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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roots and Wings: And Baby Makes 6

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 9:43 AM

click to enlarge Jessica with her three sisters and four daughters — plus a baby doll!
  • Jessica with her three sisters and four daughters — plus a baby doll!

Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she'll explore her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont.

It’s estimated that only five percent of babies arrive on their due dates. I’m sure far fewer than that have traveled around the world in utero. Mabel Allegra Rubin has done both.

My fourth daughter arrived into a warm tub, right on schedule, greeting us with a loud wail upon taking her first breath. I closed my eyes and asked Adam, “What do we have?” Tears poured down my cheeks when he said, “It’s… another girl.”

These were tears of relief after a 24-hour labor, tears of happiness and — let’s be honest — tears of disappointment, too. I can say this because I myself am the fourth girl of four girls. I know what it’s like to come into the world with three older sisters, dashing everyone’s hopes of being a boy.

This disappointment faded quickly, of course, and changed into joy as we gazed into the eyes of this beautiful, healthy baby and held her warm body in our arms. So this is who it was! All those months, as we traveled from place to place and I felt the kicks and somersaults in my belly, it was her, Mabel.

click to enlarge Lola, 8, and Dahlia, 10, meet baby Mabel.
  • Lola, 8, and Dahlia, 10, meet baby Mabel.
We were barely just adjusting to being home from our trip when Mabel arrived at the end of January. The world outside was in a deep freeze. It felt somewhat precarious bringing a tiny new life forth into such cold.

Having this baby join our family felt like both the most natural thing and also like a dream. The memories our family of five created on our four-month adventure are seared into my brain, etched into my heart. How will Mabel fit into this family? What will she think about the trip when we tell her about it?

Because it’s been five years since I last had a new baby, it’s felt kind of like the first time all over again. There were a few big things I had forgotten, like what to pack in a diaper bag and how much a newborn’s needs consume a whole day and night! Perhaps most disorienting is going from being pregnant for what seemed like forever to suddenly having a post-partum body that needs to recover and heal.

So much of our trip was marked by my pregnancy. Because we kept going to new places, people would remark on it everyday.

“Are you having another girl, or is it a boy this time?”
“How are you managing to travel this pregnant?”
“Will they let you on the plane?”
“If it’s a girl, will you try again for a boy?”

I must have been asked these and myriad other questions related to my pregnancy about a hundred times by strangers, as well as family and friends, all over the world. I came to feel like my pregnancy was a permanent state of being. It was who I had become.

Since giving birth, I have had to reconfigure my identity once again, both physically and psychologically. I am no longer the pregnant spectacle I was on the trip and we are no longer a family of five. I have a fourth daughter. I am back home. In the middle of the night, I rock my sweet baby back to sleep like mothers all over the world.

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