Telling Her Story: Sara, Mom to Sofia (3)

Sara and Sofia, 2 weeks old

Sara is the most “hippie” out of all my best friends. We met as yoga-fledgings about 20 years ago at our home studio, Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga in Santa Monica. We instantly connected on a soul level, feeling like we had known each other in prior lives. We always seem to know what the other is thinking, although we also often have exactly opposite viewpoints and preferences.

When I think of Sara from the days of our early friendship, I remember her always in motion. She biked everywhere, tried and loved all forms of movement, and even worked while half-sitting/half-standing, one foot inching towards the door that she was trying to exit or perhaps had just arrived through. I can never remember all the different cities and countries she’s lived in.

So it is fitting that she met her husband while overseas in Bulgaria. Shortly before that trip, she had written to me and told me that when she returned, she was going to set off to walk across the country. Yes, across the entire US. This was definitely one of those moments when I thought about how opposite we are; I couldn’t think of anything worse!

Her life had other plans for her, though. Sara met her husband and something in her steadied. He was a steadying force that her soul recognized as home, as family. They decided to plant their roots in Portland, Oregon and had their daughter there. They named her Sofia, after the town in Bulgaria where they had met and fallen in love.

Bringing Sofia into the world did not go as Sara had hoped. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, her doctors wanted to induce her as it seemed like Sofia wasn’t growing as much as expected. Sara postponed induction for as long as possible but ultimately agreed. After two days of unsuccessful labor, the only way to safely deliver Sofia was via emergency c-section. She was born at just over 5.5 pounds, smaller than average, but otherwise healthy.

When I first heard that Sara had needed an emergency c-section, my heart sank. I had needed one as well, and it had been traumatic for me. It took me years to accept. But Sara, true to us being opposites, had a different response. She felt incredible relief to know that there was an end in sight, that her baby would be out in a short 20 minutes after what had felt like endless pushing. Granted, it had felt surreal to sign paperwork authorizing the epidural and the surgery with her baby headed towards her birth canal, but she just wanted her baby born safely.

They had also learned during the pregnancy that Sofia had club feet. This meant she would need to be put in a cast from her toes all the way up to the tops of her thighs for two months, have surgery to fix her achilles, and wear special shoes for two years. They had great doctors who ensured that all of these corrective actions were successful and if you saw Sofia today, you would never know she had been through anything - she is a very active, strong, and fearless child. Sara always focused on the practical positives and knew it was all going to be okay, though she shares that it was upsetting to not be able to see her baby’s teeny tiny feet at all for the first few weeks.

Sofia, 6 weeks old

It’s often these little details of motherhood that can impact our heart and stay with us long after the particular moment or season has passed.

Happening concurrently as Sara was bringing life into the world was that she was losing her mother to cancer. A few weeks after her baby was born, she had moved her mom into her home for her final days. Her mom most definitely had been holding on to meet her first and only grandchild. I can only imagine the conflicting shock and overwhelm Sara was holding in her heart, her family simultaneously expanding and contracting. She would place Sofia under her mom’s arm, noting the painful poetry of both of them having bald heads and being wholly dependent on the care of others, each at opposite ends of the cycle of life.

Like many mother-daughter relationships, Sara and her mom Lorna had their times being inseparable and separated. When I first met Lorna, I instantly understood where Sara’s hippie-ness came from. Lorna was the epitome of a free spirit. Once I literally saw her dancing alone on the beach, facing the endless water with her back to the rest of us, her blond hair and white scarf flowing in the wind. It’s a vision I’ll never forget. I could only dream of having a mother that was so joyful.

But growing up, Sara longed for more structure and dependability. All children crave and need boundaries. It makes them feel safe and taken care of. Sara’s parents had separated before her 1st birthday and she and her mom relied on their village of friends through the early years. Her mom did her best as a single parent and Sara always knew she was unconditionally loved, but it wasn’t easy for either of them. They eventually had to uproot their lives and move halfway across the country to live with her grandparents. Naturally, Sara yearned to know her father despite his lack of financial and emotional support.

What’s so incredible is that despite not having had a particularly stable upbringing, Sara has created a most stable cocoon for her daughter. Sofia is growing up with both of her parents, who are in a loving partnership, with Sara staying home for the time being while her husband runs a successful physical therapy business. She takes the good from having been her mother’s daughter - the joy her mother experienced in just being her mother and the unconditional love she always reminded Sara that she had for her - while also doing what she can to offer Sofia more structure.

Sofia, 3 years old

I think this structure is less about any rules and regulations for Sofia and more about having a plan for the future. This involves financial security but it’s also about Sara figuring out what she wants to do with her time and energy outside of motherhood. She’s at that pivotal fork in the road moment we mothers all seem to meet, where you aren’t quite the person you were before you became a mother but you don’t yet know who you are going to be. Sara’s always had a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit and as she’s settling more deeply into her role as a mama, she’s eager to figure out her next steps. I think she’s soon going to have some very cool offerings for the rest of us…watch this space! 💫

What I learn through Sara as a mother is that there is enormous comfort in knowing you are unconditionally loved and that there is real power in meeting circumstances that are out of your control with acceptance. She wanted to avoid any interventions in the birth of her daughter so she asked for more time and tried all the advice on how to naturally bring on labor. When nothing worked, she let go and accepted that she needed a c-section. She started potty training and realized Sofia wasn’t ready so she let go and waited for Sofia to show her when she was ready. She recently found out that the pregnancy she was excitedly carrying was not viable. She was told she would miscarry within two weeks, and she lovingly let go to her body’s wisdom.

I know Sara misses her mom every day and wishes she were here to see Sofia grow up but it is so clear to me that their unconditional love remains and continues to grow through Sara’s love for her own daughter. The emotional complexity of processing her deepest grief alongside her deepest love has opened Sara’s heart to hold more kindness and compassion. I love the beautiful family Sara has created and I can’t wait to see the way her life continues to evolve.

Sara's 5 Daily Non-Negotiables:

Business development for 45 min.

Sweat for 30 min.

Phone-free conversation with hubby for 30 min.

Protein at every breakfast.

Green juice every other day (favorite combo: celery, fennel, apple, parsley, ginger).

I am a mama, writer, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate.
More posts by Leah Kim.

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