On Motherhood: A reflection about History and Sustainability

I am writing in the shade of an apple tree. I am a mother now. I left the Skip Garden for maternity on March 14. I was 39 weeks pregnant but, despite the reasonable concerns of the people around me, I felt incredibly good, ready to work for one more day. That Saturday, Global Generation, was one of the speakers at an event on the Universe Story at the Barbican. I was with Jane, Rod, and Jessica, one of our Generators. Jessica is a young woman, conscious of the world, of the opportunities that it offers, a girl with clear ideas and dreams. As I was sitting in the audience watching her speak, I asked myself how would my daughter be at her age. What thoughts will she have? What mother will I be? Is London the place where we want to live? 

Aida arrived 12 days after the event, on the 26th of March, on her father’s birthday. That day was one of the greatest adventure I had with another human being. The first one was with my twin sister in 1981 when, after having shared the same womb, we were born one after the other. But obviously no-one can remember their own birth. Aida’s birth, on the other hand, is a shared journey I can clearly remember.

While Aida and I were straining to meet each other, using all our energy, stretching our muscles, breathing hard, exploiting our fear to generate life, my partner Alex and my friend Rachel were with us at the hospital. Having these two persons on our side gave us the strength to cope with the pain and the discovery ahead of us, and made me reflect on my condition of being a Northern Italian woman – here in the UK as an immigrant – supported by my Eritrean colleague and my Southern Italian partner, two geographical symbols that added to the day of my first daughter’s birth, a sense of historical revenge. It felt like the moment of truth for the Northerners discrimination against Southerners and the Italian colonialism in Africa.

Aida’s first cry wasn’t only a relief, it was the Hegelian synthesis of change, the birth of the good that humankind can bring, an example of equality between countries, a baby ambassador of a good world.

I had written a letter to myself a few days before the birth, a sort of encouragement, a place where to go in case I felt scared, a reminder that Aida was the continuation of the universe’s drive. When she arrived in the evening, she was looking up, and the midwife said she was a star-gazer. I often look up trying to understand what she’s looking at, wondering the same thing: What’s up there? What’s all around us?
The blue sky, the dancing leaves, the clothes drying in the sun, the stars, the noisy airplanes.

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I am away from London’s frenetic rhythm, millions of people moving on the Tube, typing, running, talking, phoning. But how come I don’t feel different, on leave, in a break, not at all out of the game, and in fact immersed even deeper into something real? It seems that cities were built to measure time, to remove time from nature. Hours, minutes, numbers everywhere, all embedded.

“Day turns to night eventually, it’s a matter of light and darkness, it’s no time passing, mortal time. There is none of the usual terror. It’s different here, time is enormous. That’s what I feel here, palpably, time that precedes us and survives us.” — Don DeLillo

Aida makes me present, makes me rediscover the world with almost new eyes, and makes me notice things. So, suddenly an object surprises me. The sounds of water, so great; the name of the material that grows at the top of our fingers, how strange; an ant on Aida’s leg, how small; the structure of a peg, how clever…

Sometimes we forget how to be truly present in the mystery of life, and that we are not embodied creatures, we are not living inside our own muscles and cells. Isn’t this attention for details, for the story of an object, for the beauty of our daily gestures and surroundings, the enormous time, an aspect of the philosophy we embrace at Global Generation? Isn’t “I, We, and the Planet” the frame for all this? 

Children tell us exactly that. They are one of the keys for a better world. Their curiosity is sustainable, their openness is sustainable; their innocence is sustainability.

When I wake up at night to feed Aida, I look outside the window as I thank my daughter for the opportunity she’s giving me. We were meant to meet each other at this point of life, to try together another way to better understand this world and to be better people. 

While explosions, new formations, solar winds, rotations, discoveries, and falling stars are out there, and while politicians and corporations are making arguable decisions, Aida and I are still, but we are changing the world, too, and only because she is here with me and I am here with her. We can change things without revolution.Bad wolves, killer sharks, blonde princesses, invasive spiders, and ugly worms are part of the same crazily quick world, of the time draining out of our lives. We need new stories, new words, new relationships, and even new toys.

Aida means “inspire others to do good.” Perhaps one day she will inspire others just by looking up at the sky and forgetting for a moment about the mortal time. We can change things without revolution.

By Silvia Pedretti