The Legacy Project | Week One - The Beginning

MY STORY ABOUT ME

Two weeks ago I wrote about my desire to write down my own stories, my history, for my children. It's not even just a desire - I feel it's a responsibility. I want my children to know who they came from. I also think I owe it to myself!

I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had in my life. They have all contributed to making up this unique person that is ME. In gratitude for all that I have experienced, I want to write it all down. I want to remember it.

As I wrote previously, Lila and Logan know me as “Mom”, but what about the 37 years I lived before I became Mom? What about the hours I spend before they wake in the morning, or the hours after they go to bed? Who am I then?

If we know where we came from, we may better know where to go. If we know who we came from, we may better understand who we are.
— Anonymous

Out of this pull to write my stories down, the idea of The Legacy Project was born. Taking some time twice a month to little by little, record my stories. Today, the project begins!

I am so excited to get started, and I hope some of you will join me for the ride!

Get out your journal, or your laptop, and let's get writing. 

Week 1 is all about THE BEGINNING.

My birth. What do I know about the day I was born? Where was I born? And how did I get my name?

I was born on Monday, June 17, 1974 at 11:27pm in Reading, England at Royal Berkshire Hospital, weighing in at 6 lbs, 11 oz.

GOING ON AROUND THE WORLD IN JUNE 1974

According to a little fun googling, this is what was happening on that day out there in the world:

President: Richard Nixon

Current movies in the theater: Chinatown, Where the Red Fern Grows

Popular Book: Watership Down

On the music charts: "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney, "Dancing Machine" by Jackson 5, "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" by Olivia Newton-John, "The Entertainer" by Martin Hamlisch.

Historical Events: The IRA bombed the Houses of Parliament in London, killing 11 people.

Some magazine covers from June 1974:

Rolling Stone magazine, June 1974.

MY BIRTH STORY

For the story of my birth, I turned to my mom. I knew a little bit about the experience, but not the whole story. In my mom's words, this is the story of my beginning:

"Sadly I have only a hazy memory of seeing your little face for an instant after your birth.   You were delivered in an operating theater because the doctors decided to go with a forceps delivery.  Labor had been long and exhausting.  It wasn’t progressing as it should because you were lying at a funny angle.  In those days it was the norm to be anaesthetized for such procedures and of course Daddy wasn’t allowed to be present.  I have no memories of the actual process and only vaguely remember someone shaking me awake for an instant,  placing your face in front of mine and a voice telling me that “You have a little girl”.  My next clearest memory is waking up in the early hours of the morning in a strange room with a bassinet in the far corner........it wasn’t yet daylight, just that weird grey light of pre-dawn.  I had undergone an episiotomy which was causing a lot of pain, still very drowsy too so I couldn’t even get out of bed to look at you properly.  I remember lying there feeling alone (no fathers allowed to share a room in those days).... but most of all - overwhelmingly sad and guilty that you didn’t have the “storybook” welcome into the world that every new baby deserves.  There you were...fast asleep, hours old and I hadn’t even held you.    All the expectation and excitement of your birth suddenly gone coupled with the the unexpected shock and unexpected rawness of surgery.   When you were at last placed in my arms it was to encourage the first struggling attempts at breastfeeding.  No real guidance given,  I wondered why I couldn’t even manage that.  I can fully understand why some new mothers suffer with postpartem depression.  No social media in those days.  No friends at hand.   I had only lived in Reading for a year (since our wedding) and our neighbors/only good friends Christine and Steve were spending six months in Dubai.    I think that’s why to this day my brain has pretty much blocked out my memories of those first couple of days.     

I don’t even have a funny story to relate about my arrival at the hospital.  Because of my newly discovered heart murmur and high blood pressure at ante natal visits...the doctors had decided to induce before your due date.  I arrived at the hospital the evening before and the induction process began early next morning.  You were born around 11.30 p.m.

The good news – within a day or two of your birth we were transported to Dellwood Maternity Home....a large Edwardian house overlooking Prospect Park.  It was the norm in those days for UK mothers of first babies to spend a week at a maternity home after giving birth.  I was a bit reluctant about it ..would have preferred to go home but that week was a life saver!  So much fun to share a large room with other new mothers and caring staff who made sure we had plenty of rest and who taught us the essentials of breast feeding comfortably and how to take care of our babies in general...changing diapers etc!  The nurses were kind and funny and the whole experience was wonderful.  So sad that such places no longer exist.  At last I was able to enjoy you and to discover that my dreams had come true after all!"

With my mom at 1 week old.

With my dad at 1 month old.

HISTORY REPEATS...

When I read my birth story, I was struck by all the similarities that it had to Lila's birth story. I, too, was induced because I had high blood pressure. After I delivered, my blood pressure dropped very low and I became very light-headed and could not sit up or hold Lila for hours and hours. She was born around 4pm in the afternoon and I was not able to attempt breastfeeding until close to midnight. The only instruction I had been given by the nurses was to breastfeed every three hours. I remember Eric and I trying to figure out how to get Lila to latch by reading a "How to Breastfeed" poster on the hospital room wall in the middle of the night.

Pretty crazy how history sometimes repeats itself, right?

THE NAME GAME

As for my name, my mom told me this:

"How we chose your name is another boring story. Sorry!  We found it browsing a book of baby names!  We both thought Francesca was pretty and not commonly heard in the U.K. so it had no negative connotations.  The only other person we knew who shared the name was (is) Francesca Annis.....a beautiful English actress.  It also paired nicely with Louise...which was chosen because Daddy’s grandmother desperately wanted us to call you Louise.  While it wasn’t our choice for a first name we thought it made a really nice second name and the choice was worth it just to see Daddy’s grandmother so happy."

So there it is, the beginning of my story.

* * *

I've mapped out an outline for The Legacy Project, and at present it looks like there will be 23 different "chapters" with this week as the first. I'll post every two weeks. 

I'm already planning out what to do with the different posts when I am done. I think I'll create a special Legacy Project book for both Lila and Logan.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP!

If you'd like to join in and write down your story as well, please do! Projects are always easier to stick with if you have company! I've started a Facebook group for the project here - please join and let's share our stories with each other there, as well as brainstorm ideas for what to do with our finished narratives.

Chapter 2 will be posted on Wednesday, September 6th. 

Now get writing! Tell me all about YOUR BEGINNING


Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.

The Legacy Project was inspired by the 52 Stories Project.