Another Lesson for Mama, by Mara Spiropoulos

I began this blog post on Friday, May 17th, my youngest child’s 2nd birthday. I was on my way to California to celebrate and learn with some amazing women at the first-ever LifeWays conference. I was excited, nervous, and already missing daily life with my family–that I am often eager to get a break from. Why is it that it takes a leave of absence to remind oneself how blessed we are to have the life we’ve been granted?Ah well, I’m thankful for this lesson to be grateful once again. As I fly, I reflect upon the spring birth of my baby girl, Adella Genevieve, two years ago, whose birthday I’m missing.

After two previous long, arduous and fear-filled births, Adella gave me the sweetest gift of a healing birth. Though nothing traumatic occurred during Ellia or Lincoln’s births, they were extremely long, tiring and tested my self confidence in my ability to trust my body. Although each time I found the strength in myself, was supported by my husband and had successful homebirths, Adella’s birth was truly healing and gave me the courage to start trusting my body, my mind, and my abilities.

It has amazed me how much each of my children’s births fit their emerging personalities. Ellia arrived almost right on time, just a mere 45 minutes past her “due date”, only late because it took almost 4 hours of pushing to get her here on earth. I have since found that most things with Ellia take a lot of convincing, time and hard work, unless it was her idea in the first place. She likely would have preferred to stay inside the safe and nurturing womb as she is my shy, reserved, sensitive child. She cried from the moment of exit onward and was only comforted my mama, preferring my arms above all others. Fortunately, Ellia latched on immediately–but then didn’t let go! She needed more from the get go – more nursing, more cuddles, more love. This hasn’t ceased…she is now almost 5 and I feel some moments that she is right back to being a newborn with the amount of attention and love she needs. As a baby, Ell didn’t really sleep unless she was nursing or in my arms. She pushed me past all my limits, so sleep exhaustion, anxiety and depression set in. Ellia still requires more at bedtime and through the night as well.

A few months postpartum I was surprised and a bit scared to realize I was pregnant once again. Ellia’s birth was still very vivid in my mind, for I hadn’t had time to “forget” the pain. I hoped my son’s birth would be easier, but held onto the fears I had when I birthed Ellia. In typical Lincoln fashion, he took his time coming to earth. With sporadic contractions over many days, fooling us many times, Lincoln’s birth finally started around his due date and also lasted 2+ days. Even during pushing, I was never overwhelmed with a strong urge to push, but instead had to wait and will the contractions to come. I stalled at 9 ½ cm, and screamed an emphatic “yes” when my dear midwife suggested she could try breaking my water and that might speed things up. It did and Linc was born plump, healthy and happy – a full pound bigger than his sister. He was a happy baby and slept better; the anxiety and depression I felt with Ellia didn’t set in.

Then there’s Adella, my little bull, who was ready and raring to take on this world! Her labor took a few days to get going, with sporadic strong contractions that gave me another lesson in patience and letting go of my desire to control things. Then came a Monday night in May, which brought my weekly massage that I had the last month of my pregnancy. This massage happened once the kids were in bed, the house was quiet, and my masseuse could encourage me to let go. During the massage, I talked to myself, reciting my mantras of “I was made to birth” and “Every contraction is one step closer to holding my babe,” encouraging myself to let go and surrender. I had several strong contractions during the massage that continued as I went to bed that night.

Around 4am, I woke Christian up and told him to get things ready for we were about to have a baby. The contractions took over, and I surrendered. My mother-in-law arrived soon after to pick up Ellia and Lincoln and whisked them out of the house as I let another contraction wash over me. When my midwife arrived around 5:30, I was experiencing deep burning contractions in my hips, one after another. I felt like I was in transition but since my previous births were long, I didn’t want to convince myself and be disappointed when my midwife checked me. When she was settled in, my midwife quietly asked me if I’d like her to check me and I agreed. She told me, “Mara you are at about a 9 ½ and ready to go!” I was elated, for I finally trusted my body and surrendered. A few pushes later, our youngest was born, and we all were literally laughing for we had all been there during my previous long, arduous, exhausting labors. We had energy and were able just to enjoy this bundle.

Within a few hours of Adella’s birth, I gazed at her beautiful face and we all realized she looked just like me. I feel all my children have such purpose here on earth, and part of Adella’s purpose is to help me believe in myself and my abilities. Perhaps it is also to see my own beauty, for she looks like mama and, though I’m biased, she is one of the three most beautiful creations on this earth!

Adella is our sweet fiery bull. She gives the best, and strongest, hugs and can be very snuggly, while also having a stronger will than anyone I know. She is goofy and has such personality. She is also ridiculously strong and, before we knew she was able, she scaled our backyard playset’s steps at 11 months. Thank goodness her angel seems to be taking great care of her!

It is now one week after my trip to California for the LifeWays conference.  It was thoroughly inspiring and educational, and I’m looking forward to the next one. Though at times during the conference I felt overrun with ideas and dreams (not uncommon for me), I am learning more about myself, my habits and my abilities. I’m letting the ideas come and go…simply to play with them and “feel” them. This helps me to figure out which ideas really feel “right,” give me the most joy, and also stick around past the initial creation of the dream. I also know my dreaming sometimes takes me out of where I’m at right now, which can be helpful at times, but also has the potential to disrupt my mindful parenting.

When I arrived home, the kids were happy to see me, and we enjoyed a nice night together. The next few days were a bit rough, transitioning back to being home. At one point, I mentioned to my husband that I don’t want to leave again because transitioning home is almost harder than never getting time away! But eventually I surrendered to the struggle and we overcame it together. One week later, things are back to normal–whatever normal is!

Though I get overwhelmed and frustrated and impatient, I realize at the end of the day, there is no place I’d rather be. This life I was granted, as challenging or joyful as it can be at certain moments, is a gift. We think that when we become parents, we have so much to teach our children. Truth be told, my kids have already taught me far more than I could possibly pass on to them. Sometimes I worry about all the lessons that lie ahead of me, but then I let the worry go and trust in the universe. I trust myself to keep letting go, keep slowing down, and keep surrendering so that this joyful path we are on can continue to unfold. Only then can I see the blessings we’ve been granted and continue to allow life to bless us.

Mara Spiropoulos is the blog coordinator and parent voice for the LifeWays North America blog. She is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training program, resides in Milwaukee, WI, and is a full-time mother to 3 young children. Mara enjoys spending time in nature, reading and researching natural parenting and living, and crafting. She would love to hear from anyone willing to be a guest writer. You can reach her by email at linearmara@gmail.com.