Serenity writes: When I had my first son, Noah, I had to return to work quickly. I was lucky that as a private-duty nurse I was able to bring my baby to work with me and have him looked after by the wonderful loving family of my patients. I planned to practice attachment parenting and was a co-sleeping, baby-wearing, exclusively breastfeeding new mother. I was a happy new mom, but I always felt rushed through my day, trying to get everything done and be good at every role I played. I thought at the time that I should offer my son every educational gimmick on the market. I purchased programs that claimed to make my baby an Einstein and teach him to read as early as humanly possible, as well as other books and videos that are promoted throughout parenting magazines and baby registries.
After the birth of my second child, Eliana, I was living far from friends and family and was completely overwhelmed. I thought I had to get out every day and make sure Noah was going to the park, play dates, summer camp and preschool. Our days were so crazy that poor Eliana was fussy, and I was exhausted. Surely, my little Noah was tired, too. It was time to make a change. We moved from Orange County to family-friendly Temecula (California), and I felt blessed to be able to stay home with my children.
I began learning about creating nurturing environments and rhythms while reading about Waldorf education and early childhood, and I read many of the books recommended by other Lifeways contributors. It was after that time that I became inspired to create my own program.
I decided to leave behind my career in nursing to be home with my children more and opened a small in-home child care program; shortly after that I happened upon Lifeways North America. I very much wanted to be a part of this wonderful movement to be able to offer child care that provided a gentle, rhythmic and nurturing home environment to preschool children.
So I began making changes in my own home. I changed the toys to those made from natural materials, I provided a play garden within my own rose garden for the children to spend their mornings and afternoons in, and I started creating homemade, nutritious organic meals. I then enrolled in the Lifeways early childhood certification program with the lovely Bianca Lara of A Child’s Garden of Thyme in Encinitas, CA. I started slowing down, becoming a calmer and much more consistent parent, and my children were clearly benefiting from having a daily rhythm and proper nutrition.
Last Autumn, during the busy month of September, I was busy with the opening of my little Lifeways- inspired program. I had everything in place and all was going smoothly that fall, when I received an unexpected blessing. I found out I was pregnant with my third child, a son that I now affectionately refer to as my bonus baby. While excited, I was also a little overwhelmed. I mean, how in the world was I going to run this program and still grow and then birth this little gift from Heaven?
I chose to continue with my group of children, reasoning that if I had a good strong rhythm to each day, then everything would work out fine. Through the winter, I spent my days creating little crafts, and playing finger games with the children. We also did wet felting, painting, doll making and as many other slow quiet activities as I could think of that allowed me to work through my early pregnancy fatigue. By spring I was in my second trimester and was feeling pretty good. The children and I spent every day we could outside enjoying the sunshine and planting our garden. The children marveled at my growing belly and often placed little dolls beneath their shirts so they could imitate me. They tenderly patted the baby within and spoke to him. It was endearing to see them be so nurturing to this little person they couldn’t even see yet. Young children are like that I suppose, they believe in magic and the unseen. And a child growing in the womb is certainly a magical thing.
During the summer I took my children outside to lakes, parks and local farms. We explored ladybugs in the neighborhood rose garden, labyrinths made in lavender fields, and ate sun-ripened blueberries straight from the bush. This was my most active pregnancy ever. I had this urge to spend each day soaking up every last golden drop of summer with my children. In my last few weeks of pregnancy, our family spent long languid days at the beach. I sat watching my children play in the sand while I listened to the ocean’s rolling rhythm, the sun slowly sinking beneath the horizon. I felt so connected to my unborn baby in that moment. I could feel him preparing his journey to the earth and I imagined him watching above, knowing we were all waiting for him. I wanted to make sure that when he arrived, there would be peace and time to allow him to awaken into his body and this world at his own pace. The gift I would give this child would be a peaceful beginning.
Many cultures recognize the first year of life as sacred, with an emphasis on the first 40 days. The mother and baby should remain together at this time and step back from the business of everyday life. It is a time to gently introduce a daily rhythm and protect the senses. I wanted to keep this time in life simple and sweet for my new son, Joseph. Our older children played in the garden and occasionally went out with family members, but Joseph and I spent our first 40 days at home. My focus was to keep him close, provide warmth, and shelter him from over stimulation. We had very few visitors and had lots of skin-to-skin cuddling. I dressed him in natural fibers and diapered him in soft wool or cotton. Rudolf Steiner noted that the organs and nervous system of the infant are still developing and working to achieve their own internal rhythms. Because young children learn through imitation, providing rhythm to daily life assist them in this endeavor of creating a strong healthy body.
And so now that autumn has come full circle, my program has begun again, and Joseph is 11 weeks old. Life is good and certainly a lot busier. Having our rhythm (and our lovely indispensable part-time assistant named Miss Peggy) has been essential to continuing my work as a mother and a caregiver. Our new baby fits right into our day and the children in my home love him so. He is content to lie on a sheepskin while the children hold his tiny hand or gently caress his hair. He easily falls asleep in a sling while I sweep or wash up the dishes, or often on his own in his bassinet nearby.
So life is busy and often noisy, but it’s the hustle and bustle of friends and family life, and it’s the laughter of children and the humming of mom cooking in the kitchen. And yes, I am sometimes tired, but I am doing something I am passionate about and that I know makes a difference to the children we are caring for. Most of all, I am supremely happy and I am enjoying this new peaceful beginning.
Serenity Gordon is a Lifeways student and mother of three residing in Temecula, CA. She is the administrator of Garden Gate Playschool and the Temecula Waldorf Parenting Group. Serenity enjoys horseback riding, farmer’s markets, and spending time with her family in nature.