Be grateful for every pain because it brings joy afterward

I am currently training in a weekly intense course to become an active birth teacher with the amazing Janet Balaskas herself and the wholehearted team she has surrounded herself with (I fell in love with every single one of them at first sight, Dominique, Jill, Lola ❤️).

Whilst studying the amazing power that nature programs into a natural birth, I have been wanting to call my mum today and ask her more specific questions around my own birth with a totally new curiosity and open mind.

We have always had a difficult relationship but I was just starting to remember how many times I heard her telling me how horrible the midwives had been to her, how lost and exhausted she felt after such a rushed delivery (by the doctors) where her body did not have the time to make the slow work of opening up to giving birth.

When I spoke to her today, she explained to me how in northern Italy in the early 80es, babies were not allowed to stay with their mothers: after a short encounter with their mothers following birth, they were only brought to them at feeding time (mainly formula in a bottle) and how they had to stay together amongst other crying babies the rest of the time in a so called ‘nursery’.

How inhuman is that, I question myself today with my gained knowledge? A mother working so hard to deliver her bundle of joy in a medicalised environment, full of procedures totally contrary to nature at the time, making birth the horrible experience it does not need to be, and after all of this not even being allowed to stay with their babies uninterruptedly?

And what does the start of my life says about me? My mother had to stay in hospital for 6 days after birth as she had had a serious ematoma and bleeding to recover from. So I had 6 days of (as she described me so well) crying at the top of my lungs, red and upset until I would be with my mum for a quick feed and then start again when being taken away from her…

For a long time in my personal journey I have been at first unhealthily blaming myself for my constant anger and more lately (with recent healing) questioning where does it come from. Why am I always so easily outbursting with my frustration demanding my needs to be met or my boundaries respected?

No surprise I react this way so easily, if this was the beginning of life as I have known it since being only a few hours old, being deprived of what was my right: the constant reassuring smell and the touch of the human being I had been living within until then.

I can only be grateful today for what happened to me then. I would not be the woman I am today, fighting for a fairer society, for every single right that is mine, even with the many defeats I encounter. And I am grateful for the delivery I lived with my daughter’s birth, following Active birth ideas and tools from a course I attended myself 4 years ago, just before she was born.

Tomorrow it’s her 4th birthday, she was born at home, in the safety of her parents arms, no external intrusion whatsoever and never even went to the hospital afterwards as the delivery had gone so well, there were no concerns to justifying leaving our home.

She is now the new generation who will expect the same treatment for her own delivery and baby. My mother and my own sufferance have empowered her to demand what is her right in life, around birth and anything else she wants, to be happy and successful.

Happy birth day to you my girl, to me your mother and to my mother, your grand mother, because the day you were born 4 years ago tomorrow morning, our generational chain of a nonsense inhuman start in life was broken.

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The end of a good day (E-mail to a CODA fellow)

Dear friend,

Today was my first day alone with the kids and my in laws who are visiting us, whilst my husband had to work all day.

I had a very good day, despite my deepest fears shared with you last week.

I believe everyone had a great time actually, one of those days when you feel that some people’s happiness is not at the expense of others (often mine, as for when I remained silently in hurt and deep pain during my birthday weekend in Bath for everyone else to enjoy their time, you know about that too).

My needs were met: I went to an amazing new Aeriel Yoga class at lunch time on my own for 1 hour and I also took the whole family to Horniman museum and gardens in the afternoon, a place that my husband, the kids and I really enjoy during our spare time.

I also think I met other people’s needs with little compromises, for instance when I invited my young sister in law to stay at mine for dinner with her boyfriend as I had sensed they did not really want to leave us after the afternoon together. I had 6 portions of chicken for my 2 kids, my 2 in laws and the young couple and I cooked myself instead one of my favourite dishes, fried eggs with toasted bread.

Everything that I have done, I have done it wholeheartedly for myself and others and because I wanted to. I have not forced myself nor anyone forced me to do it. I also did not do it to gain more love, more esteem, more gratitude, to be right, to show with superiority how one should host, to expect anything in return when I will be the guest of my in laws or when I will need babysitting from my sister in law.

Despite today went well, I have no expectations of tomorrow to be that good neither, nor for the rest of the holidays: I take the present as a gift and I feel lucky enough that my needs were met today and, as it seemed, everyone else’s needs too.

Tonight I feel so emotional to realise how much I have grown, how strong and mature I behaved and sad at the same time that my husband was not there to live this day with us, after the argument we had with his parents trying to put a boundary they did not appreciate (about their visit here and the fact that they increased from 5 to 9 nights at our flat without asking us if it was OK).

Before I go to sleep early to end my lovely long day, my thoughts goes to you my friend, as I truly think a lot of what happened today was a result of the chat we had last Saturday morning in my out reach call, and could not have really happened especially without your questions ‘What do you want from this time together? How can you turn this weekend alone with them into a win-win situation?’, the rephrasing ‘It’s probably not true that you don’t count anything for your in laws, could it be that you tell yourself instead you don’t count much for your in laws’ and your advice ‘to drag myself back at the centre of the picture’.

I am so grateful for your friendship my CODA fellow, and the kind wisdom you showed me on both occasions lately when I phoned you in great despair. I hope you will have as a peaceful and inspiring Sunday as my day was today,

good night for now,

Trilingual

World schools for little humans

I am in shock tonight. From my Facebook feed I just realised that for many of my childhood friends who I have met through the years in my country of origin before moving to the UK, it’s their kids first day at primary school this September… Because I chose to come to live my life in England before starting our family, my son who is their children same age (6), has instead just started year 2 a few days ago: he reads 4 books at a time, write stories, sometimes teaches me some physic or geographic notions and solves long rod equations…

I know what emotions my friends are talking about these days, I lived them 2 years ago when I left my son in his brand new reception class, aged 4 and wearing his very first uniform instead of our grembiulino (typical Italian school wear)… And in a few years time he will be anxious about his GCSEs and his A Levels instead of fearing the scary Baccalauréat (very strict French equivalent of A Levels)…

I wonder tonight what it would be of our lives if my husband and I had not started this adventure 12 years ago? What would it be of our little man today if we had not made of him a little Brit whose favourite food is home made pizza and favourite movie character is Monsieur Hulot? His prospectives and habits would be very different and our experience as parents would be very different too…

And now that Brexit is happening, when he will grow up what will he feel he is deep down in his heart, Italian, French or British?

I hope that with his unique experience of an Italian father, a half French mother and being raised in London, within such an open and multiethnic environment, one day he will simply reply ‘just a human being, as we all have the same needs despite cultural and social diversities…’

Raising boys – A mothering course

Four years ago I attended an amazing free course held at Rosendale Children Centre in Herne Hill, called ‘Raising boys’. Despite at first glance it may seem based on the homonym famous book, the course is instead more specifically inspired by some sad statistics in the UK. In the past decade it was noticed how in Great Britain, taken the whole number of young people who commit crimes, suicide or drug abuse, the percentage of male components was much higher than female ones. Getting a closer look at UK society patterns, compared to some countries such as Sweden for instance (where the percentage between females and males in those categories was nearly the same), anthropoligists realized that it may be influenced by the fact that boys are mainly raised by their mothers, since British fathers often work much longer hours and/or delegate all educational responsibilities to their females counterparts. Instead in northern European countries, children are generally raised in a more tribal way: each kid is actually everyone’s child, so they have many female and male role models around them to get guidance from. So the course is basically designed to give tools to female parents to approach the emotional world of their male child in a more effective and connected way, since they may not have the same way of communicating simply for being of opposite sexes.

 

Among the hundreds of amazing tips I learned from this 8 hours course spread in 4 weeks with free creche provided (if booked well in advance as they had limited spaces), one concept that stood out for me (first time I had heard of it, of many more in future) was how it is much more beneficial to encourage positive behavior rather than punish negative behavior (also promoted by another great parenting workshop, the Triple P course, still held at Rosendale). By repeatedly outlining when the child has done right, you increase their self esteem and feed their memory with the message that they can do very good most of the times, and not bad all the time.

 

The ‘Raising boys’ course purpose though, was also distinguishing between internal and external motivators. Unfortunately external motivators such as money, fame, food, prison, may not last long within the ethical development of a child as they can soon become the wrong boosters: once those are not achievable anymore (or if they become avoidable, such as not being caught by the police), one young man can feel completely lost and discourage by life struggles such as finding a new job or healing from a sentimental break up. It is therefore important to try and link positive behaviors to internal motivators such as pride, love, connection, happiness (the course gives of course lots of ideas to achieve this).

 

Another little important note was to help the child visualize progress such as with reward charts and another essential point was to never go back due to a bad behavior, in the sense that, to give an idea, a negative act could never erase the award of a sticker for a good one (crucial concept to develop the child’s emotional intelligence in a positive way). We were explained how a child moral is formed in their brain: how they finally follow the rules word by word when they are about 3 years old, only to start questioning them around 6! We were given important tactics to react to our boys misbehavior such as checking if they really had heard or understood our command in the first place, or reminding them rules before going to specific places (we are going to the supermarket: do you remember the rules? We don’t run in the aisles, we only put things in the trolley after having checked with mummy, we speak using our soft voice…).

 

We were made aware that it’s how little boys face changes from a very young age (if they can ‘survive’ in a positive way), that will determine how they accept every difficult moment in their life, even retirement… Another powerful tool which I heard for the first of many more times since then, is to always acknowledge their feelings and give a name to them. It’s OK to feel the way they do, it’s what they do about it that may need change (instead of having a tantrum in the middle of the library basically!).

 

Since Feb 2013 I have been going back to my notes from that workshop every now and then, but always regularly, at least twice a year, both for my son or my daughter. And I started understanding parenting much better for the first time since I had become a mum: it was the first time that I realized I did not need to make it alone, without tools and professional tips from parental advisors… I wanted to do a good job as a mother and instead I felt I was really struggling at times! I would not say anything wrong if I stated that it was thanks to this very first course that I have become and I am trying to become every day little by little the parent I want to be: it gave me clarity on what mother I wanted for my kids but also how to get there, without denying my own needs and struggles at the same time. That course was substantially the start of the end of the shock that becoming parents can bring, no matter how maternal you have been or how much you have wanted children.

Last letter to the elders

Tonight, whilst walking in the streets of Salamanca, discovering this beautiful Spanish town for the first time, beginning this way our summer holidays whilst we are headed to Portugal, I receive an unexpected phone call on my mobile.

The number is saved on my phone list as Mr and Mrs Blueman. I have just sent them recent pictures of the kids before leaving London, as I do twice a year to keep them posted since they don’t use internet (they are both over 80), so I assume they are calling to thank me and congratulate us on how our children have beautifully grown once again since our last letter.

When I pick up it is in fact Mrs Blueman who has just received my envelope and comments on the snaps I sent them with joy and enthusiasm as usual. Unfortunately she has no good news for me: she is the only one on the phone as Mr Blueman passed away a few months ago. He was very ill so I knew I could get this phone call at any point in the last couple of years, yet my heart is filled with sadness.

Who was Mr Blueman to me?

Many years before I could even imagine to move to the UK, John Blueman was the English man who bought in 1998 from my French grandfather Roz Al Len, my dearest grandparents country house that my grandfather had commissioned in the sixties on a land he had purchased next to the sea, and where all my best summer holidays of my childhood memories lies.

I was devastated when my grandparents, who felt too old to continue looking after this big countryside residence properly, decided to put ‘her’ on the market. Every time I travelled to Brittany since I was parted from ‘her’, my parents first and then myself (when I got my licence) would drive in the area and would stop on the opposite side of the road to look at it from outside ‘her’ gate, to see if ‘she’ was loved and well kept as we would have, with a pinch of jealousy that it was not our family’s anymore.

Crazy as I am, after living a few years in London and gaining confidence in the language and the British culture, I found the courage to write a letter to ‘her’ new owner of whom I knew the last name, I obviously knew his address in France and I was starting to understand the culture so it made me feel a bit closer to him.

I sent him a collection of photocopied picture of the house through my childhood years, starting from a picture of my mother in the garden being pregnant with me. I explained how much the house they were now living in had meant to me. And I asked to forgive me if I had bother them, but if they could let me know the day they would sell it, I might be interested in buying it back.

I could not be more surprised of their reaction. A few days later I received a letter back from Mr Blueman sending pictures of Roz Al Len in the past decade, how it had changed under their care, what plants and parts of the garden they had improved or needed to alter and how they had modernised and furnished it internally.

They were very happy I wrote to them that letter as they loved Roz Al Len as much as I did. I found out from them only then that some other cousins of mine had got in contact with them in the past in quite rude ways by stopping by and demanding to visit the property with dramatic tears in their eyes. But my approach had been completely different and a new friendship stroke up from that fearless letter I decided to send them in 2010.

Since then we started writing each other twice a year, at Christmas and at the beginning of the summer for the kids’ birthdays. Lately I felt life was so busy that I was usually just posting pictures with only a couple of words included with them. Below is probably the last proper old style hand written letter that John Blueman have read from me, could he rest in peace.

Dear Sarah and John,
Thank you for your lovely Christmas card, we received it just in time to know at which address (in France or the U.K.) to post our pictures this year!

We hope this finds you at best as you can be. So many things happened since our last letter…
Our son has started primary school and our daughter, always so active, is already riding child scooters despite being only 18 months old!

We spent a few days in Brittany this summer, at my mother’s flat: both my parents were there and thoroughly enjoined the kids company as you can imagine. When we drove passed Roz Al Len we noticed it was in not too bad conditions, have you had a chance to be back there since, despite the illness?

Unfortunately my beloved aunt passed away the day we were returning to the UK when we were boarding the ferry at St Malo, as if she wanted to make sure we would enjoy our time before leaving us and don’t let us feel sorrow for her whilst we were all together…

It is a very sad Xmas as every year I would post her the same pictures I was posting to you but this time there will be only one letter leaving from London…

On another note G and I went to New York for the first time in October, whilst G’s brother and sister in law looked after the kids, we enclose a picture of us there to show it was an amazing holiday!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our quartet with love

The end of an era

When your youngest child stops going to the nursery which the older siblings attended too before them, because he/she starts to move on to the next school level, it feels like the end of an era. You know the whole staff names by heart, you remember how each Xmas show went every year, you recall when that class room was painted in green and now those walls are orange… You are so used to the journey from home to the nursery, you cannot imagine you will never do it again (unless you have another baby in the meanwhile!).

It was a difficult choice for us to make, we absolutely loved our kids first nursery and will never stop recommending it. However we feel that our youngest is ready to move to bigger spaces in a preschool nursery for kids from 3 to 5 years old as her older brother did at the same age. And the fact that we are now offered 30 hours a week for free (9am-3pm Monday to Friday) with only lunches and after school clubs to pay the days we are working until 6pm, is also another main reasons that lead us to give our notice to our previous nursery. Not only she will have teaching staff who is more specialized in her age group, with amazing indoor and outdoor spaces and activities; for us it will also feel like we had an increase of salary without actually having to ask for one… When you combine budgeting factor with thriving conditions, the answer becomes quickly quite clear.

 

Dear nursery manager,

It is with great regret that I am giving our 8 weeks notice to remove my daughter from your nursery.

My husband and I want her to follow her brother’s step and have a year at a preschool nursery before she will start reception in Sept 2018.
It was a very difficult decision to take, our children had the best years of their toddlerhood at your safe, loving and stimulating nursery.
Their little personality will have been shaped for ever by the input of the Montessori method and the great care of your staff as a whole.

We wish all the best to the school, the teachers and the kids and we never know, you may have a third little infant of ours attending in the future or maybe not, we will see!

Kind regards,
C.

Remembrance day

You are in every single tear, in every single breath of mine, you are the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, a leaf on a stream, a butterfly on a flower…

You will have never known newspapers headlines with pictures of Syrian kids' little bodies on a beach, the Bataclan massacre, Brexit and Trump USA president, gay people mass murdered in Orlando or tortured in Cecenia…

I hold the phone where your number is still saved, from which I won't be able to call you anymore; my mother sits in the evenings at the same caffe where you won't join her anymore.

Are you really gone forever? Or are you just hiding in a Tibetan monastery meditating and contemplating nature's beauty, far away from the pettiness of the human beings that you despised so much?

Wherever you are, we terribly miss you and we hope you may rest in peace