Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Words That Define Me

Mama. It's a title I've wanted for so long. I had been calling myself Gypsy Mama for years before I actually became a Mother.

I remember when I was in Mozambique, women were often referred to as mae (mother) almost like we would say ma'am or miss, but it didn't have the same formal tone as those. If you were old enough to be a mother, people would call you mae. I had been trying to get pregnant for about 6 months before I got the job in Moz. and I remember thinking to myself that it was a blessing in disguise that I hadn't gotten pregnant straight away. Working internationally was a huge dream of mine and one I wouldn't have been able to fulfill if I had gotten pregnant as soon as I started trying. Interestingly, it was being there and working so closely with moms and kids that made me want to be a mother more than ever. I'll never forget the first time someone referred to me as Mae. I had been there for about 4 months and it was a man who sold fish in the market. I would purposely go back to that man to buy fish because I loved being called Mae. Mother.

Baby love in Moz

When I was newly pregnant, all I wanted to talk about was babies. Cloth diapers, baby wearing, breastfeeding. All the things I had wanted to do for the three years I had tried to become a Mom. After a few months of researching those things online, reading a few baby books and constantly chatting with other pregnant women about all things baby, I had more or less gotten it out of my system. I was still excited to become a Mom, but the desperation was gone. For years I had researched and thought for hours and hours a day about fertility. Then when I finally got pregnant it switched to baby things. For more than 3 years it seemed like motherhood was the only thing I thought about. I was mentally exhausted from so much focus on one area in my life. Sure, it is a huge area, but there are other areas of my life too. Other things I love and am interested in and I felt like I could finally devote some mental energy to those because my long quest to motherhood was finally well underway.

After Paloma was born and we emerged from the Period of Purple Crying  when she was about 10 weeks old, I felt more confident with my title as Mama. For the first few weeks it was almost like I was playing the role of a mother, (I even remember feeling self-conscious the first time I said the words "my daughter" to the nurse.) and she cried so much that it was hard to feel confident. But by the time she was 2 1/2 months old, I was really owning it. As I emerged from the sleep-deprived state that is the first few months of motherhood, I began to think once again about the other words that define me. I call myself Gypsy Mama afterall, and the Gypsy part is equally as important to me as the Mama part. I started spending a little time each day reading books like Half The Sky and watching socio-cultural documentaries while she napped. I felt happy to be feeding the fire of my other passions. If she were the be-all and end-all of my existence, that would be a little smothering for her eventually, wouldn't it?

About 2 months old. She cried like a banshee this day!

In finding my passion for international development once again burning at full force and perhaps feeling stronger than ever after having succeeding in conquering my biggest dream of all - motherhood - I started my non-profit Mamas 4 Mamas at the end of September, just before Paloma turned 4 months old. I believe that it will be good for my daughter to see me pursuing my dreams and fighting for what I believe in. The best piece of parenting advice I ever received? Be the kind of woman you want your daughter to be. My biggest wish for her is that she never stop following her dreams. It is a dream come true for me to be running this initiative and to see how well it has been received by the community. I spend my free time (usually when she's asleep) working on the website, budget, researching... there's so much work that goes into running it, but when I'm working on something I love and I'm passionate about, it makes me feel excited about what may come of the work I'm doing. I like to daydream that Mamas 4 Mamas will really take off one day; that we will be able to secure great funding and running it could be my full time job. I imagine that Paloma would be proud of her Mama, just like she's proud of her Dad for being a successful musician.

It took me a few days to finish writing this post and there was one thought that kept circling my mind as I wrote and rewrote it in my mind. It's the fact that I am a woman and am incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a family, in a place, at a time when women are now more than ever, able to pursue the kind of dreams that I have. Andino and I are raising Paloma to believe that she can do anything or wear anything irregardless of her gender. Mamas 4 Mamas is a non-profit focused on women and based on the belief that strong, healthy women build strong, healthy communities. Andino and I had talked for years about starting a non-profit focused on international development, but it wasn't until we had a daughter that we decided to focus on maternal and infant health. For me, being a Mama and being a Gypsy Mama are intimately linked and I don't think I could be any other kind of Mama... My own Mom is a total hippy and is actually helping me run Mamas 4 Mamas. She raised us to be global citizens and set the example of always doing what she can for others - big and small. I want to be the same kind of role model for Paloma...

With The Original Gypsy Mama

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful. I admire ur persona its really inspiring and I hope ur daughter follows ur footsteps.

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