Wednesday, June 2, 2010

40 days and then some

In many cultures the first 40 days after a baby is born mother and baby are sheltered from the outside world. I have been trying to honor this space in my own modern way as much as possible. It has been a big four months, needless to say and the past 40 days have increased the intensity. But alas, we have survived this boot camp of physical, mental, and emotional obstacles of the latest flavor. Of course, this is not without the help of my mother, Phil's daughter Sierra, my sister, Birth Roots in Portland, Phil's mother, Sarah B., and the countless other community and family members who continue to support us both near and far in an incredible creative way. I was reading in some African cultures, after this first 40 days of complete seclusion, the mother emerges from her hut and is treated like a warrior goddess. She is crowned and revered just like men who go off to battle and return. Our society doesn't honor mother and child in quite the same way -- but birthing and new motherhood is the biggest shape-shifting life transformation I've experienced to date. This is a radically new time -- our two beings learning from one another at a rapid pace, complete experiential learning in turbo time.

Julian is thriving; this is such a miracle and a gift. He has gone from 7 lbs and 10 ounces to around 12 lbs in the past 6 weeks. Rather than being able to write, read, or interact much I have been primarily feeding this child! The nurses at the hospital say, "Oh, this baby really knows how to let his needs be known". Ah, yes. That is one way to say it. Why does this surprise me given his mother and father’s personalities? I go to these new mother support groups and many mothers of newborns have these little soft, bread dough like SLEEPY little angels. Many people also say, "oh this is the easy time, just wait". This concerns me, as our little Julian is, let’s say, highly engaged with the world around him. He doesn't have much time for napping. There are too many new sounds to try, too many facial expressions to explore, body movements to discover, and new smiles to flirt with people in a big, toothless gummy kind-of huge way. We love him and he has been consuming nearly all of us with his incredible force of energy.

Meanwhile, Phil is still recovering in a meandering and up and down way. Our days continue to be filled with sparks of hope and wonder, and sadly dark unknowns about his eventual healing. We both keep trying day in and day out, hour in and hour out, and minute by minute to knit together our lives. Amazing that an event, his stroke, which took maybe five to ten minutes, can so suddenly change the entire course of your life. Phil is determined to keep trying and learning but the hill feels quite overwhelming some days. New fatherhood and being present for my 60-hour birth (yes that is right) has taken quite a toll on his much needed sleep. Meanwhile, Julian and Phil share an incredibly special bond. They look almost identical, expect for the chin. Their personalities seem to be quite similar too as Helga; Phil's mother sends many excerpts from old diary entries by Phil's father about his early years.

This has been my year to squarely embrace both life and death. My life requires me to stay as much in the present moment as possible to stay sane. It is still very unknown what our future as a family holds. The social security disability has still not manifested, how or when we will go back to work in any real way is unknown, how much Phil will recover is a mystery, and where we may need to move this fall is in limbo. The day-to-day rhythm with a newborn also requires you to stay on your toes and just stay present.

Alas, one huge transition has been resolved, for now. Mr. Julian James is here, in full force, and reminding us about the incredible wonder and rapid development of life as it unfolds before our eyes. His brain will grow 60% of its adult size within this first year. This is an incredible amount of expansion to witness. Every day and every moment is filled with the miracle of newness.

This honestly feels like the first moment in at least 40 days that I have been able to string together coherent letters and sentences in reflection. Thank you for reading and there will be more to come.