Listening to our Inner Truth: Catherine’s Story
“You should go out more, you need time for yourself! “, those words resonated in my ears like a mantra. I just had twins and I was exhausted from the very difficult birth and from all the work that having two babies requires. Everybody had a piece of advice, and it was mostly to leave the babies to someone and to go out, or to get out and about with the babies. But it didn’t feel right. I just wanted to be home with them and my husband. I wanted some quiet time and some time to read in my hammock or to simply knit on the couch. But it seemed like nobody was truly listening to what I was saying, to what I deeply felt emerging inside of me as I was becoming a mother : I wanted to be home, to inhabit my home, to make it a sacred place, a safe haven for all of us. Something inside of me was changing deeply. The extroverted social woman that I once was felt like she had to weave a special nest.
Since I was expecting twins, I benefited from an early leave from work and I was home at 5 months of pregnancy. I had plenty of time to read and that’s when I stumbled across Waldorf through Rahima Baldwin’s You are your Child’s First Teacher. I can say that since that very moment a little light was turned on in my heart and I started devouring tons of Waldorf books, as well as Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept and Dr Sears’ attachment parenting book.
I was also lucky to have a friend who was a Waldorf teacher with whom I spent a lot of time, knitting, making dolls for the babies to come and learning songs to sing to them. She also had an amazing library of books that I could borrow. Through our meetings, I learned how important it was that I keep my little babies’ heads covered and she even lent me some woolens for them to wear. She told me how important the first 6 weeks were and how their little senses were so open, and that they were just like little sponges that absorb everything from their surroundings. It resonated with what my midwife was saying about staying home a lot, in bed, naked, skin-to-skin with the babies, especially in the first little while after birth.
So there I was, with my pile of books, my healthy diet, my beautiful quiet routine, expecting my little angels as naturally as can be. But, surprise! Severe pre-eclampsia was diagnosed at 39 weeks of pregnancy and the twins were born at the hospital through an emergency c-section that led to a nearly mortal hemorrhage. Since my body was so in shock, breastfeeding failed and finding instructions on how to bottle feed babies in this area of the world (Northern Canada) was quite a challenge. We came back home 8 days after the birth, scared and disillusioned. It was very hard.
Our families live 6 000 km away, but we were lucky to have an amazing community of support. For one full month, people came everyday to bring us warm meals, with letters, little gifts and offers of help… Some people, we barely even knew… My midwife friend, who was nursing her baby, faithfully brought me some of her milk every time she had some extra. All that support helped me to heal much quicker that the doctors promised…
The first months are a blur. Days are mixed with nights, piles of cloth diapers to clean, and that awful smell of formula that Mara and Aïsha kept spitting up because it was so hard for their little tummies to digest… I can still see them, all wrapped up, face to face in their tiny little crib near the woodstove. Our bedroom was turned into one giant bed. We would wear them in long mayan slings most of the time and go for walks together in the nearby forest. But mostly, we were home. A lot. And that’s when people started to worry. It is so unusual to be home in our modern society! There is always a mothering group to attend, a sing-along group to go to or a parents-and-tots swimming class to join. I stuck with what I read in all those Waldorf books, not only because I believed that it was the best thing to do for all of us, but because it felt right.
I can remember draping their day bed (a little bassinet in which we put their lambskins) with the pink and blue silk to protect them for the harsh light. We only chose natural materials for their clothes and always kept a couple of layers on them. They practically never had their legs exposed. I see so many children going barefoot all day long on cold floors… And we tried to keep a hat on them at all times. We were quite serious about the noise that surrounded them, no radio or TV (we actually decided to sell the TV when they were 5 months old), and the very occasional lullaby CD. We didn’t drive much, but we walked a fair bit with them in the slings or in a nice enclosed stroller in which we put their lambskin. A friend of ours was showering them with books and « educational toys » that mysteriously found their way to the second-hand store. We had very few toys. A rainbow silk fairy mobile that I made, a simple knotted doll, some blocks, some silks and plenty of pots and pans!
The decision to stay home was an easy one for me after reading all those books and since the cost of daycare was so high. Plus, I was lucky enough to have a job (translator) that I could do from home, part time, when the girls were sleeping. I had never been a career woman and never liked the office life anyways. Making that decision was easy, what was much harder was the reality of it. I can remember numerous times when I called a friend or my husband at work to come and take over for a couple of hours. I remember walking in the neighbourhood, crying, wondering when it would become easier. Being home full time is hard – much harder than working outside of the house sometimes.
When people find out that I am home full time with the girls and that I am planning on homeschooling them, I hear lots of comments: from the «I don’t know how you do it, I never could!” (which I find very worrying) to the typical «How will you socialize them” (as if they were pups!)?. I heard them all. But again, even during the hardest times, I knew that it was the best thing to do. It is still not easy financially, but we try to make decisions that allow us to follow that path. It is so worth it! I simply keep in mind that I had bad days when I worked in an office too, but I never ever felt that deep feeling of satisfaction, of true accomplishment, of meaningfulness.
After a couple of months of being home with Mara and Aïsha, a rhythm finally started to emerge. After the usual morning cuddles in bed, we would get them all changed in day clothes and make breakfast, then we would go outside a bit and come back for the morning nap. I always laid in bed with both of them singing the same song everyday, rocking them gently, and by the end of the song (it was quite a long one!), they were both sleeping peacefully (most days!). I was pretty much always napping with them. Then, after their nap, we would get up and I would prepare lunch with one in the sling or with the two of them playing at my feet with the pots and pans in the kitchen. Then, we would eat and nap again. When I didn’t go outside in the morning, I tried to go in the afternoon (if I felt like I had the energy to do so!) and we would simply come back in for daddy’s arrival from work, cook dinner, eat, take a bath with mommy or daddy, sing, put on our pj’s and go to bed (by six months, they mostly were in bed by 7:00). Then, it would be my special time for me (reading, knitting, meditating, dance classes). And I would be in bed by 9:30-10:00. It seemed like our days flew by without my realizing it was that late already. It sure seemed like I wasn’t doing much, but I was nurturing two little souls, and this was huge!
When my back was so sore from carrying them in the sling, I would lay their lambskins on the floor in front of the woodstove and give them a silk or a knotty baby to chew on and I sat on the couch, knitting and singing. It seemed like most of the time, it kept them happy for a little while. When they were between 8 and 10 months (not crawling yet), they would get bored easily and I remember spending a lot of time in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet and knitting while they were splashing in the tub. Most days, I would simply sit them at the table with me while I was chopping veggies for the soup or apples for their apple sauce and I would give them a piece to chew on while I was cutting everything for our meal.
Some days, we would be out and about and they would nap in the car or on us in the sling. Some nights, we would go visit some friends and they would go to bed later, but we mostly invited friends over for dinner instead so we could keep their routine intact. To this day, I still believe that it played an important role in the fact that all 3 of our children were very good sleepers (even the breastfed one!).
When the twins were 10 months old, I found out I was expecting # 3 (natural contraception methods make for big families!). It came as a shock and I was panicked.
At 6 months of pregnancy we found out that she was breech and that I would need to have another c-section (the risk of hemorrhage was then over 25 % because of the 1st pregnancy). The birth went well and breastfeeding was established. I was so happy! However, Mara and Aïsha reacted very strongly to Mathilde’s arrival by wanting to be held all the time. It was very challenging. At that point, at everybody’s suggestion, I took the very hard (for me!) decision to put the twins in daycare 2 mornings a week (their educator was a very close friend that they knew since they were 4 months old). Even if it was pretty much the best possible situation, it felt awful. I just felt like I was pushing them away when they were only 19 months old! They were still babies! They were in a group with 4 other children that all had older siblings, so they constantly got pushed and toys were grabbed from them… Some people around us simply said that they would learn to live in society… I could not help but reply: «But this is not society, this is 6 18 month-old children together in a double bedroom size room. There is nothing normal about it! Nowhere in real life do we see 6 children the same age caged up together like that!»
Each morning we would drive them there, my heart sank. I felt that I was not being true to myself, to my core values. I felt that it was so unfair to them. And when they would come back home, they would be wired… and sick all the time. It went on for 2 months until I decided to stop sending them there. What a relief! That whole experience drained me much more than it recharged me and through it, I learnt that only I know what I truly need. Nobody else does. Our experiences are all so unique and different. Just listen to what you feel inside. Do you feel like putting your child in a daycare at 12 months to go back to work is the right thing to do? Does it feel good when you think about it? I have heard so many moms around me go through that awful adaptation week (or weeks!) of transitioning from home to work (or home to daycare for the child) against what they deeply felt inside, only because this is what we do, this is what every body else around them is doing, so they must do it to. What if there would be an alternative? What if you would not have to go through that heart breaking transition? Many women around me think that the ideal situation is to work part time. Ideal for whom? Surely not for the child! What worries me is that we do not question sending our children to daycare. We do not wonder what truly is best for the healthy development of their senses . Because everybody does it, because we don’t know what our children really need anymore. Most people seem to think that socialization (at 12 or 18 months) is more important than the nurturing of the senses or the need for a quiet and calm family environment!
I have changed so much in the last 4 years, it is unbelievable. Our children truly are our best teachers, but only if we truly take the time to listen to them, to make sacrifices, yes sacrifices – that scary word that makes women around you think that you are anti-feminist and that you have become a door mat for your family. But who will ensoul our homes, who will raise our family if we don’t? Who will create a sanctuary for our families to evolve, to grow and to discover their true essences?