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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our Girls

The first time I was pregnant, I knew that he was a boy named Graham. Hoping for a girl was just too much, I wanted a daughter so desperately. I couldn't bear the thought of never having a daughter, and so I made myself okay with it by falling in love with my son, Graham, before I ever met him. I read and reread all the pages in "What To Expect When You're Expecting". I studied the illustrations of my tiny son's developing body. I imagined his wee fingers, his eyes developing, his body changing from a blobby fishy thing into a human with limbs, a mind, a soul, a future.

Baby Graham just didn't want to be born. He was due at the end of June, but the calendar flipped to July, and there was just no sign of his arrival. After waiting two weeks and seeing no dilation, no mucous plug, none of the signs that I'd memorized from my well worn book, my Dr suggested an induction. I was anxious to meet my boy, and weary of hauling him around, and relieved at the thought of getting on with the work of mothering. At the hospital, they hooked me up to "the drip" and I lay in my bed, bored to tears as the hours ticked on and on and I still felt nothing. Nothing at all but frustration. After an evening, and a long night of drip, drip, dripping, the Doc came in and said- you're really not getting anywhere. Maybe just go home and let us know if there is any change.

It's not at all what I had planned. Not at all. I was filled with a restless kind of anxiety- I'd gone into the hospital to meet my son. And here I was, two weeks and a day overdue, and left again with waiting. We were living in an arty apartment at the time, with no television, no diversions aside from books, a few windows, and a hyper awareness of every tiny sensation in my bloated body. Not that there were really any to speak of. Overwhelmed and hopped up at the idea of sitting around endlessly, I suggested that we drive out to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. A diversion. Time with friends. Lots of walking, fresh air.

So we drove the 2.5 hours and sat in the grass with friends, listening to bands, and taking in the sights and smells. Gradually as the day progressed, I started to feel things. Little tightenings. My friends were alarmed and a little aghast that I would be so far from my Dr and my hospital when I was clearly in labour. But I knew little Graham, and I knew he was not to be hurried. So we spent the entire day, and then drove to my sisters' to spend the night. I didn't sleep much. My body was tightening and cramping and sleep came in little breaks between the pains. At 5:00 AM, I woke Brian and said we really needed to head home. He was so tired, and I was so tired, and the drive home would never make it into a Perfect Marriage book.

But it wasn't nearly over. Not nearly. That little fella that I had visualized and craved to meet and hold was stubborn as hell. Not going anywhere. But after another day and another night and part of another day, that crazy little baby was finally evicted.

And he was a she. A little girl. My daughter.

My heart broke that day, and by broke, I mean that a little piece of my heart, like Adam's rib, somehow morphed into its own little person. Another set of legs and arms and inside and outside parts that would learn to walk and would fall and would get hurt. A piece of my heart that would be walking around out there, that I would try with all my being to protect, to love, to do my best by.

And life would be even kinder to me and give me not one daughter, but two. My daughters, and, then my sons, have been the greatest gift that life could possibly give me. The toughest, most rewarding, most confusing, question-asking endeavor I've ever taken on in my life.

A few weeks ago, CBC aired a story about nearly 300 schoolchildren, girls, taken from their dormitory in the dead and confusion of the night. Girls who were some mama's daughters. Girls whose mothers had made sure that they would be educated. Maybe made some significant sacrifices in the hopes of their daughters futures.

As a mom, my heart felt ripped up. Ripped up and horrified, even just trying to imagine what the girls were going through in the hands of their captors. Ripped up and horrified, imagining being the mother of a girl, just an exam or two away from graduation, just like my own daughter. But whose daughter had vanished in the night and was likely being assaulted, mistreated, scared, cold, hungry. Living day and night with the mental anguish of imagining what sort of hell her daughter is living in.

I felt pretty frustrated, and wishing there was something that I could do. Some way of letting the moms know that I was hurting for them. Or a way for my daughters to know what incredible freedom and oppurtunity they have the privilege of taking for granted in their country, in their family, their neighborhood. The very least I could do was to show up at the Legislative grounds in red, sing along with the Nigerians- Bring back our girls!, march around a little bit, feel some soliarity, wish for a better world.

I ran into fellow blogger Heather Plett at that rally. She was there with her own daughter, wishing for the same things. Some time later, Heather sent an e-mail to women on her contact list. Part of her message read as follows:

"I may not have the power to #bringbackourgirls, but I have the power to #educatemoregirls.

That may be the best response to the tragedy in Nigeria. Keep educating girls. Keep telling the terrorists they can't win. Keep believing that love wins.

Here's what I'm doing… I'm helping to build a school in Uganda - a place that's known the kind of terror that these young women have gone through.

And I have to agree, that this is an excellent response. I like the response of LOVE WINNING. I want to put my money where my mouth is. Bleeding heart and anxiety are fine and good, but unless someone cares a whole lot, not a whole lot is really going to happen.

My bags4darfur project has been "on furlough" this year, in hopes of rekindling some energy, some passion, some clarity of vision. But still, it has generated a little bit of revenue. People show up, look through my stock, walk away with a bag or two and leave some money that I then donate to a worthy cause. In light of the missing 274 Nigerian school girls, I am putting my $350.oo towards educating some more girls through an organization called Uganda Kitgum School Foundation. I'd do it for my daughters, and I'd like to think I'd do it for yours.

Would you consider helping to build a school in Northern Uganda? It doesn't have to be a lot. It's just a way of saying- we're in this together, and love wins.

It's a way of continuing the chant- Bring back our girls!


Heather Plett said...

On behalf of the girls of northern Uganda who will have access to an education through the Uganda Kitgum Education Foundation, THANK YOU for joining the campaign!!

janice said...

Awesome. My daughter is the light of my life. Losing her is unimaginable. Educate girls - that is the best cause.