Saturday, November 10, 2012

mamma

Hard to get started on this one. Because I want to capture months in a single blog post. For myself as much or more than for the sake of explaining. I think it's time I wrap up the whole mess and tie it with a bow. Not because it's all done and dusted, or because it's chiseled in stone - but because where I've come from, where I'm at, now, is a new beginning of sorts. Not completely fresh, not entirely clean, but a starting point for the rest of it, at least.

This past year has been all about - figuring out where I want to go. At least, that's what I thought. That's what my internal ad agency wanted me to buy into, and I did, with a vengeance. I thought I was ready, for the next stage, but I was clueless about where to start. There is a whole world behind that, filled with never learned to dream Big about my life, but let's just say that by the time Summer came round, I was - disappointed & stressed out. In a way, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was stressed out by something so... selfish and quite vague to boot, but there you go - I was wrapped up in chaotic attempts at capturing the Meaning of My Life, getting angry at myself for not being able to just do it. 

So I went to Africa. My inlaws live there, it was an extended family visit, not a dramatic journey to find my roots in the soil where life began - although at that stage, I would have paid a price for a meaningful retreat with a local Sangoma who'd figure it all out for me ;) 

But the holidays were amazing, all on their own. Because I knew I wasn't going to find my Illuminated Path out there, anyway, I relaxed and let everything come the way it would. And it was beautiful! I saw that the world kept turning without me trying to spin it! I know it might sound dramatic, but I really felt I was accepted and loved - and I wasn't actually doing anything to deserve it! I'm sure that's been true throughout my life - as it is for all of us - but this was the first time I actually saw it, and took it in... And it led to all kinds of  - insights about life, about me, about feeling instead of trying to control!

So we got home, eventually, and I was all eager and ready to start sorting my new from my old perspectives, and run with it from there, but then I got sick. Nothing all that serious, but annoying enough not to be able to get on with things and be all new! And sick turned into another kind of sick, which turned into another kind of not-quite-right, and when I finally found my feet again - after antibiotics, a root canal and two months' worth of taking-it-easy - chaos had put on a fresh set of clothes and was solidly back. I woke up from being sick after taking a long and winding detour - trying to find out where I want to go was a lot like trying to run before figuring out the bones of walking - to find my awesome three-year-old about to turn four... 

I'd been denying and avoiding that can of worms, ostrich-style. Because I wasn't ready to face it. And I still sort of against the odds hoped that the Universe would hold off. Hindsight, my detour might have been a run for a shortcut. To be ready. To be ready-er. To be Me with a Certain Life; a dream, a meaningful goal, an end to work towards. A life that would immediately see good use for all that extra time - because FOUR (in the Netherlands) isn't just a birthday - it's a coming of age. For children and their mothers... Four is - pretty much - the day my child goes off to school...


Last Tuesday, my baby turned four. Beautifully, magnificently - wise, gorgeous, amazing & awesome - four. & there is hard ahead, in that. In letting go; sending him - reluctantly, completely! - off into a world of his own where he'll weave his own magic fabric & face his own fears and triumphs. Where I take another, bigger, step back - always there to catch, kiss & make better, but forced into the sidelines a little more. Less able to 'look inside his head', less able to know what's going on, less able to fix what isn't smooth...

I know it goes with the territory of - raising a human being. Because that's what we do, us mothers, in the end. Having a baby isn't about a baby, although it feels that way for the longest time. It's about teaching another human being to be ready for the world. & the better we do that, the more stepping back we need to do. There is beauty in that, of course, but it's terrifying beauty when you're in the middle of it! Knowing that  he's happily running away from you because you made him feel safe and confident enough to do so doesn't console when you're looking at his cute tiny backside & all you can see, all that drowns you, is the fact that he's off. Skipping, no less!

He comes back of course, with stories of his own to tell. And you're still a mamma, his mamma! & you hope - more than actual knowing - it will get easier with time. Because all your friends and people who care tell you it will. And you believe them because you want to, and the tiny - hindsight! - steps before got easier as well. But for now, for right now, the hole in your heart is so big, a world could pass through without touching the edges...



All of this wraps itself around me, of course. Because my baby is ready for this step. And on the outside, I'm cheering him on! Of course I am! I remember from being a kid myself - new things are scary, but exciting, and growing bigger is all you want to do!

But I'm left with a hole to fill. And along the way, since coming back from Africa, I've realised that - this year isn't about finding out where I want to go with my life - it's about finding out who I am. Who I've become. It's about seeing all that I've shedded and all that I've taken on - in bigger and wee little steps - to become the fallible but actually okay human being I am. It's about defining myself, starting with where I am, instead of where I was.

Because I came into being a mamma with a whole lot of bagage. I came from mud. I came from - never enough, and never going to be anything but a failure - all that, drowned in Chardonnay. And I grew, with my kid. I am a world away from where I was before. As a mamma. Here I am, on this threshold that looks like a mountain, feeling like I'm nothing but a mamma. Like there isn't enough of me to fill all that kid-in-school space with things that matter. It's exactly why I started this year thinking it was all about finding direction, when it's really, in the mud of things, about finding me. I've been hiding inside the mamma. Right now, I feel like I only matter in light of being a mamma. Because before I became a mother, I was nothing. Nothing of much consequence, anyway.


& in the middle of all that thinking, feeling and crying - so who am I, with this hole in my heart? - I found myself pregnant.

We've been trying for a second child for about 2,5 years now, swinging between failing to conceive and miscarrying (before you ask: we haven't seen a doctor about it yet. No. Because I used to believe in natural, and in accidents, and in belief, and trust, and hope, and in it will happen if it's meant to be. I'm losing balance on that perch, but that's another story). Another can of worms when it comes to my identity as mother - because it's hard not to think 'if I'm so good at being a mamma, why can't I be a mamma twice?' followed by the crushing thought that - I might be a mamma before and beyond everything else, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm great at it! - eventhough I know, of course, that it doesn't work like that and it means nothing as much as it means everything.

My miscarriage started on Sunday, the day of Isaak's birthday party. And I kept it together, sort of, not yet ready to let go. On Tuesday, his actual birthday, there was no point denying it anymore. There wasn't going to be a baby. Not this baby, anyway. At 6 weeks, 1 day, I lost another dream. But I kept it together again, as much as I could. Because it was my amazing kid's birthday! Because Isaak turning 4, going to school, that was meant to be my emotional sinkhole!


And it was, and it is, of course. My emotional sinkhole is - being a mamma. Not being a mamma. How much of a mamma I am, how I measure up. How far does my mamma-ness stretch, and where am I, beyond that. Stretching myself around that pregnancy - gingerly - thinking that I wouldn't need to find myself beyond being a mamma quite yet, and the relief in that, too.

Life is as much about saying goodbye as it is about saying hello. I realise that. Life doesn't like holes, and as long as you don't go sit down in one, occupy it like you own it, it will fill itself with something else. Something meaningful, too - if you take care, are willing to see it for what it is. So yes, I'm open. I'm an open wound, but open, nonetheless. The gaping moment after goodbye is terrifying - when you let go of something - especially when it's something you don't really want to end; something you don't want to lose; someone you don't want to see leave - and you're not quite sure, never less sure of what it is you'll be saying hello to.

All I know right now, is that I'm saying goodbye to the baby I nurtured to be ready for school, not knowing who we'll grow up to be, either of us, but open to it, with heaps of love, knowing this 'in-between' will pass (and come again in various shapes and forms). And I'm saying goodbye to the baby I didn't get to hold. I'm saying goodbye to the me who thinks she's nothing but a mamma, and hope to discover who she is when that second skin comes off. And I'm holding this space - no matter how tiny it feels to be right now.

It's been cathartic, to write my story down. I'm weaving fabric here. The fabric of my human life. There is no point in construction - part of me wants to tie the loose ends and force the pattern to repeat - force the colours to match - but there is no such thing. Trying only keeps me spinning my wheels in sadness. I want there to be space! Space to see the sights, space to find roads and detours. Breathing space. Space to find the wisdom in hindsight - not that which masks as wisdom, ahead of its time and place. Been there, done that, and it's never yet led me to where I truly live.

It would be too easy - no matter how it beckons - to tie loose ends to make space. Because right now, I don't see much space ahead. But it doesn't work. You can't outrun goodbyes forever - say hello to whatever looks promising, no matter what - just to embrace something. There comes a point where you have to sit down and take your time with it.

It feels like I've been trying to outrun this while paradoxically sitting down with it at the same time - for months. In the shortcut I tried to take, in the months of inflamations, and in the too-real things that happened over the past weeks. Like I've been holding my breath for a whole year by now, only to find that it didn't help, and I'm not ready, and I don't know when I'll get up again. But I will. I'm already in the process of getting up, although not quite ready to move on.

I think I'm ready to take on all that time ahead - the hours when Isaak is in school - and fill it with not knowing. And to be okay with not knowing for a while. I mean really okay. An open sort of okay. Not limited by frustration or a need to know. I think, basically, I need to see who I am for who I am, and see what happens next. And draw some of it!

I hope you made it all the way to the end of this post, but if you didn't, that's okay. What matters to me, quite selfishly, is that I did. I'm here. I made it through to the end of it, and the end is merely a new beginning. If I let it be that. And I will. I'm willing and able and courageous enough.

I love this quote:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened to us." - Helen Keller
& it tells me exactly where to be right now. 

17 comments:

  1. Oh, Yvonne, I'm so sorry you are struggling, I lost 2 babies so many years ago. The world does,light up again, I know you are strong & will get through this. Hug Issak, well & often, move your body, it will heal enough for you to go on. Pamper yourself, even sit & watch beauty. For me color, bright, wild, abundant, indulgent color healed my soul, i haunt bright greenhouses in winter & bright stoores year round. It will take time, but rest, relax youmwill get to exactly where you need to be. You are a brave one, sending hugs, good thoughts & prayers. Remember, your angel baby is watching from above & he/she wants you to be happy.

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  2. I second Susan's sentiments. (Which were beautifully-wrought, by the way.) I think this might be the bravest thing I've ever read. I'm overwhelmed by not only your bravery, but your willingness to share. I know the guts it took to put this all down on "paper". It is a raw place you are in, but sometimes we need to strip it all back before we can build it all up again. I am so glad you are going to stop looking at the closed door, and that you are courageous enough to look for that other door to happiness. You already propped that door open with being a good mamma to your beautiful Isaak. Hugs to you my friend - you are getting there, you are taking the steps, love your little boy, and your good husband. Keep drawing, keep writing and know you are loved. xo

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  3. "I saw that the world kept turning without me trying to spin it!" This one beautiful line stands out to me in this most powerful words telling, tears of losses and joys of beginnings. Standing still in the in-between-ness that is where you are is a difficult thing, but if you are brave and can stand still in there, breathe in and breathe out and fill that space just as you fill your lungs, then as you do new life, new energy will flow in and you will feel filled with air and filled with life. Until then we are here holding a space around you for you to muddle on through. Please keep drawing, I love your style.

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  4. Yvonne
    Your post is not only, well written, concise, and smart, it is so real and heartfelt and truly touching. Your courage and insight is an inspiration. It made me weep, as I felt, not only empathy and sympathy but a true soul kinship,
    You are, I am quite sure, a wonderful mama AND a beautiful, smart, funny, talented WOMAN. Sometimes it takes a lot of years and a lot of ebbs and flows to finally get that. I am 46 years old and am really just now getting that it really isn't about the destination but the journey-I know it is cliche' but absorbing those words, internalizing them is a different story! I am sorry we are so far apart, but at the same time, just feel lucky to have met you at all. I mean that. You are many things , Yvonne, maybe you will always be a bit fragile...beautiful things often are...
    This message is sent with much love and hope and depth of feeling...
    Xo kp

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  5. You. Are. So. Brave. I don't know what to say. You just wrote such a beautiful piece, thank you for opening up and sharing. I'm so sorry that this baby couldn't stay with you either, but I'm also very happy for you to realize another door opened. Take your time, nurture yourself and feel the unconditional love Isaak gives you and will keep giving. And love yourself. You're awesome.

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  6. Yvonne, I am writing this with tears in my eyes. And I send a big virtual hug out to you. You are so brave, so human. You have such an incredible clear way of expressing your thoughts and experiences. I admire so much of this. And you know, almost after every word you write I have to nod and agree and can relate!
    You are a wonderful mamma to Isaak, and please don´t give up hope to become a wonderful mamma to another baby, too. I am sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I hardly can imagine how hard it must be to loose a baby. Please be good to you, enjoy the people around you who love you. Don´t fight against the sadness. But from everything you write and how I know you, you are strong and you are at a good place in your life, you know how to get through this. Like Susan says, your angel baby is watching and wants you to be happy. Me heart goes out to you, I love you, Yvonne!

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  7. beautiful yvonne. your story, your life, YOU matter. there are SO many parallels that I felt you were writing about me. I too have one son. he is 22 now, but we struggled for years to try and have a second. failed attempts and failed pregnancies. I did not want to partake in the scientific stuff they were talking about and felt if it was meant to be - it will happen. it did not and am ok with that. I have the most amazing son. when he was little I would tuck him in at night and ask him why out of all the little boys out there did I get the best one? he would giggle and say don't know mama. right now I envy his courage, his confidence and his drive. he is my reason for breathing and will always be. I too have been struggling this year with figuring out who I am and what I am supposed to do. what I said good bye to this year was my mom. after years of taking care of her and my father I am clueless as to which door to open so I just stare at them. I have been reading tons of books on courage, healing and enlightenment. I pray that one of these days I can let go and let it happen. big hugs to you for your beauty, your courage and your honesty. ciao!

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  8. Words fail me........{{{hugs}}}

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  9. I read this and I felt the pain... stay strong and take it slow, be kind to yourself and see the beauty in each day xx

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  10. Brave girl, you deserve to rest and to let the little ones go where they will, one to heaven and one to school. Your boy is adorable and will always be your baby, at any age. I hope you get the hugs you need and strength from the beauty that surrounds you to lead you forward. There are support groups for moms who miscarry - find one and see if it helps. You're stronger than you realize.

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  11. Yvonne - you sharing in this way is such a gift to all mothers. Thank you for giving us all permission to feel - to really feel - the sadness, the hurt, the gripping, the fear, the everything-in-between - that comes from raising a child. My heart is a little bigger today as I take in your courage. I breathe a little deeper knowing that we are all connected and that this feeling of not "enough" can shed in it's own time, and that wherever we are in THIS moment...truly IS enough. I'm sending you many hugs today and deep, deep appreciation - because it's in YOUR vulnerability, sharing, growing and especially BEING, that help us all heal. xoxoxo

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  12. Yvonne, this was such a beautiful, heartfelt, moving post. You are so eloquent with your language - you just cut straight to the core of emotions and I felt all these things along with you. You are such an amazing and courageous person and I draw from your strength. Sending my love and hugs across the oceans xo

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  13. Thank you for sharing this, Yvonne. I'm so sorry for your loss. I've been thinking of you a lot, especially since we find ourselves in such a similar place right now--letting go of those babies a bit more and trying to figure out what's next. But wow, to read what you put into words here is crazy encouraging because our stories at the moment are even more similar than I knew. I lost a baby too this summer (around 12 weeks), the one I've been wishing for these last two years. I was SO relieved to know this little one was on the way because my girls would be off to school and I'd be challenged to "find myself" beyond motherhood. Like you said, I KNOW how to be MOMMA, and I know I'm pretty good at it. These hours while my girls are gone make me feel so guilty, even when the time flies by and I'm having a blast painting. Just seems like I should have another little person so mother.

    Anyway, it's been about 4 months now since the miscarriage, and I do feel better, so I hope you continue to heal as well. But I haven't completely dealth with it, you know. Haven't told many people or written about it yet. So thank you for being so brave to share your story. It looks like your vulnerablity has encouraged many--including me! Hugs,

    Sadee

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  14. Oh Yvonne,
    I am in complete awe of your strength in sharing this post. You are an amazing beautiful person. I know i have said this to you before but i admire your honesty and openess. You have written such a touching account of your year and writing it down and sharing will help the healing process.
    Im so so sorry about your miscarriage. Take it slow, you need healing time and if you need a listening ear ..we are here.xx

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  15. Yvonne, I am so sorry for the miscarriage. Please excuse me 'cause I haven't understood your post completely. But one thing is clear, you are much more than a mamma, you have your art. It may be small, but it is important. You are gifted. And I'm sure that you are a great mama to Isaak, and that you will also be for a future baby that will surely come. I send you hope and a big, big hug from here. Take care, darling, time will pass, pain will smooth.

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  16. Yvonne this is a wonderful, thoughtful, honest post. Whatever happens in the future, you are quite some woman right now!

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  17. Yvonne this is a wonderful, thoughtful, honest post. Whatever happens in the future, you are quite some woman right now!

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Thanks for letting me in on your thoughts!