In the past couple of years, Kelsey has always chosen some time in the summer to come and see us. Truth be told, she has a love affair with sunshine and coming in the summer months allows her the chance to rekindle her relationship with the sun and see her family. The day before her trips, she will call to get a weather forecast, for help with packing but mostly to confirm that the sun is out, it's hot, and that we are ready for some time at the reservoir. This is always her plan and it always goes astray. At first we thought it was just coincidence that each time she would show up, the forecast would miracously change and call for rain. Not just rain, but thunderstorms.
It's not a coincidence. My sister is the Rain Maker. This name was given to her by my mother, and during her last visit, it became clear to me just how important her rain making is.
As a professional doula and childbirth educator, my job description states that I will be a supportive caregiver during a couple's transition into parenthood. I take my job description and the care that I provide, seriously. I support parents in making the best choices for themselves, despite the fact that they may not be choices I would make for myself. It wasn't that long ago that I was on the other side of that equation feeling like very few people supported my husband and me in our decision to birth at home. In fact, people were down right oppositional to our choice and it put me under a great deal of stress during my pregnancy. I know what that feels like and that may be partly why I became a doula.
But I'm not perfect and sometimes it takes a loving, peaceful voice to remind you that you still have much work to do. Sometimes you need a little rain to get you wet, wake you up and clean you off.
After a wonderful visit, we found ourselves with a couple hour drive down to her next destination and some time to talk. As she shared her life with me, I seemingly forgot that she is a free thinking individual with a different life than me. She's had different experiences and has different ideas about the world and what is right for her. And she's incredibly smart, compassionate and successful in everything she does. I forgot those things and I interjected and spewed to her the Amanda DeAngelis gospel of right and wrong. After all, I am her big sister and I have more life experience. Right? She became quiet and distant. She very kindly let me know that she didn't want to hear it. My immediate response was to be offended and I pushed her a little bit more but our arrival marked the end of our journey and thus our conversation. I lay there that night, thinking about her quietness and her distance. I knew that response. I've been living that response for quite some time. Almost all of our major decisions regarding our son have been questioned and I have sometimes met those questions with anger but mostly quietness, distance and sadness. How come people don't support me/us? Don't they know I'm smart, working from my heart and only trying to do what I feel is best for my son?
It wares you down when the people you love, constantly question your choices, and there I was waring her down, instead of being a positive, supportive force in my sister's life. I likened myself to the religious zealots who push their faith on you, pronouncing their way as the only true way. In truth, I have always respected and admired those people who are deeply religious but never try to push their faith or make you feel like less of a human being for not believing as they do. When they speak of their faith, they speak of it as something deeply personal and congruent with THEIR way of living and are open to the idea that the path is different for every one.
Isn't your life, after all your faith? Aren't we operating and acting mostly in a way that we believe to be right? How can we question or demean others for feeling and believing differently? In truth, we cannot. Doing so only causes more disharmony in our relationships with others. I am reminded of a line in the cheesy but wonderful movie, Footloose, in which Ariel, the daughter of Reverend Shaw says, "I just don't know if I believe in everything you do but I know that I believe in you."
The day after my sister left, the clouds drifted away and the temperatures quickly climbed back to their July norms. But she had left her mark on arid Colorado and me. We were cleansed, growing and ready to help others.