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Jeanne, on Memory. Sling Diaries, Vol VII.

January 05, 2018

The Sling Diaries, Volume VII. A photo-documentary chronicling the art of baby wearing in the lives of families around the world. Over the course of six months, Sling Diarists will create their own Sling Diary though a series of diary entries interpreting a unique theme given to them each month.

Meet all of our Sling Diarists here.

ON MEMORY 

A few years back, I read a study about nomadic tribes in the Sahara that showed that because of their traditions lasting and their behaviours repeating over thousands of years, the knowledge they gained through experiencing their environment ended up written in their DNA. They intuitively know how to plan itineraries with the stars, or retrace old migration paths without a map. Part of their tribal knowledge doesn't need to be passed on through word – it is already there inside them, waiting to be used.

It makes me wonder. The day we become mothers, we all feel like we have so much to learn — how to tell if a baby gets enough to eat, how to tell if they're sick – how to nurse them and put them to sleep. And yet we also feel a wave of intuition coming over us, like there is someone inside whispering to us that what we feel is right, is right, what we think is best, is best. What if we didn't have to learn how to be mothers, but only remember it?

The island we live on is full of ghosts. Some of them have names – in the graveyard, there are names as old as time – the Irish king who was exiled and died in solitude; the Viking captain who came to conquer and stayed, converting to Christianity; the countless warriors and men of prayers that made this island into a living legend. But as I walk along the road to the village, I know that there are others ghosts living there too, ghosts without a name. The women who walked this road before me, carrying pregnant bellies and young children.

The brave ones who gave birth under thatched roofs, lit by candles. The proud ones who raised children wilder than wind and tougher than thorns. The broken hearted ones who lost babies, their bodies returned to the winter bog. Farmers, sailors, healers, wives, daughters, mothers. I see them all as I walk, aeons of women that lived and died here, and walked the mothering path as I do now.

Through them, and through my own line of women, I remember. The feeling of her soft cheek against mine as she burrows in my neck for comfort, I remember it. It was mine before she was even born. In the ache in my hips and my lower back as I wake up, I know that my body remembers how it held her within. Every moment of our lives, I tap into this collective memory of mothers, like fresh water from a river I capture between my hands to drink. My arms remember how to carry her so that she will settle, my voice remembers how to sing melodies I've never been taught so that she will fall asleep when night comes. And through the touch of my hands and the tone of my voice, her too becomes part of the woman line. She learns to touch through being touched, to carry while being carried. Maybe one day she will remember how to nurse her own children, and how to send them to sleep. A memory without words, embedded inside her body. A story written under her skin, day by day, as I mother her.

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Follow along with Jeanne over on Instagram, @womanoftheriver, and The Sling Diaries on Pinterest