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The Mother Magazine, Editorial

Issue 37, Nov/Dec 2009

Stretch Marks, by Veronika Sophia Robinson

My daughter, Eliza, and I were lazing in my bed one chilly and misty Autumn morning, when she apologised for causing the stretch marks on my belly.

“But I LOVE those stretch marks!” I protested, defensively and protectively.

“They’re a map of where I’ve been, and how I’ve grown.” Each and every silvery-lilac ribbon corrugating my spongey belly is a picture postcard of the journey in my mothering story: singing the hymns of the six babies conceived in the deep, dark depths of my womb, four rejected by my body, but not my heart; and two nurtured through to birth.

For a large part of my parenting, I’ve edited The Mother magazine. Stretch marks are par for the course when leading a niche, radical parenting publication through the cultural clouds of discrimination, prejudice, disempowerment and ignorance.

The Mother consistently asks parents to be authentic, to question our choices, not just one or two, like: is vaccination a way to build immunity, or does it cause and spread diseases, and destroy the ecology of the developing immune system?

Should boys play with violent toys, or does our spiritual evolution as a species ordain that we model peace, and show them (and their fathers) how to lay down their weapons of destruction? After all, just who are they imitating in their play, and why?

Is institutional learning best for today’s children, or are alternative, human-scale schools more suited to their unfolding of mind, body and soul? What value do home education and unschooling have in the life of the modern family?

The Mother asks us to question everything, and every day: formula drink for babies, is it a life-saving product or counterfeit poison? How long should a mother breastfeed? What about child-led weaning? We aren’t scared to publish information showing that the peace, passion and purpose of a culture rests firmly on the breastfeeding foundations it has lain down for its children (minimum 2.5 years); or that introducing solids at six months is too early for the digestive system, short-circuits the absorption of iron, and the ability to build stores for life. This doesn’t make us popular, but it does make our work authentic, and, ironically, given how long humanity has breastfed: pioneering.

Are plastic nappies ever acceptable when they not only use finite resources, but take hundreds of years to decompose? What about fabric nappies? Should they be mandatory for the sake of babies’ bottoms and the ecology of Earth? The Mother wouldn’t be a primal parenting magazine if it didn’t encourage us to step outside the nappy bucket and ask “why not listen to the elimination needs of your baby, and do without nappies altogether?”

We also ask the perennial controversial questions like: is it ethical or peaceful to farm sentient creatures for human consumption, or should we adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle and abstain? And if, as stated in a UN report, the single most effective act that any individual can do to lesson to the effects of global warming is to become vegetarian, why are there still slaughterhouses on this planet? We ask about the ethics of using the by-products of creatures, as well as looking at the health of the human body, and issues such as eating foods in their natural state.

The Mother magazine is here to nudge us, a little bit more, every day. It’s fair to say that very few people like to be nudged along. I understand that. It’s far more peaceful to stay in our comfort zones. “Ignorance is bliss” is the chant of our culture, and shame on she who dares to rock the boat.

As the voices behind this publication, we’re here to help families see another picture ~ that of intuition and connection to our children ~ and ideally, to make informed choices for optimal parenting.

Every choice, decision, thought and action has an impact, not just on your family, but on the whole world. Such choices can be overwhelming, intimidating, and oh so stretching. We may not feel stretch marks as they’re forming, but one thing’s for sure: once we’ve stretched, there’s no going back.

The growth which creates the stretch marks of a pioneering publication, like The Mother, is bloody hard work, and that’s without even factoring in the treacherous economic waters we’re sailing in right now. Writing for the minority in our culture, with a publication that is definitely “not bubble gum for the brain”, as one reader so succinctly described it, takes courage. In September, 2009, my courage and faith abandoned me as I sat despondent in the mire of ever-increasing lapsed subscriptions from this past year, and I decided to bring The Mother back into harbour, never to sail again.

I pulled my socks up, and with heavy heart shared this fait accompli with our family of subscribers who are on the e-group community. They wouldn’t let me close the doors. They demanded The Mother stay at sea, and together they networked night and day to bring more readers on board. They showed me how many more sunrises we’d witness on the horizon each morning. And even if the weather was foul, they’d be there. Why? Because they had stretch marks, too! They’d grown enormously, and The Mother had been part of that growth ~ their spiritual placenta. “We’ll help you”, they cheered, praying, but also moving their feet by throwing out necessary life boats.

I don’t believe there’s a marketing company in the world that could promote this magazine with the pride, passion, soul and dedication that these families have shown.

I’ve learnt something that I’ve always known theoretically. The Mother network is our family. For most people, their family is held within the larger family of culture, and they take on all the beliefs associated with that. For those of us who hold The Mother as our culture ~ a small but not insignificant sub-culture within the counter-intuitive culture around us ~ we realise how precious and powerful our support of one another is, and why everyone in the family must nurture the other. It’s too easy to feel alone and in exile when we watch mainstream parenting and live our lives from the fringes. For those who find their homeland in The Mother, we remind you of the stunning gifts you’re gifting to our culture by parenting with consciousness. You may not know other readers of The Mother, but I can assure you that this silent and invisible family that they form, is here, energetically, holding the space for your family’s journey.

My family and I are a small but passionate and dedicated team at the hub of the The Mother; our writers, photographers and artists are the spokes which spread the messages, and YOU, our precious reader, are the wheel which carries this magazine far and wide. You’re our marketing department! Share your Mother today. Share what inspires you, makes you laugh, makes you cringe, makes you mad. Share, and watch the world change.

At this moment, The Mother is stronger than ever, but we don’t wish to rest on our laurels, and so we ask that each reader considers how they can share their magazine.

We’ve been contacting our lapsed subscribers to hear why they’ve not renewed their subscriptions. As I suspected, in many cases they simply forgot, due to the business and busyness of mothering. This, I understand. I often put down something akin to a sub renewal/lapsed subscription form to deal with when I’m not making dinner, hanging out washing, hugging a child or taking a phone call. The piece of paper ends up under a child’s drawing, other paperwork and bills, and somehow just disappears into the netherworld of paper, paper, paper. In some cases, though, I heard stories that put The Mother magazine’s future back into harsh perspective ~ stories which stopped me in my tracks and lashed stinging tears across my eyes. Stories of tragedy and trauma...a sober reminder of life, and of other people’s stretch marks.

I laugh now, to think of how often I rubbed coconut oil into my pregnant belly to ensure I wouldn’t get stretch marks! My vanity and immaturity had no idea that at another time in my life I’d celebrate every lilac ribbon as if gaily dancing around a Maypole; that one day I’d know the secret and beauty of life is held in growth. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, storyteller, says that a flower is blooming whether it’s half, three quarters or in full bloom.

I pray that you, too, can see the beauty of your stretch marks.

This editorial can be found in the foreword to the new book, Stretch Marks ~ How The Mother grew (the best of The Mother magazine, 2002 – 2009), published by Starflower Press.

Signed copies available from www.starflowerpress.com

Also available from Amazon or good independent bookshops. Wholesale bulk orders welcome.

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