Being born

June 21st. The day my incredible firstborn arrived on the scene. Theoretically well into her 10th month of gestation, theoretically a boy, (there’d been no ultrasounds, we relied on the calendar count and the midwife’s appraisal) she made her appearance mid-day, the longest day of the year, totally naturally to an admiring group of doctors and nurses who were called over to watch the ‘Natural birth’.

Me? Looking down at that sea of interested eyes,  i was busy concentrating on my breathing, the five-finger exhale series that anchored me to my body. Being the star of the hour was totally nuts.  I’d travelled to the hospital that boasted the best natural birth facilities, but i guess, few actually delivered that way.

My midwife, Ilana Zamir, a pioneer in the natural birth movement in Israel and the one who brought many innovations to the country, orchestrated the crowd scene as she facilitated the birth. Who can describe the feeling of raspberry tea, Eric Dolphy- inspired contractions all culminating in a sliding pop-out infant?  And what an infant. A beautiful smiling child commanding more attention.  As my midwife Ilana walked into my hospital room, Iris smiled at her, prompting a satisfied rejoinder: Who said babies don’t smile? Come see a baby smiling!

The name? When this lush child popped out, she named herself – we knew that she was Iris.

And then came the motherly duties. Almost at once.

I had to rush into the nursing station to have them know that this child was to receive no ‘sugar water’ – something that could happen, i’d been told. I had to beg them to wake me up to nurse her when she was hungry. No, i was told. That was something they would not do. So, i had to rely on instinct from the beginning. Sleeping in half-awareness of when my child, resting down the hall in the nursery, was hungry. I’d get out of bed and make that short trip to look at her, only to have the nurses in that ‘Natural Hospital’ reprimand me for being a ‘Hero’.  “Get back to bed!” i was ordered, and i did a few times until she woke up. And then, the chance to sit with her and the joy of holding my warm daughter, making contact nipple to mouth. In the quiet of the middle of the night, she and i continuing our loving relationship.

Her appetite was fine. Very fine. After a few brief interludes of sleep,  i’d be offered a nebulous form of drink –

What is this, i’d ask the other new mothers: coffee, tea or hot chocolate?

No one knows, i was told. Sometimes we play ‘lotto’ – to see who wins the bet.

The other new mothers. Some were delighted to be safe in a hospital with nurses and schedules. Some had many children back home and reveled in the ‘vacation’ that the 3 day hospital respite delivered. (yes, back then it was 3 days).  Me? i just waited for the chance to be with my newborn daughter. I was high with the miracle that i’d actually given birth to such an incredible human being.

Today, whenever i see my beautiful daughter, i have to gulp again in astonishment at her energetic presence. Her charisma, her charm bring light and magic to any situation. Kids, men and women all flirt with her, hoping to be at the receiving end of her humour and attention.

And today’s the anniversary of her birth. June 21st, midday – six minutes past noon – mother and daughter in ionic celebration, something we feel no matter what the distance. love!

making fun of me taking her picture

too many projects? of course, too many projects

Just wondering.

Was there a time that I didn’t have too many projects?

A time when I could really feel that it didn’t matter when I woke up or if I took a few naps during the day because my time was simply that: my time.

time in a dumpster, photo by iris

Writing this, I know the answer: no matter if I have projects or not, time is always ‘my time’. There’s always a given that I have an element of choice. Whether or not I show up at my job, or spend hours and hours preparing for a specific presentation, there’s always an element of self-determination. I’m not browbeaten into doing something – but rather there’s a moment where through my own logic and assessment of desire, I’ve agreed to participate in the event.

Take, for example, teaching. I went into it by ‘mistake’. The story was that I approached the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv way back when I first moved to the city. I wanted to work on an English Children’s Theatre. They listened politely and then suggested that I join in a special new course for new immigrants with a B.A. to become an English Teacher. The Ministry then smiled and added that I’d be free to implement ‘theatre’ in my lessons! Win-win! (they said). After much pondering and discussion with members of my commune (artists, musicians, photographers),  I decided that it would be rational to have a teaching certificate as a surefire way to earn a living in my newfound homeland.

Thus, I embarked on a life that I’d agreed to: waking up early to take 3 buses to school, studying, returning  home, doing shopping for a household, sharing in meal preparation (usually only one meal, served in the evening), doing my batik, practicing my bongos, doing voice work and making puppets, participating in house events and getting a few hours sleep before repeating the schedule. After 7 months of this, I received my teacher’s certificate, and incorporated English teaching into my regular schedule of puppetry and all the rest.

This was back in 1980. I taught wonderful Puppet English for many years in many locations and only in 1986 did I actually start working in schools. I tried to serve the English Ministry well by incorporating theatre into my lessons, but it was the natural pantomime sort which came from my lack of translation skills. To define vocabulary items, I had to use drama. And, of course, I insisted that my students also use it to practice their English.

So back to the title of this blogpost: too many projects.  I’ve always had a variety of projects running simultaneously.  These days the threads involve teaching, researching, creating materials and studying, while constantly studying how to make more meaningful contact with students’ natural curiousity.

Time for reflection is perhaps the most important element that I’ve added to the mix. Constant evaluation and thoughtful re-framing so that I don’t beat myself up over a lesson that didn’t shoot straight into a student’s brain.

Some things take time. What might appear as a missed target may in fact reap rewards years from now.  Hayuta, a now retired teacher, once told me that when teaching Special Ed students, for example, to expect visible results only after 4 years.  This long term timeframe does wonders for one’s stress level. Things take time. Any project takes time.

But whether I’m building a presentation, a lesson or a puppet, each step towards the desired outcome is a good step. Even if I change directions and start again – each step is a good, creative step.

Too many projects? There’s always something waiting patiently for me to pay it some attention.

  • Like the discarded chair my cousin and I found in the garbage: I’m going to fix it up.
  • Like the puppet for Adele: I’m going to build it.
  • Like the talk for HOTS (higher order thinking skills) I’m going to finish.
  • Like Lesson 9 out of 12 of my online course.
  • Like the shirts I want to design, cut and sew.
  • Like the book review of Martina’s new book that I’ve begun and need to finish

You get the idea.

Lots of projects. Of course! Lots of opportunity for new ideas. Yeah! Makes it exciting. For sure!