This long weekend in Canada is known as Thanksgiving.  This post is about being thankful for the events in my life that totally knocked me off my feet – but only to give me wings so that I could fly.

My daughter was born to us almost four and a half years ago.  Her name, Inaya, has two meanings in Arabic; I only knew of one when we named her.  Empathy.  My husband and I agreed that empathy is something we value and that if there were just a little more of it in the world, perhaps some of the terrible things that happen would be eradicated.  So, we brought empathy into the world in the form of a beautiful little girl.  After she was born, several people informed us that Inaya also means blessing from God.  She truly is, though the blessings she brought to me did not show their face until well after her birth.  Or rather, I didn’t recognize their faces until more recently.

Having a newborn was hard for me.  Breastfeeding was painful, frustrating, awkward and definitely not what I imagined it should be.  My days were filled with appointments with lactation consultants, paediatricians, public health nurses and my midwife and my nights were filled with everything but sleep.  All the while there was much anxiety associated with Inaya’s feeding issues and my pain during and between feeds.  Remember when feeds happened every 2-3 hours?  With Inaya they happened more frequently than that and lasted a long time because of many starts and stops.  Looking back, I have no idea how I even made it to appointments with that kind of schedule!

One morning, as my husband was wrapping his necktie on and getting ready for work, I watched him from a chair beside our bed where I sat grimacing while Inaya latched on.  “I hate my life,” I blurted out.  He stopped in his tracks and admonished me for saying something like that.  But that statement came from a place of truth.  I spent my days and nights consumed with anxiety (not just over a newborn but also my mother’s illness which I will talk about later) and anger.  I was always so angry.  I couldn’t do anything I wanted any more, I had no control over my time or my hygiene, I couldn’t enjoy the things I once did like a good movie and I was too tired to read.  Now that I know more about transitions, I understand that I was grieving for a part of my life that ended but I also felt guilty and confused since that ending meant the beginning of something I had wanted my whole life: to be a mother.

As Inaya grew, the feeding got easier and the pain less frequent and intense although it was a good 10 months before it was consistently wonderful.  I ended up nursing her till she was 2, not just for her benefit, but also because I enjoyed it so much when it was pain-free that I wanted to catch up on all those enjoyable feeds I missed out on previously.

As the feeding got easier, I started to look forward to these moments of stillness and they brought forth so much creativity that I had forgotten that I possessed.  Today I look at what Inaya’s gifts have brought to my life:

  • She taught me that finding the source of my anger would reveal volumes.  That sounds obvious but it wasn’t when I was too busy trying to stuff my anger instead of look at it.  *hint:  If you are angry, there is a part of you that is probably repressed…is it your creative Self?
  • She taught me that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.  (Hello, childbirth and my personal breastfeeding experience!!  ‘Nuff said.)
  • She reminds me to dress for the day with an air of excitement – “Mommy, you should wear a dress!!” “ Let’s wear makeup!!”
  • Perhaps her biggest gift to me is that when I look at her I ask myself, “Would I want Inaya to _______?”  Fill in the blank with things like not take care of herself when she becomes a mom, forget who she is as a woman first when she becomes a mom, decide that life is not worth dressing up for when she becomes a mom etc.  I remember that I have to model what I want for her and that has helped me tremendously especially in the past 6 months or so.

If Inaya hadn’t come in to my life when she did, I’m not sure where I would be right now.  Would I have dug deep to resolve some issues that kept me under Anger’s thumb?  Would I admire the Feminine in the way that I do, seeing firsthand how She works in babies and children?

Would I have the perfect person to pass on the lessons from my mom?

Just before Inaya turned 2, my mom passed away after being ill for several years.  When she was admitted to the Palliative ward a few days before she passed, I sat on her right side, looked her in the eyes and said “You are so beautiful.”  She replied quietly “Thank you.  So are you.  We are the same.  All 3 of us.”  I must have looked puzzled as we were the only 2 in the room so she clarified, “And Inaya.”  She was so right.  Just by being female, the 3 of us are connected in so many more ways than our physical relationship.

As a new mother, I started understanding my mom so much more than I ever had.  After she passed away and as I was catapulted into this new life, now raising 2 children while forging ahead with my work, I understand my mother even more deeply.  Her gifts have been incredible for me.  You can read more about them hereI didn’t know my mother could birth me twice, but she did:

  • I started writing publicly just two weeks after she passed away when I launched my first blog.  She has inspired many writing projects including a book for my daughter.
  • I see how my mom put the needs of her children, husband and family before her own and how in return, she struggled with her own identity.  This forces me to maintain mine and makes it easy for me to do so.
  • I can see in photos of her younger self this playful, “jolly” (as she would have said) girl who loved to dance and sing – these images remind me to be silly and shake my booty when I feel like it.  I know she watches on as my daughter and I dance together and I am sure she is happy that we do!

Though two and a half years after her passing I still can’t seem to get through any special occasion without shedding some tears for her, I recognize her gifts every single day.  It’s why I’m here, writing to all of you so thank you for being a part of it.   

So if you are, or have been, faced with events that have made you lose your footing, take a step back and see if these circumstances in your life were meant to take you off your feet and send you soaring.  If you can recognize even one gift in each of these circumstances, be grateful and use the gifts you were given.

Happy Gratitude Day to you in whatever part of the world you are!