Today we visited the Sophia Mundi Steiner School Spring Fair. I’ve been past the school plenty of times on the way to Collingwood Children’s Farm but this was the first time I have been inside. I took one step into the Prep and Grade One classrooms and just felt I was at home!
I realised that in all these years of being attracted to Steiner, I have never actually been to a school. I’ve read about Waldorf, I’ve attempted to create a Waldorf influenced homeschool but I’ve never actually been out there and seen how it works in the world. The beauty of it almost brings me to (good) tears.
Of course it is about more than lovely wooden toys and soft colours and handmade things, there’s an energy to these spaces and an energy to the people I encountered. It’s a wholesome, enriching way that brings children through and into the world softly and in a gentle, subtle way draws them towards becoming full beings. It’s everything that I long for my children and all children. I came away wondering why aren’t ALL schools like this? Why can people not see the difference between this and mainstream education? I wish so much that we could create schools that combined aspects of Steiner education with Islamic spirituality.
Lili was in awe of the classroom spaces. I think it really helped her to be able to see Waldorf outside our own home. She begged me to please let her go to this school! It isn’t possible but it IS possible to immerse ourselves in our Waldorf homeschool. I feel inspired.
I gave up homeschool planning several weeks ago since I don’t have the mental capacity or physical energy to focus on it at this stage of pregnancy but things just seem to carry on regardless. Last time we homeschooled I found it took about eight months to deschool and fall into a rhythm and it has been at least the same this time. The structures and impositions of the school lifestyle have been forgotten.
Tom says to me in the same sentence I love Minecraft and I love maths. He works through maths on the Khan Academy website for fun. He tells me that he enjoys doing cursive worksheets. I did decide that I would encourage the boys to work with the Future School maths curriculum on the computer since it is so self explanatory and requires little input from me and is therefore something they can do in a self led way at the moment. Tom does so happily as something enjoyable not something imposed, Zeph is always more resistant to structure but concedes because he realises it really is not much effort to do around half an hour per day.
This morning the boys did some Future School maths and then Zeph decided to go and make lunch, he enjoys cooking from recipes and put some chicken thighs in the fridge to marinade. Tom and Lili went outside to find and assemble some sticks, a bit later I went out to see what that meant and discovered them playing with glue, paint and small sticks.
I’ve given up trying to keep the supplies cupboard organised because they use it all the time and the chaos yet easy access for self led projects outweighs my desire for order.
And so even though we are supposedly not doing anything at the moment we are actually still doing quite a bit. We carried on with a science experiment for Tom since he was looking forward to doing it and it makes sense to finish up the Water Cycle. One of the things I love about homeschooling is really discovering the areas that your children enjoy learning about the most. It is different from being told they are good at subjects in school when they discover for themselves what they have fun doing.
Lili has really enjoyed the garden this Summer. Every day she has been out there looking for cucumbers and tomatoes and strawberries whilst singing to herself.
The weather has been beautiful. We are all excited about the impending birth of this new little member of our family and although the last weeks of pregnancy are always an enormous challenge, I am enjoying them too. Everything has become very slow, aside from hospital appointments the outside world does not exist.
This is the view from my bedroom window.
We have had a lot of rain and the plants are happy. We prepared the soil late this year and so we didn’t plant a lot of things but we have had rocket and bok choy and lots of cucumbers and tomatoes and there are capsicums still to come. It really was a struggle to keep this garden watered over the hottest days of summer and sometimes I used up my last little bit of waddle doing so but it is all worth it when it comes time to pick the produce. There are few things that make me as appreciative as freshly grown home veggies and fruit, there is something so beautiful about the whole process of growth and variety and something so calming about being immersed in greenery.
I am spending most of my day looking out upon this view because if I spend too much time on my feet the SPD problems become really intense. It is frustrating because there is so much I would love to do in the house in preparation but still I am grateful that I can sit down and that the children are old enough to not require my physical aid and intervention all the time.
So much of our experience during pregnancy is influenced by what occurs at a subconscious level. And because we are conditioned to be rational not intuitive our emotions can get pretty confusing. Because I spent the first 30 weeks of this pregnancy completely avoiding the medical model I was able to really enter the beautiful rhythm of pregnant space. I didn’t worry about anything, I was not obsessed with time or what date I was up to, it was a lovely process. And I found the discomfort of having to suddenly exit that space and enter the world of medicalised birth very challenging. It involved a process of grieving for the birth that I longed for and because we don’t live in a society in which it is acceptable to include the mothers real experience as a priority then there is usually no vehicle for processing the grief, we are expected to just be grateful for whatever care we receive and it is thought selfish to consider otherwise. This is so short sighted because it is all so interrelated, the mothers experience IS the baby’s experience, there is no separation between these two things.
I felt very torn as I went about the decision making process, what aspects of the standard hospital procedure for dealing with Gestational Diabetes was I going to go along with? Induction is not complication free especially an early induction. And how do we really way up the odds between the risk of induction and the risk of macrosomia or stillbirth etc? It is difficult to be needing to make these decisions because what happens is that the more we are pulled into our analytical minds the more we lose touch with our natural intuition which is ultimately the thing that can help guide us make these kinds of decisions properly.
Initially I was told that I would need to be induced between 37 and 38 weeks and I was not happy with this. If left to go naturally I usually go into labour around 41 weeks. To be induced at 37 weeks is considered pre-term but particularly so when compared with my norm. Thankfully they did not push this when a scan showed that the overly excess amniotic fluid previously discovered had settled down and whilst the baby looks big there is nothing to suggest that it is big for me. At this stage it is just hypothetical, it can’t really be known.
I decided that I would refuse induction at 38 weeks and insist on being as close to 40 weeks as possible and I was kind of expecting a bit of a battle or at least being treated like a negligent fool but surprisingly it was not like that at all which gives me a lot of confidence because if there was any real medical need for early induction they would insist. I just gently asked if we could move the induction date forward a week and the doctor said it was fine. And this has taken a lot of the pressure I was feeling off, there is still a chance I will go into labour naturally and if not then at least there is far less chance of my body not being ready for birth at 40 weeks than at 37-38.
So now is really a time of waiting. Last night I dreamed that I moved with a group of women and children to a log house by a beach in Norway or Denmark. Our contemporary life is too fractured to make the real connections of sisterhood available but our bodies remember a more archaic time. I would love to spend these weeks sitting in a circle of women of different ages engaged in doing and making, to thread baskets and tell stories, to be quiet and listen. The odd conversation with a loved friend is not enough for me, I want it all day every day, I feel the absence but such is modern life.
I am being well cared for by the people around me and that is such a blessing. It is so, so hard for me to relax into needing the help of other people but the more I am forced to do so the easier it gradually becomes.
I decided to write down how I felt about not being able to home birth and it helped process the feelings.
Weary. Tonight I had a good sob after months of stoicism. Hopefully this means a good processing of all those things we are not supposed to feel but instead cover with a dose of saccharine gratitude. When another casual directive to ‘think positively’ made me want to start flying punches.
Acknowledging discomfort or loss or grief or worry does not cancel out positive thought. In fact it can be a stepping stone and a process. But it is so ingrained in our culture to silence the raw and churning places. And perhaps this is why so many live as dead zones enacting culturally prescribed roles but never really getting close to the pulse of life.
I am grateful and excited, there are a million things to be thankful for from basic food and shelter to the love of small people to the lightly showering rain.
I am also a woman on the edge of birthing sitting close to the heart of the world feeling it ache. There is exhilaration, anticipation and fatigue, fear and disappointment. I wanted to home birth and I can’t. I was pulled out of the intuitive rhythm of pregnancy into the analytical fear spaces. Trying to weigh risk against risk, decisions that seem impossible.
Birth and other rites of womanhood always open in me a gap, the longing I have for sisters, blood sisters. And aunts. Woman love. People who speak the languages of being female accompanied by unconditional love. The love that generally only blood or a shared childhood can accumulate. Pregnancy takes me into the heart of the island, my island-ness.
But well rehearsed now I can shed the tears and simply let it go. Trusting and knowing that weary spaces open us beyond our small limitations and in those openings there is peace. Shedding now the exhaustion and the hanging on and the million ways we women try to micromanage our lives. Birthing is the most beautiful time to surrender our illusion of control.
A couple of days ago I felt a real hormonal shift. I have not felt overly fragile this pregnancy compared with previous experiences but definitely in the last few days something has shifted. I have been weepy and grumpy. But it makes me happy because I know it means the time is nigh, everything is conspiring in preparation. InshAllah.
I have half packed my hospital bag and assembled the baby seat in the car. I enjoy the late summer afternoon air in the garden briefly before returning to my spot on the bed looking out on the greenery. It is time for waiting and patience and enjoying these last weeks, possibly the last time I will ever feel a baby kicking inside me.
I enjoy music that reminds me of being twenty and yet oddly contains lyrics that suit my current perspectives in life.
My little people also react to the slow pace of the household, all ‘formal’ homeschooling on hold now.
I really truly believe that pregnancy is a journey for women designed to untie the places we are knotted. It’s impossible to articulate and so I won’t try. It is just such a truly amazing experience, a wonderful awe inspiring journey every time.
We finished organising our homeschooling space. Combined with the kitchen table most of our learning and playing occurs in here.
I wanted to make a space that had a large empty floor area for projects and playing.
When we need to work on a surface we can still use the kitchen table but for lego and construction and quiet reading and general play this room is wonderful.
I know not all people are as richly stimulated by their environment as creative people are but I think that objects and spaces touch us all in some way. Perhaps the difference is that creative people often realise how their environment is impacting upon them. There are many things I would love to do to this space such as painting the walls with a lazure paint finish but these things will have to wait until I have more strength and energy.