Birth gives life to two new beings- a baby and a mother. While many women are rightfully mothers without birth and many women birth without embodying the role of a mother, generally the two go hand in hand. For me, so far, becoming a mother is helping me grow into my womanhood. It’s a strange thing how non-women can help you become more of a woman. For example, I often reflect on how my marriage has helped me grow as a woman. What does a man have to teach a woman about being a woman? Now I ask, what does a baby have to teach a woman about being a woman? In both questions I’ve found that the answer is “quite a lot”. Each role unveils a new part of yourself that you would find difficult to discover otherwise.
I remember being very nervous about marriage because I was afraid of what I would discover about myself. There have been many beautiful discoveries but also ugly ones that I had to work on and grow through. According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “the believers are mirrors of one another” and I knew that my spouse would be a huge, constant, glaring mirror, reflecting my state- the good, the bad, AND the ugly. All the attributes you think you have- patience, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, selflessness, kindheartedness, etc.- are tested in TRUTH within the context of a marriage and (as I’m now discovering) in motherhood.
My hospital stay for the birth was too long from the time I stepped foot in the building. I don’t like hospitals. I don’t ever remember staying overnight in a hospital and the last time I was admitted was following a car accident when I was 11 years old. Thankfully, I haven’t had any acute care needs since. Hospitals are certainly for sick people and I wasn’t sick, just pregnant. While the staff were kind, as individuals, their role in the hospital made them the arms and legs of a conventional medical system that has to account for time and space (i.e. cost) efficiency. They had protocols to follow and the progress of my labor was evaluated in their terms of calculated theory. “After the first 3-4 cm, you should have dilated 1 cm every hour”. Really? Tell my cervix that! However, there’s no point in expecting to find wheatgrass in a candy store, so why should I expect a traditional birthing experience in a non-traditional birthing setting?
Even in spite of my hospital stay, the pokes and prodding, the medicines and mediocre food, they respected my wishes regarding our daughter and, for that, I’m grateful. She emerged from the birthing experience unscathed, or so we hope, without a single needle piercing her delicate skin or a single vaccine entering her immature immune system. Our decision for now is to delay selective vaccinations until she’s at least six months and that depends on what we feel are legitimate exposure risks for her in our travels and lives abroad.
Anyhoo, back to the mothering piece. As we finally made our “great escape” from the hospital, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety. We were taking Lil’ Z home. There were no nurses at home to peer over my shoulder, to assure me that things are going well, or to answer one of my infamous “Is this normal?” inquiries. We’re the sole caretakers of Lil’ Z and have to use our judgment and wisdom to care for her to the best of our abilities. At that time, I only saw her delicateness, fragility, and tenderness but the more I get to know her, I see her resilience, resourcefulness, and strength. Yes, she’s dependent but she’s no punk! She was an active little someone in my womb who got in position and wiggled her way out. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), she is robust and wasn’t born with any unusual challenges that would prevent her from utilizing her reflexes and mechanisms to ensure survival.
On the long drive home from Muscat to Nizwa, Urbndervish and I shared our anxieties and we worked our way through them together. By the time we reached Nizwa, we were empowered and enthusiastic for the parenting journey ahead. Just as we were approaching home, Lil’ Z aroused for a feeding and, as if she knew how much my tender heart needed it, she grabbed my pinkie finger so tight and wouldn’t let go- it felt like an assurance to me, as if she was trying to communicate “Don’t worry, Mom. We’re in this together”.
Since then, the days have been passing fairly peacefully with a few panicky moments of “What to do?” and “When can I sleep?” Lil’ Z is a reasonable little girl- not fussy or irritable for the most part. Her timing was as blessed as her arrival. She was born just before Oman’s National Day holidays, so Urbndervish was home with me for the majority of our first week. During my second week home, my mom came to Oman ALL THE WAY FROM NEW YORK to help us out for about 10 days. (I love you, Mom!). By the time she left, Urbndervish was home with me again for December holidays. As the Qur’an says, “Inna ma’l ‘usri yusraa” (Indeed with hardship is ease). For those first three weeks, I didn’t do much more than care for Lil’ Z, rest, eat, and entertain a few visitors.
Urbndervish and I enjoy watching Lil’ Z- watching her stretch, sleep, smile, look around- just about everything she does fascinates us! She serves us fresh heaps of cuteness every day! She grew out of her first outfit (which happened to be my favorite) and she’s learning more about herself and her environment daily. Sometimes, she lays awake raising and lowering her arms, letting them swim in the space around her. She’s learning to use her hands to rub sleepy eyes, to suck on when she’s hungry, and grab our fingers to put in her mouth. When you hold her in the mirror, she smiles at herself. She’s learning to use her voice. She gives a caw-like cry when she’s hungry and softly coos when I sing to her. We’re content to study and watch her- learning her ways, needs, and patterns. I guess we’re still babymooning! 😉
All in all, the transition to motherhood has felt very natural, which was my hope. The two books I received from a dear sister friend before coming to Oman (Natural Family Living by Peggy O’Mara and Child Health Guide by Randall Neustaedter) have been incredibly helpful! Both books helped prepare us for birthing and parenting in ways that are consistent with our values and consciousness. They helped us to think critically about the parenting choices that felt intuitively right and refine what tools and resources are truly necessary for our baby. Instead of buying a lot of “baby stuff”, we’re trying to cultivate a home environment that’s conducive to her growth- serene, clean and uncluttered, with a few items that aid her development. We want to give our daughter more from our living essence and presence than relying on inanimate objects, sounds, and simulators. We want her to feel safe, secure and nurtured.
Alhamdulillah, she’s thriving, growing, developing and still smiling! Oh that smile! When we wonder how we’re doing as parents, all Lil’ Z has to do is flash those pearly whites rosy pinks, and all is right in our little world! Praying that all is well in your little worlds too! Until next time…peace!