Tag Archives: motherhood

Big shoes…

Quietly

I notice

One of the verbs of me

 

The becoming,

The familiarity

of embedded patterns,

hiding themselves in plain sight and

forgotten; woven between the subconscious and the links of dusty DNA –

Brushed off and ready for another round

of motherhood.

 

And gradually

my own mothering memories cocooned in nostalgia

These soft-edged replays

Of careful kindnesses and strained patience

Of steadfast believing-in-me with secret sacrifices

Of space-less snuggles and laugh-out-loud adventures

Now star myself

 

The actors morph

And now it is my own voice; but is it?

My own flaws; but are they?

My own laughter; but is it?

My own human attempt at love; but is it?

And I am suddenly grateful

 

That in my own rocky road to mastering motherhood

Where days stretch and failures amass

I can step, unashamedly

into the patterns of my own mother’s making

The good, the bad; but mostly the warm

And surprisingly the shoes fit

Almost perfectly

Just a few sizes too big

Little Lives

I’ve been writing a little bit of poetry lately. My brain feels very full of Maranatha Health and theory and programs and I find it difficult to sit down and write anything apart from work. But poetry seems to be the exception to this. I’ve never shared my poetry before – a little scary, so thanks for reading 🙂DSC09798

Little Lives

Another day

Dances in front of me, fast and frenzied, and departs the stage

Again the curtains fall and before the lights are dimmed ready for the next act

I feel the hurried lurching of little lives

Passing by,

the uncovering of fate and fears and freedom.

A birthday, and new skills, and fresh individuality

Swirling into the shadows of shared history

And then, occasionally the moment freezes.

A gift.

And in that moment I breathe in the sweetness of my children’s cheeky joy; I linger in my magic power to kiss away pain; I melt into the circling chubby arms declaring their love; I laugh at familiar punchlines that signal home; I stand in wonder as little hearts make room for grown-up failures in our shared life

But so often

the frame stubbornly refuses to freeze.

And life escapes and I run and we survive and days dissolve and the mess of life seems to pass by without any of us stopping to smell roses or daisies or sunflowers:

or the intoxicating scent of freshly washed toddler skin;

or the sniff of sweaty after-naps snuggles;

or the fragrance of trampoline-jumping joy and pool-splashing fun

or the post childcare aroma of summer days and sand pits and playing hard wrapped in the wiff of I’m-home-and-can-let-it-all-out explosions.

I will miss it, I say…

All the whilst wishing giant chunks of the not-so-good-days away, where illness and chaos and sleep deprivation and brotherly rivalries and too-much-yelling take hold and the exhaustion blocks out the smells of a life brimming with beautiful ordinary things

But when the pauses declare themselves

Aren’t they marvellous?

Aren’t these things we’ve created so marvellous?

And then the relentless weight of motherhood feels so…

light.

It takes a village

Ugandans love children. As a culture they celebrate them fiercely. Everyone seems willing to smile and get down on their knees to say hello to a child. Babies are cooed at and admired. For women, bearing children is a sign of prestige and of strength.  I have earned a respect through motherhood that I tried futilely to gain for the duration of the time I lived in Kamwenge.

When I speak of African children, the oft quoted proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ comes to mind. In my imagination, this phrase conjures up exotic images of intricate networks of beaded half-naked villagers working together for the good of the communities’ children. Our over-use of this saying in the West highlights the exoticism and idealism with which we frame our discussions of child rearing in Africa. I’ve heard it said that in the developing world, child–rearing is somehow a more ‘natural’ process, beyond reproach.

To confess, I have many times scoffed at this idea.

While I believe wholeheartedly that a village – a community if I may use a less exotic term – is essential for raising children (given how exhausting and monumental such a task is!) it is also true that if everyone is responsible, than in a sense no ONE person is responsible.  My time in Kamwenge exposed me to some of this –children neglected and uncared for, malnourished and left to be looked after by young siblings or distant relatives. I think I saw the worst of this, working at the referral health centre in Kamwenge.

There are many great and (in my opinion) not-so-great things about parenting ‘Ugandan style’, as there are in any culture. I don’t need to thrash them out here.

But one of my greatest reservations about moving back to Uganda as a family were some of those ‘not so great’ bits to Ugandan child-raising, especially when I plan to be a working mother here and have other women look after my son for chunks of time. I would think of all the opportunities that I perceived our son would be missing out on, not living in Australia; that I, as his mother, would be denying him, by making the choice to live here, away from his culture and community.

Before we arrived here, when I was super-stressed or having a moment of doubt, all the marvellous moments of my own childhood unravelled before me, as a taunting list full of red crosses, marking the experiences my own son would not have.  The freedom of playing in parks and exploring creeks, running through sprinklers in bathers on lazy summer days in our backyard, the safety of playing with neighbourhood kids, the amazing quality of suburban kindergartens and playgroups, and most significantly, a community of friends and family that were invested and involved in my upbringing. I feared that we wouldn’t find a community for him to belong to here.

However.

Slowly and surreptitiously

Without any intention or expectation

And in the midst of my concern that this could not happen…

A community has begun to form, winding its way around my son and through his little life.

After all, community is something that Ugandans know how to do.

I see it when I take Dave to our clinic, and he immediately squirms out of my arms into the arms of one of our staff.

I see it when he waltzes into the reception area at Maranatha, climbs onto the receptionist’s lap and begins to play with her phone.

I see it when he hears a cow moo, then searches for and is picked up by our security guard at the clinic, in a successful attempt to be taken to see the cows grazing nearby.

I see it when our landlady at the apartment where we stay buys him bunches of bananas so she can watch the ecstatic little dance he does every time he is given a banana!

I see it when Dave shrieks with excitement and then runs outside to play every day when his 6 year old neighbour (adopted by our American friends that live upstairs) arrives home from school

I see it when we take him to the shop where I buy most of our consumables, and the staff greet him with a big smile and call his name ‘Mandela!’ and produce a ball for him to play with while I shop.

I see it when we attend church on Sunday, and his Sunday school ‘teacher’ cuddles him and jokes that he is now her child, while I hold her little girl of the same age.

I see it when the cleaners or groundskeepers in the apartment block where I stay rush to help Dave down the steps on the compound where he continues to attempt death-defying acts.

I see it when we sit down for lunch and after polishing off his own g-nut stew and rice, he looks to see which woman on our staff will feed him some of theirs.

All these moments are small, but they remind me to take a breath and be thankful for the village here that is helping me to raise our son.

And perhaps

scoff at the proverb a little less.

Freshly mixed paint

Life is a paradox of powerful  proportions. A grand experiment that cannot be manipulated, managed or predicted.

If this year has confirmed anything to me, it is this single message. At the end of every year I emerge around New Year from the haze of chaos for a moment of reflection. And every year I comment on how chaotic, how unexpected, how contradictory the year has been.

“Why, how surprising!’, I remark to myself, and shake my head at all the unpredictable things that have happened.

Not this year.

This year I was prepared for the chaos and contradiction and unpredictability of it all, after the past few very ‘entertaining’ years.

And, oh, how chaotic and contradictory it was.

*contented/exhausted/with-hindsight-things-look-better sigh*

On the 24th of February this year we had a Maranatha Staff party, to celebrate the success of the 1st year of operation of the Maranatha Health project in Kamwenge. This party happened to coincide with two very unique occurrences:

The illegally constructed factory next door turned on its machines for the full day (click here and here and here to read more about this disaster!). We discovered on that day the machines were very loud and dirty and would not allow us to continue our work at Maranatha!

The factory next door - this is taken from the back of our home!

The factory next door – this is taken from the back of our home!

I took a pregnancy test and to my delight Michael and I discovered that I was pregnant with our first child. I had a baby growing inside of me!

It's positive!

It’s positive!

These two immensely life-changing events shaped our year from that point on.

As the months wore on and it looked less and less like Maranatha Health would re-open for business in the short term, the waves of grief that washed over Michael and I at various times were interspersed with a growing excitement about the new life we would soon bring into this world.

In my life I don’t think I have ever felt such contradicting emotions. Since marrying Michael, Maranatha Health has been like a child to us:

We have

birthed it, in both Australia and Uganda
invested hours of our time, energy and resources into it
dreamed of its future
and had many many late nights agonising, hoping, planning, and working to make sure it flourishes.

Ironically, as this chapter in our lives came to a close, we were discovering the joy of growing a human baby. What an incredible blessing, what saving grace, that we were able to focus our energies on this new life. Perhaps it was God’s way of seeing us through the grief of Maranatha closing.

And now, this much anticipated new life has arrived!

I have a son. David Mandela Findlay.

An adorable, magnificent, inquisitive, cheerful, fascinating little human that is a combination of myself and my husband. And OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE HIM. My heart bursts for him. That all-encompassing, selfless love that parents have for their children –love that is both tender and fierce, love that takes your breath away so you feel as if you are drowning, love that makes you gasp for sanity, as if for air – I am all at once astonished, relieved and in awe of how strongly  I feel that love.

Though I have tried, words are completely inadequate in capturing the uniqueness of this new experience – of pregnancy, birth and now motherhood. I have written very little throughout my pregnancy and the first 10 weeks of David’s life, for fear of the incompleteness and inability words have to capture such magic and the mysterious transformation that takes place inside of oneself when you are given the privilege of your own child to love.

The sleep deprived whirlwind of chaos/exhaustion/ shock/ joy has lifted after a very bizarre first few weeks. I am loving the adventure that is involved in getting to know who our little person is. And the most surprising aspect of the experience so far is the fact that I have already forgotten how life was different and how I was different. Motherhood feels to me like a discovery of a part of myself that always existed, a natural extension of who I am that has now been given a chance to BE – a confidence, a courage, a compassion that I now know was always me.

And into the future, as we face the uncomfortable unknown that looms ahead, Michael and I are filled with a new kind of hope, a gentle reminder from our creator that He has made us to do something good, and will show us the next step with time. We have been given an opportunity to begin afresh, but this time as a family, whether that means a fresh start in Kamwenge, or somewhere entirely different.

When my husband proposed to me, he rewrote the entire text of the Dr Suess book ‘The Places You’ll Go’ (my favourite children’s book) for our context (and yes, he is an amazingly romantic man!). My favourite (rewritten) page in the book is below, and it resonates with me more than ever now:

“In Africa or Australia
or some other place,
in a big busy city
or somewhere with space.
With kids or without,
or one on the way,
we’ll continue to shout
and have our say
to convince other people
things are not all ok.”

Whatever the case, we as a family of three are excited to begin splattering some freshly mixed paint on the blank canvas that is our life.

Scary. Surprising. Satisfying.

Stay tuned.

(and here’s some photos of the journey of Davey so far – I couldn’t resist)

40 weeks pregnant!

40 weeks pregnant!

Less than 12 hours old

Less than 12 hours old

A week into motherhood...

A week into motherhood…

DSC_0472

Fast asleep

Milk drunk

Milk drunk

Everything is hilarious these days!

Everything is hilarious these days!