Watching my children grow up has been my biggest joy in life. My mothering is what I am most proud of. I always imagined I would sit on a veranda in a rocking chair as I grew older and watch my grandchildren play. A strange and simple dream you may think, but it really was. I knew that it was that kind of experience that would make my heart glow, even when I was a little girl. And I was right - it does. I had a lonely single child, single mother latchkey-type of childhood. It was full of love, but no family. I was always the little girl looking on. All I ever wanted was a big tumbling funfair of a family. And my whole life has been about creating that; a large and loving, loud and wild tribe. When my four children first left the nest they moved into a large house together to provide support as they found their adult feet. Now they are creating their own families. My family expands and opens to welcome two more people and their own large families. My children’s partners are also one of four and five siblings each. It seems we have now become a village. I have been truly blessed. And in addition, as a doula I have had the privilege of witnessing new families being born for nearly thirty years. I have recently realised that not only do I get asked to support and watch the magic unfold of an everyday miracle, I also get bestowed with more respect as I become older and now as a grandmother I feel extra special. I am the granny doula sitting in a rocking chair. On the veranda outside my yurt in the middle of a beautiful bluebell wood in Sussex.
FINDING THE WISDOM
The strangest thing in becoming a grandmother, similar to becoming a mother in this western nuclear family paradigm, is that there is no one to show me how it’s done, no one to go to, to watch or to learn from. I didn’t have the grandmother I want to be. I have had to dig deep and journey to find the inner grandmother within and to trust myself intuitively to become the grandmother I want to be, just like I did in becoming a mother.
My daughter invited me to be with her as she stepped into motherhood. To hold her hand as she crossed the threshold. For me it was stepping into the unknown again, a second birth, witnessing her birth both herself as mother as well as birth me as a Nonna. My first grandchild, Inka, slipped into my hands. I was the first to ever touch his precious body as I passed him to my daughter and son-in-love. My first granddaughter, Honey blessed me too, plummeting at great speed into my arms eighteen months later. I was invited to share in this precious window of time with each of their babies. A golden time so my daughter could fully experience the fourth trimester. Preparing nourishing foods, filling her bath with herbs and caring for her. It was magical caring for her, reminding me of the times when I was the most important person in her world. Her mother.
And as I sit writing this I can hear my daughter-in-love and son laughing excitedly as they wait between worlds for their daughter, my next grandchild, to arrive any day. I have moved in with them to give them the same postnatal care and love. I know it’s not every woman’s dream of being a grandmother, but it’s mine. And I love that I will be able to tell my grandchildren one day that I was there the day they were born, that they slipped into my hands and I saw them open their eyes for the first time, and look at their Mummy and Papa, who loved them with all their hearts.
“My whole life has been about creating A large, loving, wild tribe”
I remember the day as my own second baby’s birth approached. The birth wasn’t on my mind, what really worried me was how I could love two babies. I was deeply in love with my firstborn. He was the love and light in my life. I felt a sense of betrayal, how could I love anybody as much as I loved him. When my first daughter arrived and I looked into her eyes and held her soft wet body close, I received a wonderful learning. Love has no separation, only expansion. I felt as if my heart was really growing it had no limit. Again I wondered how I would feel with the birth of my grandchildren. And again the love expands, but the quality is different. I am still a fierce mumma bear, but I know my daughter has to find her mothering feet. As I hand my little bundle of a grandchild back to her safe arms my heart longs to drink more of that sweet baby smell. I know that my love is different, it is a special kind of love, simple, tender and unquestioning. I won’t grow with them, I will just be grateful for every moment I will ever have with them. I am their ancestor, they are my future.
Being a grandmother I assumed was going to be an extension of being a mother. I slipped into mothering with ease. It was the first thing that I did with confidence. I enjoyed everything thrown at me. The more babies I had, the more amazing I felt. Being a mother and a doula seemed to blend together. It was as if a part of my mother heart was for every woman I was doula for. But as each one of my children grew into their own busy new life adventure, I realised that I was left quietly to ponder everything about myself. My days are slower, there are no more school runs and large dinners and worries that consume me about them.
A LIFE WELL LIVED
And now I daydream about my grandchildren coming to stay with me all by themselves. I dream of them snuggled under a handmade quilt. The squares of material cut from their own parents favourite clothes. I dream of watching them as they run wild and barefoot. Coming for cuddles and giggles in my lap as I tell them stories about their family’s past adventures. Sharing with them that they are blessed to be part of life’s fragile breath upon this precious Earth. But mostly all I want to to let them know more than anything is that they are loved. Do I need to worry about how they grow up? Maybe their parents do that. Maybe it is my job to just walk my talk, to show them a life well-lived. Maybe they will tell their grandchildren stories one day about memories of happiness and belonging. Belonging to Nonna’s tribe.
Their coming has propelled me into deep reflection. They have become part of my story, the weaving of my life’s journey, part of the fabric of my myth. I am a woman, a daughter, a mother and a grandmother. But most of all they have brought me to a sense of myself. They have began to help me understand my place in that story. That I was really never alone, that I always belonged.
Samsara lives in a yurt in East Sussex. She has four children and three grandchildren and has attended hundreds of births as a doula.
BOOK To have Samsara as your birth doula visit samsaradoula.co.uk
LEARN To train as a doula with Samsara visit: birthlove.co.uk
PHOTOGRAPHY Emma Croman