May 13, 2010

Posted by in Articles, Self-Care | 0 Comments

BACK TO MY ROOTS — “Sprouting Seedlings”

BACK TO MY ROOTS — “Sprouting Seedlings”

There is nothing in my life that is quite so similar to giving birth and raising children, as growing a garden. Despite the fact that I never wonder if my vegetables are watching too much television, the parallels are quite uncanny.

Much like the pre-pregnancy stage, before ever planting a seed, I read copious amounts of books on gardening to be sure that I wasn’t about to screw it all up. “How to plant seeds? When to plant seeds? Where to plant seeds? What is a seed?” these were just some of the questions that I thought should have been fairly basic but then discovered tomes telling me otherwise. Like the vast amounts of baby planning books, each book has it’s own method of tending and caring for the garden, complete with strong opinions on feeding (fertilizer or breast milk?), pruning (thinning or “cry it out” method?) and harvesting (vine ripened or charter school?) And, again, both references are quick to point out all of the ways in which you will damage the young sprouts, forever preventing them from producing a significant crop or attending an Ivy League school.

My first year as a gardener, I read the books, followed the advice and found myself with dying tomato plants filled with fungus, simply because the reality is a Brooklyn fire escape doesn’t provide the kind of fresh air a growing plant needs. But the books couldn’t tell me that.

My first year as a mom, I read the books, followed the advice and found myself with a baby that cried every hour of every day for the first four months of her life. Much like a jet engine, she simply was unable to settle herself down and it took many hours of many months for us to figure out how to cope with that. But the books couldn’t tell me that either.

After I moved to the farm, and started growing acres instead of pots of vegetables, I encountered two spring seasons filled with record rainfall that drowned entire crops of food. The year after that there was an invasion of beetles resistant to organic treatment which ate every last leaf of over 30 melon plants. And last year, an unstoppable tomato blight that left us with five crappy tasting tomatoes and over 200 dead plants. The books did not say how to prevent or recover from any of these situations.

After my daughter turned two, my husband and I started trying for another child and I had a miscarriage. When I became pregnant again, a doctor told me that the baby that I was carrying had a 50% chance of survival and a 90% chance of being born severely disabled. Six months later I gave birth to a beautiful and completely healthy baby girl. No book ever told us to expect, or how to recover, from anything like that.

So here is what I have learned from gardening and giving birth: trust yourself. Sure, books can give a nice little tip about how to wash baby vomit out of your silks, or how many hours of sunlight cucumbers need, but the reality is you already know, and if you don’t, then you’ll figure it out. Each of us was born with an innate sense of survival, whether it is caring for our young or growing our own food. Don’t get me wrong, the books can give guidance and context, but they are not, cannot and do not have the answer to everything. Trust yourself first, rather than some stranger whose only accomplishment, for all you know, was to get a book published. Life is about learning along the way, and no matter how badly we screw up, there is never anything that can substitute for our own (albeit untapped) wisdom.

Just don’t leave your baby out during a hard frost.

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