Out of the right window of the plane, the moon was full and radiant, and seemed to float at thirty three thousand feet, level with me. I read it as a good omen. I was on my way to my first American Anthropological Association meeting and felt a little overwhelmed by so many multiple panels, by my unfinished presentation and by the feeling of being out of the political anthropology loop. Also, this was only the second time that I left my baby for days at a time.
On the connection to Montreal, I realised I turned into one of those people in airports and other public places who smile giddily at other people’s babies as they project happy thoughts of their own missing ones onto these unsuspecting little persons. Last time I left her to go to London, I had to go through the trauma of being a breastfeeding mother away from her baby, unable to easily store her milk and in despair at the thought of dumping bags of such precious nourishment. So many people don’t understand it, they think if you can just make more why does it matter how much you throw away….I can’t explain it. I can just say what I felt and know its validity.
Here I am again. I don’t breastfeed as much so travel is less traumatic, but this time I’m hoping my milk doesn’t go dry after five days away. I don’t love breastfeeding as much as Ziya, but I’m not a neutral participant. My neighbor tells me she cried when she stopped producing milk. I get it.
Zi turned one on Tuesday, making me reflect on how much my life has changed and how much I have changed. We had a little cake and ice cream, just to say that moments of celebration are worth taking time for. The little party was low maintenance, low expectations, low effort – the kind of thing that stone and I would do. We are about the little gestures and the mundane moments that are special just because they are and because we are. It’s like getting married in the backyard. You don’t need much ado, you just need to be together, happy and willing to make each moment sacred.
I am now on my way back to Trinidad, about to fly in rain, my heart and hopes on getting home safe. Being away is such a mixed experience. Conferences are part of my job, but I feel a little guilty leaving Stone to manage for a week at a time without me, probably a few times a year. A whole network of people has to be organized for this travel to be possible. At conferences I can feel my brain working again though and remember parts of myself I hardly have energy for, the parts that get excited about theory, writing, reading, scholarship, ideas.
This time, I connected in a real way with other academic moms that I know and that was really good too. Moms who have to travel for weeks or months at a time to do fieldwork, moms who move to take up post docs, moms whose families go with them to new posts in new places. Moms who have partners to negotiate life with and children they have to raise and publications they have to write. Moms like me! All of them amazing and inspiring and encouraging in their own ways. Moms who remind me that our careers matter. Moms who got their books out somehow, pressing me to plan how I am going to get my book out, somehow, too.
I feel good. Rejuvenated intellectually. Supported academically. More focused. Stone seemed to survive. Ziya somehow slept eight hours straight last night. I was away just long enough to want to get back to them. I think that I might have stopped seriously producing milk. After a few days of expressing, suddenly there stopped being much. I’m a little sad about it, I loved those evening and morning breastfeeds, but life is about change and I know beautiful Ziya was given the best start I could give. Motherhood is clearly about just focusing on what happened, what worked and what was good, recognizing that what you can’t change, you just have to accept, reflect on and learn from.
I am excited to get back to my work again, just to prove to myself that I can meet my writing goals. Nothing inspires me like the need to focus. Forget the nation’s motto, discipline is my personal creed. So is gratefulness. So is love. I am on my way, not just back to Trinidad, but to revived ambitions and appreciation. I had a chance to connect to me. Funny how sometimes you have to go far just to find yourself. Funny how it’s in the midst of so many things to follow through on, that you can remember what makes you, you.