You who live in Northern California, I have a question for you. You, who has lived under the smoke and listened for evacuation orders: what details do you remember from these last few weeks of the fires?
Now, here’s another question for the Mama’s: Do you remember your baby’s infancy? What details do you remember? The smell of their milk-breath? Their tiny body fitted into your arms? After birth, the giant diapers you wore, as you healed? The sharp pain of nursing’s initial latch? The fierce hormonal Mama-Bear bond? Losing your sense of time altogether as daytime feedings and nighttime feedings all bled together?
It may feel like opposite ends of the spectrum, but interestingly, our brains treat both experiences similarly in some ways. Both, in their own way, are traumas.
I know that after the fires we are just taking care of needs. I’ve heard friends who have lost everything say that they are just taking things one day at a time. Today we are sifting through the ashes for our grandmother’s wedding ring. Tomorrow we are on the phone with the insurance company. We are thankful for the free meals, gift cards, and donations given us by strangers and loved ones.
For us Mama’s, there is a similar time of loss, and gain: having and caring for our infant baby.
Birth is a trauma. No matter how that baby comes out. There is an immediate time of healing, and of finding the rhythm of the new normal. In the midst of the days and sleepless nights, our job is simply to take care of needs: first baby’s, then our own. We must be tender to our little one and ourselves, while reeling with the effects of our lives being turned upside down from this little one’s arrival.
But looking back at that tender era, we will have the perspective of time. We will see what a treasure those first few days/weeks/months really were.
It’s the same with now. In the midst of such massive suffering, we will remember what we do and don’t do right now. Our brains will use this trauma to wire in the details of these fiery few days. These are the stories we will tell our children. For better or worse, we will remember the details and choices of this small precious time in Technicolor.
I say this as a comfort to you. It is hard. You don’t know how to finish a thought, let alone try to enumerate the items in the house for insurance – the house that is now a 6-inch layer of ash. Your brain was not built for taking in such a catastrophic event. You are suffering right now. But that’s when the acts of kindness, both done for you, and that you do for others, will be spotlighted. Light shines brightest in darkness. And now is a dark time indeed for our county.
Time will pass. We will take it one day at a time. We will rebuild. We will grow beyond this fire. And, just as in the blurry days of caring for your infant, there will come a moment when you look up, and realize you haven’t cried today. Without realizing it, you are coming back to yourself again. It will take time, but it will come. Now is the time for taking care of needs. I have seen acts of kindness that have broken me. We are caring for each other with such tenderness as I have only seen in mothers and their infants. The grief of our county is intense. The pain is palpable. But in the scope of life, this really is a small, precious time.