We are so excited to introduce our first live virtual circle the New Mama Group led by Genevieve Slonim, head of Birth of a Mama.
Did you always want to be a mother?
Yes! I always wanted to be a mother. I had no doubt that I would be a mother in my life, but I didn't have my first baby until I was 35. I remember laughing when doctors referred to me as advanced age. From the time I was 20-35 I earned an undergraduate and graduate degree, moved first to New Orleans and then Barcelona. I worked and lived in an international community and was so busy traveling and exploring I didn't think about the 'when' part.
People would bring up my age during my pregnancy and I thought it was an anti-feminist conspiracy. I didn't understand yet that women's bodies are as cyclical as the moon or the seasons and in fact there is a waning period of fertility until ultimately a woman reaches her infertile years during menopause.
Once my daughter Yael was born in Barcelona I realized that in fact I was born to be a mother. Even more than that, I wanted a big family. I had my second baby the year after my daughter was born, and my last at age 42. I am still breastfeeding 2 years later and am so fulfilled in being a mother of 3 together with my soulmate, Alon.
How was your first birth experience different than what you expected?
I had been living in Barcelona, which is fairly traditional, and thought I had planned my birth well. I intended to birth without interventions but within a hospital. I selected a woman doctor which I thought guaranteed some kind of built in solidarity with women's experiences. I also knew that she was married to an African man which is atypical in Spain, which again I thought meant she was open minded, progressive and modern. It turned out at the end of the day I was birthing in a hospital and she was recommending all of the interventions available. I narrowly avoided a Cesarean and the birth was so different than how I saw myself, or the values that I held dear, that I found it rather traumatic. This was the beginning of my journey to become a Doula and Childbirth Educator. I found my calling in being able to guide women through having a positive birth experience however birth enfolds, by having at least one person who holds space for them to feel safe and supported.
What was the most challenging aspect of the transformation from maiden to mother? How did you experience your first postpartum time?
When I was a little girl I would cry that I hadn't been born into a tribe. I had this deep knowing that I was born at the wrong time. If I saw any movies or even neighborhoods where it looked like there was communal living and tribal affiliations whether through ethnicity or traditions I would become obsessed. When my daughter was born this feeling came back very strongly. Although I had girlfriends, coworkers and family that visited, I longed for the ancestral traditions of our foremothers to help me transition into motherhood.
I didn't want to 'bounce back', I resented having to dress up and greet people. I really just wanted to lay naked with my baby in bed, breastfeed and have others take care of me. Even saying that now seems like some spoiled fantasy, but that’s what I yearned for and I hadn’t even heard of 'lying in' or the customs of indigenous and various cultures around the world.
With each birth I was able to anticipate my postpartum needs and plan accordingly. My second birth was a natural birth and a true healing experience. I birthed standing up and caught my son. Birthing in power paved the way for a postpartum experience in which my energy was freed up to focus only on my baby instead of processing a difficult birth experience. I had already moved to Israel which is a far more tribal culture. People here talk about ' the Israeli people' and individualism isn’t valued as much. Motherhood is also considered central here, expressed through ceremonies and rites of passage. For all these reasons I received a lot more support during postpartum from family and friends.
Even before my 3rd baby was born I had started saying that self care doesn’t exist once you are a mother. What I mean by that is that once you are a mother in order for you to care for yourself, you need to have Community Care. Whether it is taking a warm bath, going to a yoga class, having an hour alone to sit quietly or meditate, meet a girlfriend in the evening ….whatever, someone will have to help you with your children so you can do something for yourself. I feel like this is a bigger secret than Botox or how much money is in your bank account. It's important to me to dispel the myth that you can do it all by yourself as a mother. Especially in the age of Instagram and social media where we are all portraying our best moments (which is fantastic) but I think it’s even more important to share with each other who our support teams are. It may be a paid babysitter, a mother-in-law, even another mother. Having a community to support you in early postpartum is the single most important remedy for well-being. I think creating a community of support should start during pregnancy and makes all the difference transitioning into motherhood or into a mother of an additional baby.