Monday, 26 January 2015

Marina Has Son

Have you ever felt that someone's watching you?

It happened to me recently, while on my regular power walk in the sunny south. I wish I were one of those people – those true Canadians – who slide into their insulation activewear and go on with their exercise routine as if it weren’t winter, braving the cold - almost not noticing it. Tough luck -- not this one. Between now and spring, the only thing I am capable of doing is my hot yoga practice. And sitting in an infra-red sauna, writing.

As I walked down my favourite trail, I sensed it - someone was watching me. Now, this is a very family-oriented gated community. The only folks I tend run into are the Cuban crew of shrub manicurists who are making sure my every view is prettier than pretty. I practice my Spanish with them and they are lovely.

As the feeling persisted, even though I felt foolish I turned around. Unexpectedly I found myself face to face with - a minivan. The headlights had eyelashes and there was a giant red sticker for the lips which made the ordinary vehicle look cute and girly. The rest was covered in colourful gerberas. Charming, not creepy. It was staring at me while motoring along beside me at the same pace.  On the side of the van I read the name of the flower delivery service and determined that the driver must be having hard time finding an address. I offered to help and the thankful man made a U-turn.

My walk is my meditation time. I seldom listen to a book or a talk; I almost never listen to music. Somehow, the walking time transports me into my subconscious mind and I learned to surrender, allowing those thoughts whose time it is to surface up, to come join me. This past December morning when the van left, what surfaced was a memory of another flower delivery.

In the making
January 24th 1996 was a Wednesday. The evening before, a major ice storm had hit Belgrade, causing interruptions in the city's electrical grid. Thankfully, by the time the streets became too dangerous to drive on, I was already in the triage at the maternity ward. My father, who had carefully driven me there, was safely back at home waiting for the phone to ring. My mother and my aunt were glued to one another on two lonely hallway chairs, a floor away from a bunch of fathers-to-be. A favour from the Chief of Neonatology and a friend. They were listening. Waiting.

This was my second time at the hospital that day -- my regular visit for week 38 revealed that the baby was almost ready - positioned head down, his lungs and intestines and testicles showing well.

"Ma'am, you are going to have a son!"- were the words of an obstetrician a few months earlier, making happiness spill over my entire body like a wondrous wave. Why? Because she hadn't said A BOY. She had said A SON! What an incredible difference one word can make! With the first one, I'm a stork. With the second one, I'm a mother. Wow. I never forgot her grace which had made that moment so intensely sweet and memorable for me.

"He just needs to grow a bit more, 50g per day - otherwise, he is ready!"

I am not sure if a thought alone can induce labour two weeks early, but I believe that I understood those last words as permission. Permission to start my new family. To become a mama. To meet my little man. And to move on from what felt like having both knees simultaneously broken. With a sledgehammer.

An hour before that ultrasound, one day before my son was born, I filed for divorce. Ten days prior to that, the baby's father had served me an envelope of neatly packaged papers providing all signatures and assurances that he would never have to deal with us again, other than paying child support. Never looking me in the eye, he had just slinked down the stairs leading to bus number 31 and then boarded a plane to Texas.

Such is the power of a woman's body... it can create a perfection out of a drop of protoplasm. It can also endure a 17h labour with no epidural. It can bargain with God - you give me a healthy baby and I will never complain about what's just happened to me.
My hero: Mila Alioski
So while I heard deafening screams from other rooms in which women succumbed to the force of contractions, their husbands in the waiting room a floor below, I channelled my incredible pre-natal teacher Mila Alioski, who had fiercely whipped all us moms-to-be into shape, searing her unique breathing method and recognition signs of the stages of labour. As my eyes counted the green tiles in front of me, I heard her voice ordering me how to breathe to keep the diaphragm steady, waiting for the order to push. An incredible woman, Mila (76) was my mother's pre-natal nurse when she was carrying me. I hear she is still working, having prepared over 100 000 moms for labour. My hero.
1996 - Beautiful family of two
I met my son at 4:40 a.m. Belgrade time. He was small and slightly purple, his little nose squished flat having spent the last four hours stuck in the birth canal. When I took him in my arms and pressed him to my bare chest, he was trembling in the cool air, his forehead a bit puffy and higher than his tiny golden hairline. To me he was the most beautiful being. He was perfect. Grateful, I kept my end of the bargain and I never complained again.

Towards the evening of our first day as mom and son and just after another breastfeeding, a big bouquet of flowers waltzed into the room where I shared my first day of motherhood with ten (10) women. I know!

I was in the bed far right next to the window and when the rickety little man started approaching me, I felt repulsed. My hand went straight up into the air and I demanded he not make another step towards us. The evening nurse caught up with him and began throwing at the poor man an avalanche of rules and regulations - no fresh cut flowers allowed with new mommies being one of them.

"But, but, but... what do I do with these?! They were expensive!"

As 10 pairs of eyes darted towards me, I ordered him to hand the flowers to the lady who had just shined our floors. A few days later - yes, one used to stay a week in the hospital after giving birth, babies in Serbia not being treated like wisdom teeth - a night nurse brought me a piece of paper.

"This was in those flowers. I thought perhaps the message was important."

Houston, we no longer have a problem!
At the very end of my power walk last December I ran again into the fancy Florida flowers delivery man in his pretty van:

"Hey, thanks again for saving my time – it was a cul-de-sac, I kept missing it!"
"What did she say? Did she like them?" - as a life coach, I tend to be a hunter-gatherer of extraordinarily happy moments.
"Nah... she was on the phone the whole time!"
"Oh..."- I felt disappointed - "but for the most part, doing your job, the word you hear most often is WOW, right?"
"Nope!" - he said, bursting into hearty laughter - "It's BASTARD!"

What was a tiny 19” baby at birth is today a towering man of 6'3". His 6 lbs 6 oz little form has become that of a strong young man, enhanced by the "freshman fifteen". He has just turned 19.
2014 - University move-in day
He has also been my greatest teacher. He taught me that I am enough. Not just good enough but great enough. That motherhood is my highest calling. He showed me that the world is abundant and that everyone is replaceable. In a light-hearted yet resilient way, he demonstrated how to transcend the boundaries I grew locked up in. While there was no biological father present, he followed his pure toddler heart and chose a dad for himself. This was the man he learned from. And in his teachers, his neighbours, his friends' parents and camp counsellors he saw a conglomerate of the wise, timeless and omnipresent role model he could always rely on. I haven't been a single parent after all. With my son’s incredible patience, and while I was trying to wing our happily ever after, he taught me that I was lucky for having broken knees at one time -- once they mended I became strong and intuitive and compassionate while living fearlessly. Not in the absence of fear - never - but welcoming it daringly as a part of our experience. My other option, had that feeble one travelled with us on our journey, it would have been like a paper cut: a nagging and annoying pain that only requires a band-aid and doesn’t inspire real growth.

Fun-loving yet caring, confident yet humble; wise well beyond his years, my super cool computer geek has been the best companion one mama could ever ask for. Thank you for making me feel proud and successful as a parent. Thank you for allowing me to brag about you in advance, then proving me right every single time. Thank you for helping me unleash the writer in me and begin hearing her voice.

Now that your wings are strong and flapping vigorously, leaving the nest of your childhood behind all I feel is condensed in one tiny crystal clear tear, whispering: thank you. You weren't just good luck. You are my great luck. Happy Birthday Filip! I love you.

Mission accomplished!

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