gardening, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Uncategorized

raw and open

Eight years and a few months ago I told a friend that I couldn’t imagine being happier about life and more excited about my future. I felt amazing. I was in the first semester of Grad school, I had just moved into a new house, I had gone from being a couch potato to running races and practicing yoga regularly, I had a new job as the executive director of an organization that brought me joy, and I was in the beginning stages of a new relationship with the first man I ever loved. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, like a sledgehammer to the skull, we got the death sentence diagnosis for my dad. He was dying. That’s it. There was no hope given. They could help him live a couple more years, but cancer would kill him and it would kill him soon. My dad. The man who lived his life serving others and would literally talk about what he would be doing when he was 100. He enjoyed life so much that it was contagious to be around him. He had already had cancer twice before and would joke about it. “I don’t get sick, I just get cancer,” he would say with pride.

A church friend recently talked about a garden being the metaphor for our lives and God being the Master Gardener. I have taken this idea and used it to help myself work through this season of my life. As I have highs and lows with my literal garden, I see the parallels with my life. Before the diagnosis, my garden was lush and full of herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Heck, there were freaking butterflies and honeybees fluttering around. You get the picture?

My dad’s diagnosis was the first nasty weed. What followed was three years of watching my father struggle and hope and eventually die. My relationship of three years, the one that was supposed to last forever, died four months later. It was a relationship that might have lasted had it happened at a different time in my life, but sometimes grief has a way of killing things in its path. Three months after my relationship died, I  jumped into a summer fling with a man who I thought I knew and who I thought was an old friend, only to find out he was a complete stranger, was not at all who I thought he was, and I was left to face a pregnancy and eventually parenthood, alone. My lush happy garden slowly rotted and turned into a heaping compost as I blamed the Master Gardener and kicked him out.

Even moments before my daughter was born, I was sitting in the middle of my compost pile thinking the garden and life I once had would never happen again. I was admittedly, angry, hurt, defeated and hopeless. Then, the moment they put that baby girl on my chest and I saw those crystal blue eyes, a small but strong bud popped out of my heap of mush and began to bloom. Trying to keep this “bud” alive and blooming has required months of fighting a broken legal system, three years of pinching pennies and constantly worrying about money, learning how to ask and accept help, and inviting the “Master Gardener” back in.fullsizerender-3

A few days ago, in my actual garden, I spent the entire morning pulling up weeds, removing broken glass, ant hills, and dog poop, and pulling up dead tree trunks. It was the end of a weeks-long project that I was starting to think would take the rest of my life to complete. As I stood in the sun covered in sweat and dirt, I felt the most amazing satisfaction seeing the raw and open earth that I uncovered. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. Aside from a single strand of purple Morning Glories, everything that had been there was now gone. I immediately started to cry. This garden was me.

My neighbors told me that this garden was once home to beautiful grass, vibrant rose bushes, and lush green trees. After years of trials and neglect, it became the weed covered trash-ridden lot that I purchased a few months ago. It was so bad that one of my neighbors suggested it was beyond repair and I should just fill it with concrete and call it a day. What it is teaching me, however, is that nothing and no one is past redemption. Like my garden, I reached a point in my life where I had to realize that in order for that one flower to grow and flourish, I would have to rip out all that was old, dig up the soil, remove the trash, and start again with new seeds. I would need expert advice and help with the hardest parts of the job. Most importantly, I had to stop focusing on what once was and what I thought it “should” look like. I have to accept what has happened, mourn any loss, and focus on each seed as new life grows and a whole new garden appears.


Crunchy Momma

Today I went to a place called OM Baby. Here they offer a variety of birthing classes, parenting classes, yoga classes for pregnant women or new moms, and breastfeeding classes. I know what you are thinking: The place was full of hippies and smelled like Burt’s Bees and Nag Champa. Well, not really. It was warm and friendly with a classroom and a library. It had a small store with eco-friendly bottles and breast pumps and cloth diapers. It had a variety of herbal teas that were pregnant mommy friendly. It was a place that felt good to me. It was soothing and made me want to give birth. I am so excited to get started there. Now comes the fun part where some of you will think I am crazy. I know because I have already seen people roll their eyes and tell me I don’t know what I am talking about.

I am going to have a natural birth. I have opted out of all drugs and plan on laboring at home until the last minute when I will head to the hospital. I know that birthing my daughter will be painful and I am ok with that. I am a woman and I am designed to have babies. Women have been doing this for millions of years. I want to be awake and aware during the birthing process and I want to feel any pain that comes with it. I have been told that if you opt out of drugs and pain killers, you come through feeling like a warrior and with a high like none other. That, to me, sounds wonderful! My daughter has to work hard to come out and I will work hard with her. We will do this together. I do not want a pill or a shot in my back that will cause me to feel nothing and forget this moment. I do not think I will have another child of my own, I did not think I would ever even have this one, and I want this to be something I never forget.

Once we make it through the birth, I will breast feed. This is another thing that some friends have heard from me and, surprisingly, gave me a look of horror. When did the natural process of things become so taboo? Our bodies were designed to give birth and to feed our babies. The nutrients from Brest milk are all natural and specific to our children. The process of breast feeding is a bonding time for mother and child. The breast milk is full of immunity builders and acts as a natural immunization for a variety of diseases. To top it off, it reduces the risk of SIDS, child obesity, and postpartum depression. Even more, it burns about 500 calories a day! It is a workout you can do from a rocking chair. To be honest, I am not sure why people raise an eyebrow to something so natural and I do not know why women chose to use formula which is anything but natural.

Cloth diapers are another thing I am planning on, but think I will save that post for when I am actually using them since I am sure it will be a lot more entertaining. For now, I have been surrounding myself with women who think like me, including a Facebook group called “crunchy Mommies,” and I have been trying to avoid people who tell me I’ll be screaming for an epidural the minute I go into labor. I have talked to dozens of moms who have been through natural and drug induced births and the only ones that made it seem like a totally wonderful, non-scary experience were the ones who went traditional and all natural. And if you are wondering, yes, I do start my mornings with green smoothies, vegan organic granola, and GMO free organic soymilk!

***I would like to add a disclaimer to this post. I think ANY woman who carries a child for 9 months and gives birth to that child is pretty amazing. And, if she loves and cares for the child while having to deal with all the other things life throws at us, it doesn’t really matter whether she fed the child breast milk or formula. I admire mothers in general and we all decide how we should do things and we all have opinions. However, I don’t want people to judge me for my choices and I do not want to be misunderstood as someone who is judging anyone else.