Posts tagged strengths
Strength in Stillness
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I wonder if there is a more difficult time to write about one's strengths as an individual mother than in the early postpartum days.  The truth is that this article has been started multiple times by the light of my iPhone, in the wee morning hours while I rock my newborn son.  The nightlight beside me and the soft sounds of his suckling keep me on the thin edge between wakefulness and deep deep sleep, and the loneliness of these quiet hours often brings silent tears.  But the sun will soon rise, and with it the demands of my sweet children which newly outnumber me three to one.  So I take advantage of these quiet moments to spill out my thoughts onto the glowing screen in my hands.

Strengths as a mother...hmm...

Do I even have any strengths?  The sleepy mind has gone blank.

At first I tried to write about intuition: one of the greatest strengths of any mother.  I believe that the ability to trust one's intuition about the needs of our children is a strength indeed.  Especially today as it puts us against the grain of the information age where it seems all others know our children and their needs better than us, the ones who carried them and brought them into the world.  Yes, intuition and the ability to trust our gut in every season and in every age is a great asset for all mothers.

I tried to write about patience.  Seeing as this is a great weakness of mine, and not a strength that comes naturally, I did not get very far down this road.  But yes, patience must be a great strength to have as a mother.  I envy those to whom this is a more natural state of being.

Then I gave empathy a good solid try.  In my experience the journey to and from the darkest corners of motherhood and ultimately humanity is the only path to empathy.  It is from this journey that we become fuller versions of ourselves as women and mothers.  It is on this journey that we learn to fully embrace each and every emotion that comes our way in life and motherhood, from the best to the worst, all in an effort to live as more empathetic individuals.  Then we are able to look our children in the eye and put ourselves in their shoes as they experience the highs and lows of each emotion for the first time.  And then it points us to our Mama friends in their bright days and their dark days, coming along side them that they may not rejoice or weep alone.  Empathy is a strength indeed.  What kind of mothers will we become if this is not a part of our equation?

But that's as far as I got on empathy.  I fell asleep and when I woke the inspiration was gone.

Many other false starts.  Many other rabbit trails.  Many more half written sleepy ideas about strength and motherhood.

And then, in the midst of our crazy first outing on day 10 as a family of five, which I will tell you did NOT go as smoothly as I'd planned or hoped, I took a quiet moment.  I took a deep breath.  I sat still for a fleeting second, closed my eyes and was still.  And while this moment didn't dispense with the crazy as I opened my eyes and watched the big kids still running around like banshees, and I was still trying to get a newborn to nurse in public with little success, and my husband was still looking bewildered and overwhelmed, my mind had gone quiet.  No one else could care to notice, but I noticed. 

To be still then, I thought in that moment, must be thing that gives all other strengths, both natural and learned, room to breath in motherhood.  Whether it is in these early postpartum days, in the pregnancy days, on the potty training days and first day of school days, and on the good days and on the bad days: to be still.  To take a deep breathe.  To give your weaknesses acknowledgement, and your strengths room to rise up and be seen.  To quiet the crazy in our own hearts and minds, giving ourselves a little gift no matter how briefly, fleetingly, or quickly. 

It is a simple thing, much like this article. It is not a long drawn out answer, or a long-term solution to the deepest woes of motherhood.  It is simply, a way to get by.  To let ourselves be seen, if by no one else then at least by our own inner eye.  To let our intuition, patience, empathy and many other strengths come to the surface and hopefully stifle the yell that's on the tip of our tongue.  Sometimes it will still escape, and I'll go ahead and give myself a freebie.  For this is not an easy task, this mothering.  And there are no easy answers.  And no one, hear me: NO ONE, is the best version of themselves all the time.  But we can all be still, just for a moment, and give our strengths a fighting shot to shine through the exhaustion, frustration and loneliness.  For one moment.  For one fleeting second. 

Be still.    

Journalist: Rachel Hope   (@havenblog)

Bigger Than Myself
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Often times I hear, "Wow you are so strong!" or, "You must be so strong, I could never do something like that”.  Carrying a baby that isn't mine and won't be coming home in my arms is often a hard concept for some to understand.  Sometimes being told I'm so strong is a true compliment & sometimes it teeters on the cusp of discern.  Which is completely understandable.  Much of what we are unfamiliar with can slip into unintentional ignorance.  I'm flawed by the those same attributes.  We all are.

I never considered myself a strong person, truthfully.  In my heart of hearts most of the time when my waters are rocky & my compass is lost I merely feel like I only hold on to survive.  White knuckled & blue faced.  But this road is different.  I don't see it as hard, or as if I needed strength to decide to do this.  Even now I don't feel like embarking on this journey took a whole lot of strength on my end.  I was certain from the time I met the two handsome and nervous men that mirrored me on the computer monitor in my agency's office, that I wanted nothing more than to carry a baby for them.  Sure, there were struggles.  The raging hormones on IVF, the failed attempt at a transfer, a medication hiccup and a redo of our subsequent cycle.  I am not unphased by the normal woes of pregnancy.

But through my surrogacy, from the beginning to my current state of seven months pregnant, the only strength present in my eyes is the unwavering strength that lies in the couple for whom I carry this child.  For them and for the others like them.  They may not all be a gay couple eager to make their far off dreams of having a family one day a reality.  But their hearts' wish is shared just the same.  Maybe they are in a different boat, yet their sails are set in the same direction.  Those who have experienced the loss of a child.  Those who suffer from infertility.  Those that long and wish and pray for a baby of their own.  The ones that have walked into the hospital to give birth & return empty handed--empty hearted.  The ones who have sought out different avenues when the one they were intent on didn't unfold the way they had hoped.  Be it adoption or surrogacy or fertility treatments.  There.  It is there.  There is where the real strength lies. I've often sat and wondered what that would feel like. Imagining the pain and heartaches that tether at their heartstrings.

I'm growing this child and handing that babe back over, rightfully where she belongs.  They are the strength in this.  For waiting.  For holding onto hope.  They posses a certain strength in trusting me with their child, awaiting along the sidelines for her arrival.  I sometimes wonder how could a parent be so strong through a process like this.  To sit and wonder how your baby is and how they are growing and what must their sweet kicks feel like from the inside.  Even with constant contact & the knowledge that we both are healthy as can be, there are countries that separate us & for them that must be so hard.  My own strengths for the "hard parts" like labor and childbirth comes from the strength I know the intended parents have been holding onto for many years before the big day even arrives.  It's all much bigger than myself.

It all unravels to where we sit today, now over a year into this little unborn girl's story.  I’m reminded daily for the purpose of this journey when I look into my daughter's face.  Her green eyes.  That baby face full of round, blossoming cheeks.  Full of hope and wonder and invincibility.  The blonde curls that flip and climb the back of her neck and lay delicately on her ears.  The smile that protrudes from that babyface, yet dauntingly childlike at almost two.  The endless love she pours into my soul.  When I am empty, she fills my cup up, and then some.  Who doesn't deserve that kind of unfaltering, unyielding love?  The love I have for her.  The love she has for me.  The magic that was birthing & raising & loving and mothering.  That is why I am doing this.  To give that gift to someone.  Maybe I'll see my own strengths when this is all over & the hormones are gone from pregnancy & the rush of love and oxytocin from this experience has passed.  I am proud of myself, indefinitely.  But for now I meditate & focus on the strength of my newly beloved friends and the impending arrival of their dreams.  I feel joy and happiness that my body can manage something so untraditional and yet so remarkable.  The woman's body is a vessel for incredible sorcery.  I will always honor that.  I am full of support and love and a steady readiness for the next chapter, all while savoring the one we are in now.

Journalist: Kylie Foreman 

Photography: Sweet Lily Photography 

Ten Minutes of Thankful

The occasional noise from the outside world filtering through the walls into the house distracts me a bit but apart from that the place is quiet. My husband is at work, my eldest is at a play date and my littlest is taking a nap after fighting it for some time. The howling of the wind in the cracks lures me to an afternoon slumber but I resist.  I sit by my desk, taking ten minutes to reflect on the many things I’m thankful for.  I love journaling.  It gives me the needed time to analyze my life, from the past to the present. 

Whenever the word thankful pops into my mind, I picture the main street in Swedru, a little town in Ghana.  The town in which my grandmother lives and I spent part of my childhood. My favorite memory on this street is a four year old me--about the same age as my daughter right now--running barefoot on the hard asphalt, my arms wide open to the rain.  My giggles color the air as my grandmother calls me back to the warm house before I catch a cold. Soaking vest and shorts didn’t bother me, I wanted to run in the pouring rain. 

This scene comes to my mind over and over again, usually whenever I’m so thankful and I can’t contain my emotions. 

Recently, that is how I felt when my husband came to our bedroom after the bedtime routine, smiling.  This particular evening between dreamland and reality, our eldest said “My bone hand is the favorite part of my body.” 

When he told me what she said, my soul went for a run on my street. 

I thought about the moment that I saw my daughter for the first time and I learned that she has a limb difference. I wasn’t worried about her, but about the bullies in the future. However, from that instant I promised myself to let her be a kid, to let her see and explore things the way she wanted to, never setting a limit to her abilities. I tried my best to never push my tainted viewpoint of the world on her pristine child perspective.

She was two and half years old the first time she consciously told us that she has a limb difference. That day we went to story time at the library and when we got home she said “This is lamb and this is lion.” Initially we all thought she was saying that because the librarian gave to her stamps on her hands that morning. Later in the week, she mentioned the same thing again, this time elaborating her logic to us “My left hand is lamb because it’s small and the right hand is lion because it’s big, they help each other.”

My soul lifted and went to my street for a run.  I loved the way she saw things. I’ve always been thankful to have God send my way such a pensive, clever and smart little girl. A person I love so much.  She is the best teacher, the bravest and most determined little girl I know. I’m thankful for such a fighter in our lives. My world was enriched the moment I cuddled her tiny body in my arms. 

My heart swells when my daughter says “My favorite part of my body is my bone hand. I like to have my friends hold it, they know it’s my favorite hand and they have to be gentle.” 

My soul dances on my street to recognize the stones I set long ago coming alive. Words like if your friend is hurting your hand don’t let them hold it, the reassuring words such as I love all of you. I’m thankful for standing up for her when she was little and couldn’t respond to comments like your hand looks like potato or you can’t do this because you don’t have ten fingers. She has heard me saying “Her hand doesn’t look like anything; she was born like that. She can do anything, let her try.” That time in life when every person becomes a bit insecure in their appearance and ability may come her way, but I hope that the strong groundwork we've set will keep her fortified.

I’m thankful for the path I took when she was born four years ago; to let her be herself, to allow her to experience life and be ready if she ever comes searching for answers to help her find some.  

I’m thankful for this journey, for the community that I’m a part of both online and offline. For having nice friends, my village, I can count on. I’m thankful my children are making good friends in this city they call home. I’m thankful for the many organizations that dedicate the time and money to support everyone with a difference. 

Journalist: Theodora Ofosuhima