I treated my dolls as if they were real. I’d scream if someone held them inappropriately. I changed their dry diapers on a regular basis, comforted their silent cries, and loved the feeling of their stuffed cuddles. They loved me back so very reliably. Having my own real live baby in my arms was the most natural and complete feeling for me and despite all the sleepless nights and constant demands, I found mothering babies easy. It wasn’t until they were older I’d spend my nights wondering what I’d done wrong.
Having a forty-three year old child is surreal. Already facing the fact that I’m aging out of certain fashions and activities, a middle aged child really brings it home. Up until recently I referred to myself as middle aged. Now I realize I’m well past the halfway mark, and am grappling with that more than I imagined. As I plan for my upcoming trip which includes a wedding in Santa Fe and travel in Indonesia, I find all my clothes obsolete. First, they don’t fit me anymore and second, they are too youngish. Between the pandemic, my aging waistline, and the fact that certain styles are no longer becoming on a sixty-something, I’m having a major reckoning. This is hard! I had a basic wardrobe which suited me and would pull out the appropriate outfit for the occasion and put it on. Simple. Summer wedding, winter wedding, all just hanging on a different hanger. Since the pandemic, everything seems to have shrunk. I look at skirts and think, “Did I actually wear that?” It’s harsh. Obtaining a new wardrobe was not in my plans, but here I am. Accepting this is a process. I’ll get there, but need a minute… I digress from my motherhood thoughts.
I was reading about the history of Mother’s Day and how it evolved through the ages–– from honoring Greek goddesses to anti-war statements to flowers and brunch for one day––it seems some of the context is missing. Not that taking a day to honor our mothers isn’t lovely, but it feels like what Christmas has become––a bit showy and hollow. I’ve been cleaning out cabinets getting ready for another year away and found some old Mother’s Day Cards. They were store bought by my ex, of questionable humor, and filled with large “signatures” of the kids scrawled with backwards letters. I may have saved them for those writing samples. I sure hope it wasn’t for the quality of the card.
I’m heading, via the Santa Fe wedding, to the International Confederation of Midwives in Bali. This is a congress held every three years where midwives from all over the world gather to learn and share. I can’t wait to be there. I’ve never been to one and was planning to attend in 2020 when the pandemic intervened. I dreamt of presenting our midwifery ward project in Malawi at the conference but that came to a halt along with the rest of the world. I was pleased to learn that it is in Bali this year, a part of the world I’ve not visited and I’m excited to have a reason to go. The midwives in Malawi (I’m hoping I’ll see some of them there) told me that once you go to this conference it will ruin all other conferences for you forever. It’s that good. I’m excited! I love being surrounded by midwives and the loving support of motherhood. I long to be where the profession is mainstream and everyone knows what a midwife is and what they do. We have a long way to go in America. But, like the mother with twins, we adapt.
It’s been a full month of home improvement and seasonal upkeep getting ready to leave. The summer residents move into my house today, the garden is planted, screens are in, and maybe soon it’ll be warm enough to open the windows. Last night’s deluge was a good test of the roof repair and I think I’m ready to go.
Tomorrow I’ll visit family in Albany for a few hours before boarding a train to Santa Fe. Next weekend will be the wedding of my godson, then on to Phoenix to visit friends from Samoa, then LA, then Bali. I’m looking forward to having travel to write about. There’s a lot of delayed celebration ahead and I’m not getting any younger.
Cheers to all those who mother and care for others. You are needed and loved.
Love to all,