I was in my early 20s in Bombay (Mumbai) getting ready to go home after a year in India when, on a whim, I spent my last rupees on having my fortune told. I was told, among other things, that I would have 5 children. I was so shocked by this unlikely idea that I thought of demanding my money back (thinking that I was being taken for a ride!)
I had noticed during my time in India that, whilst there was great poverty, there was also great social, cultural and spiritual richness, that to me seemed to be lacking in the affluent West. Communities had thrived for thousands of years self-sufficiently and in harmony with their environment. Family bonds were strong and the elderly were respected and cared for in their later days. Customs and traditional crafts were maintained, cooking was simple and mostly vegetarian and beauty was everywhere. Most of all I was impressed by the daily spiritual practices: giving thanks for life and honouring the sacred.
When I returned to the West, I resolved to find ways to live a more natural life, to become healthier and stronger and to be a more useful member of society. After much searching, I started, together with my partner, to practice macrobiotics, attracted to the Eastern philosophy and the simple but tasty food. Working hard and cooking every day I became stronger – I was so busy that I did not even notice for several months that I was pregnant! I went to natural birth classes, drank raspberry leaf tea and my son Eddie was born naturally with no medication after a quick labour. He was a healthy (but restless) baby and I was well cared for in the weeks following the delivery by friends and family cooking good food for me (I can still remember the delicious aduki bean stew and sweet rice dumplings!) – this allowed me the time to rest, bond and breastfeed. I felt huge maternal love for my baby and his wellbeing became central to my life. Sadly his dad was not as committed to parenthood and I soon found myself struggling as a single parent, trying to hold down a job and be a good mother. I made sure that we ate well every day and when it was time to give Eddie his first solid food I gave him wholegrain creams and pureed vegetables, later introducing other foods. He grew well and was a happy and active child. I avoided giving him vaccinations.
Later I met my husband Richard, who shared my interest in macrobiotics, and who was a committed and caring presence as we made a home together. Over the next eleven years I had two daughters and two more sons. During my pregnancies I ate well, sometimes accommodating cravings, and I was active right up until the day before giving birth. Each time I was able to have a natural, usually home birth, with no medication or stitches and was able breastfeed all the babies up until they were fully weaned at around 18 months. They had all the childhood illnesses which we managed using home remedies and palm healing (which I had learnt in my macrobiotic studies) and sometimes herbs or homeopathy. Consistently cooking good food has been central to family life especially making sure that we all sat down together for a meal at least once a day to share good food and the stories of everyone’s day. To encourage the children to chew well we would sometimes have chewing competitions! I would make them packed lunches to take to school with pasta salads, sushi, homemade biscuits and fresh fruit, and soup in a flask in winter. Some of the other children at school liked the look of my kids lunches so much that they would want to trade them for their own! Another big priority has always been to buy the best quality organic ingredients – no expense spared! By that I mean that buying those foods might sometimes be more expensive, but it can be looked on as investment in ones children’s health and futures, so money well spent.
Spending time in nature, going on camping trips and seaside holidays were an important part of family life, as was spending quality time with grandparents and other family members. Being part of a bigger community of like-minded friends and families was always important too, with strong bonds and lasting friendships made at the yearly macrobiotic gatherings, as well as at the Steiner Schools that the children attended.
My children have always helped and supported each other and continue to do so. Being a strong family has given us the resilience to meet challenges and difficulties together and well as to celebrating milestones. Now they have all grown up into intelligent and caring individuals and we are still a close and loving family, even if some members are scattered around the globe!