Living far from friends and family is very challenging for me, since becoming a mom. I have lived away from home (like in a country away from my home country) since I was 18. At that age getting away seemed exciting, a blessed lucky opportunity to experience new things, meet new people, get away from the small-town feeling of Lisbon, where I grew up (which I love but can feel awfully restricting to a teenager, even though it is a capital city).
I have missed my old friends and my parents especially, over the years, of course, but now that I have a daughter that has really intensified. Right after Anya’s birth I craved the soothing support of my own mother. I was very lucky my parents were here for the birth but they had to leave to return to their jobs, a couple of days after Anya was born. And those first few weeks were rough. I really could have done with some mothering for me. K’s parents actually came and stayed which was very generous of them… and still it was the comfort of my own mother I really wanted with an intensity that surprised me (otherwise maybe I would have really asked for this more strongly, before baby was born). I wanted somebody to tell me everything was going to be okay, to show me little practical things like how to burp and change a baby, to tell me it is normal for babies to cry and that I am an excellent mother. Over those first few weeks and months we learned those things for ourselves – including the ‘we are excellent parents’ bit (though in truth I am still trying to internalise that).
Now, what I miss is less the practical help and I don’t think I need emotional support quite as much (and when I do, I call my mother or my friends up – ain’t skype great?!), what I really miss is other people, beyond Anya’s parents, fawning over her, interacting with her, saying how wonderful and cute and adorable she is and playing with her. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But apart from K and me, very few people think Anya is special and that makes me sad, somehow. Of course all babies are special, but I guess I want to see my love and enthusiasm reflected in other people’s eyes.
I have one, uber-cool uncle who lives here in the Bay Area. I love him and his partner and they are a great part of the reason we chose to move here. They convinced us this was the place to be for a couple like us. Just like us he is a geek and she is a hippy… well they may not like those labels, let me try again: he is a tech (a very high flying one) and she is a free thinker with a deep interest in spirituality and self-development (as well as a successful business woman). You could practically peel those labels off and re-glue them to us: K is the geek, I am the hippy :) Anyway, the point is I do have some family here. It is a treat when we take Anya round to see them. Auntie B (as we call her) makes a huge fuss of Anya. She has 3.5 grandchildren of her own (3 boys + one ‘unknown’ on the way), yet she still has spare energy, enthusiasm and love for little Anya. It is great… and that makes me realise how much I am missing out for Anya in that they are the only other people who do this, get excited to see my little baby in particular (not just random passers by who think all babies are cute).
Pretty much the only other people I hang out with are mums and they all have a beautiful bundle of joy all of their own. They may really like Anya, they may even feel a special attachment to her as my friend, but (understandably) their baby will always come first. That is as it should be… and yet, I yearn for a ‘tribe’ to surround Anya with loving joy, many hands to make work light. I want Anya to be passed round a circle of ten, twenty family and friends, all smiling, playing and thinking she is the tops. I would love to witness them exchanging energy with her, bringing their point of view to Anya – different games, different songs, new voices, etc. I miss that or I miss my idea of what that would have been like, seeing as it never happened.
And we are here. We came by choice and I am very happy to live in this beautiful area but I miss my parents and my good, old friends – all the more now that I have a beautiful baby of my own. I want to share that joy.