Monthly Archives: July 2009

A little more on death and mourning

I am still functioning as a mother and my son continues to grow and blossom. I will get back to writing more about him and my mothering.

However, a friend of mine lost her husband to cancer a week ago. In the Jewish tradition, spouses, siblings and parents sit Siv’ah, a week of their community paying respects and supporting the family. Today was the last day of the Shiv’ah, and I was finally able to get out (we have had more than a week of a nasty stomach bug here at my home) and spend some time with her.

In 11 months she lost her husband.

And we shared some of what it means to love and loose someone, whether it is expected or unexpected. What you feel, what you experience.

I can still hardly get my head around my mothers death, it also seems so unreal that my friend is now mourning her husband. It really really just boggles my mind.

And yet, from our conversation, the huge importance of being able to live your life in a true way, expressing yourself freely – not living up to the expectations of others. Knowing who you are and being true to that. These are the things that seem to matter when you consider no longer being alive. And being grateful for what you do have.

Make good use of your life. Celebrate your life.

And yet, a part of me knows that it is useless to write these words. I think people already know this and written words aren’t going to make it new, or they don’t know it, and written words won’t make a difference. The intensity and passion with which you live your life is important. Your life is unique, special and valuable. Do not waste it. I had no honest grasp of this until my mother died.

I was speaking with my friend about my poor frustration tolerance and loosing my temper at things like something falling off the roof of the car when I have balanced it there while I put my son in his carseat. It is just too much for me to handle sometimes. My friend was surprised that I would be so frustrated. I guess it seemed out of sink with an attitude of living life with passion and being grateful for things that comfort me.

And yet I feel both. I do not have the energy to deal with small mishaps. I need things to go according to plan right now. I do not have the emotional reserves to deal with the unexpected. And at the same time I feel an urge to live my life fully and honestly.

To close off today on the rather disjointed entry, I am thinking of finding a way to express my mourning and grieving in a way that makes it real for me. I am still searching for the reality in what has happened and feel I need to connect. I am thinking of covering my hair for a period of time, as a way to honour my memory of my mother and not let her death be swallowed up in the continuity of life just yet. I’ll get there. In the Jewish tradition, children mourn their parents for a full year. I think there is wisdom in that.

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My mum

In memory of my mother

In memory of my mother

She *hated* the camera and we worked hard to find a photo of her where she wasn’t expecting the click of the camera.

My mother was also a great lover of loose Ceylon tea in china cups with milk and a biscuit. My adolescent memory is of her coming home from work, sitting at the dining room table with a cup of tea, a biscuit and her favorite novel as her way to unwind and prepare for the evening. This tea set is in honour of her.

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Some more on mourning

I feel that my mother is no longer with me.

I feel it so acutely and it makes me so sad. I want to believe in some form of life after death (not  with angels and harps, white and gold) – I would go so far as to say on some level I do believe in it – some as of yet undefined experience beyond the death of a physical body. But for now the communication is not working between me and my mother. I am not dreaming of her, I am not getting any ‘messages’ or strong impressions or anything reassuring like that. She is just gone. There is just a hole in my life – no matter how much I wish there were not.

It’s hard.

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A little More pondering on Anthroposophy and care of the Infant

credit: abutterflyemerges.com
credit: abutterflyemerges.com

To put my previous post into a bit more context, I thought it best to clarify just why this is so personal for me.

I was brought up in an anthroposophical home, by two anthroposophical parents. There are many positive qualities in myself that I attribute to the nurturing that I received at home. There is however a lasting impression that I have been left with in my life – one that emotions don’t count, or are secondary to intentions or spiritual goals/aspirations.

I found it very difficult reading about the Madonna Cloak that Joan Salter writes about in her book, the Incarnating Child. This thinking that the environment can play a protective role in the upbringing of a child and can essentially protect a child from mistakes the parents will make, makes me a bit nervous. I wholly believe in creating a loving, gentle and safe environment for babies and young children, and certainly do my best to do just that in my home. However to say that there is some sort of spiritual bond created between mother and baby that allows for the mother to respond in thought and not in action greatly distressed me. Babies need actions. They need the mothers physical body. I am quite sure that thoughts can be reality, but I am also quite sure that thinking how much you love your baby while the baby lies in another room alone is not the same as picking your baby up to snuggle and kiss it.

I know I was left to cry. I know that I did not breastfeed enough (although my mother did try with me and did pump for months – in 1977). I remember sucking on my dolls arms to get to sleep and my mother just replacing the arms when they got too damaged from the sucking. She never thought to ask herself why I was sucking my dolls arms so much or what I needed that I was not getting. Nothing in her anthroposophical environment would have told her there was anything to question. I was eating organic food, dressed in cotton and wool, sleeping on a sheepskin, playing with a doll she had made me. It was all as it should be.

To me it seems an injustice to babies to impose our reality on them with evidence (crying) that it is not working. It just seems so cruel to dismiss the cries of a baby as a fundamental approach to caring for that baby.

And my last thought for this morning on this issue.

I was talking with my father about searching out bio-dynmaically grown food as I am sure that it is superior in nutrition to organic food, as well as being more sustainable and earth friendly. (this is just a hunch mind you) Anyway, I was saying that I have no idea what the spiritual significance of biodynamic agriculture is, but practically it seems to care for the earth and encourage biodiversity and nutrient rich soil. My father responded that in his experience the spiritual is made evident in the physical, so if it is working in the physical, you can find the spiritual there too. Which took me in my mind back to the issue of breastfeeding. If it makes sense physically (nutritionally and immune system development wise) and it makes sense emotionally (as long as it is working for both mother and child) it cannot be a spiritual truth that it has to stop. At least not to the way I am thinking.

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Anthroposophy and Infant care

This has been a post waiting to happen for some time now. And having recently received the Incarnating Child by Joan Salter, I have finally started to get my head around some of the issues that bother me about how anthroposophists (some, not all) approach babies and how to care for them.

My biggest issues are with breastfeeding, crying and sleeping. I think the broad anthrophosophical approach with toys, clothing, decor, rhythm, toiletries, media, parent staying home, not vaccinating babies etc is pretty much spot on – but weaning at 6-9 months, leaving babies to cry and forcing babies to sleep in their own beds just does not sit right with me. I suspect that anthroposophists who choose to parent their babies in this way, using justifications put forward in anthroposophical literature are missing the developmental needs of babies. As soon as the child is independent in the sense that s/he can get to where they want to be and ask for what they need, then I am more supportive of the anthroposophical approach and I think there is much wisdom there.

Weaning a baby at 6-9 months as his spiritual needs recquire him to be independent of the maternal forces of inheritance, giving him a good start in life to be a strong independent person just boggles my mind. Authors who suggest this are obvisouly not up to date with the significance of extended breastfeeding when it comes to developing the immune system and protecting the infant. I was absolutely floored to read that while breastfeeding does offer superior nutrition and it is relaxing and comforting for mother and child, on a spiritual level it is not the right thing to be doing for a modern baby with a modern conciousness. How can someone recommend weaning when it makes abundant sense to breasfeed as it is superior nutrition and it is meeting the emotional needs of the child. How can you turn your back on those truths for the possibility that spiritually it is not a good idea. That just seems ludicrous to me. If physically and emotionally it makes sense, I personally would want a lot more evidence of just how potentially dangerous breastfeeding can be on a spiritual level. So, here is a mother who is most decidedly not weaning her child any time soon, and definitly not for any spiritual reason. (I realise I may eat my words one day 😉 )

On the crying issue.

Joan suggests leaving a child to cry as it is not really distressed, not like an adult who is wracked with grief and cannot be comforted. As soon as you comfort the baby s/he stops crying and this is proof that they are not really that distressed. Again, my heart just plummeted. I am still not sure how to get my head around this. It really is just unbelievable that someone could justify ignoring the cries of a baby as it will stop when you pick them up and is therefore not that serious! Again, I have to just be thankful for my child that I have had the sense not to do what I have read/been told (that pretty much goes for any book and any person). I cannot fathom how this can be in line with the developmental needs of a baby. I get that it is hard as a parent to have a crying infant. I have been there, admittedly only with one, but I was there for 16 weeks of daily crying that did not stop no matter what I did. But for an approach that claims to be child centered and in tune with the developmental needs of children, I have to say that ignoring a babies cry is not in line with it’s developmental needs.

And lastly, sleep.

I think that where a child sleeps in a cultural expression. This post does not have the scope to go into the history of the family bed, but it is worth noting that it is relatively new that babies get their own bedrooms and are expected to go to sleep alone. I personally am wary of this drive to make babies independent before their time. They need us, our love and our attention. Emotionally and physically they are relying on us – and it is not enough to have good intentions. It helps. But an intention is meaningless to a baby. You as a parent need to respond appropriately and honestly.

As a final word. This rant may come across as passionate. It is. I am passionate about the care of babies and the power of the mother baby entity.

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Wise words

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation

I find more and more personal meaning in such words. I am getting it. Death is inevitable and the denial of it ever touching our lives is pure fallacy. Live your life as if today were your last, while planning to live forever. We all are going to die somehow, somewhere. Be proud of the life you have lived.

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A crappy day

It didn’t start out crappy.

I tried calling my dad and got voicemail and it is my mothers voice.

I was stunned and deeply upset by the the sound of her recorded voice and the knowledge that I will never hear her voice again in conversation.

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