This past week, I spent time with a group of women, sharing the “story” of our child(ren)’s birth(s). Hubby has often asked, why do women insist on sharing these horror stories? He thinks it’s cruel to terrify new moms-to-be (which is why I don’t share all the details and try to focus on the happy ending) and makes kids feel terrible about putting their moms through so much (again, which is why I don’t share all the details and try to focus on the happy ending)!
It’s a good question, and here’s my answer: Our birth stories are our war stories.
The desire to nurture has been ingrained in us since creation. Even way, way back in the Old Testament, there have been strong women but few female warriors. Those brave women had important parts to play in their time, but most didn’t have grand adventures and exciting stories to swap with each other, or share with their children. No one was interested in remembering that one time they kept the home fires burning while Hubby rode off to war!
As little girls, my friends and I had 3 milestones for our Barbies: Fall in love, Get Married. Have Babies. Sometimes there was a career in there too. And lots of parties. We weren’t caught up in gender stereotypes or interested in breaking glass ceilings. We knew we could do anything we wanted and so could our Barbies, and our Barbies wanted to have a family. For many women, having a family is a milestone in life. Elizabeth Stone said “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” It’s the day we enlisted in an “army”, to join the ranks of the women who have gone before us. We are prepared to sacrifice and to fight on behalf of our offspring. Sharing war stories bonds us as moms. We instantly become part of a world-wide community that bridges language and culture in an extraordinary way.
Our kids are living, breathing miracles of complexity far beyond anything we can imagine. They are also God’s way of reminding us that there is hope for the future. And who doesn’t need a little hope? I survived that battle; I can survive the others.
Do not mistake her gentle and quiet spirit for weakness.
She is a mighty warrior princess, Super-Mom.
We re-tell them because it was the most terrifying, most painful, most exhilarating experience of our lives. Paragliding in the Alps, swimming with sharks, or in my case, running in Mud Hero, are pretty pale in comparison to the physical, emotional and psychological effort it took to bring that child into the world and take its first breath. Sharing our story gives us a sense that we had a part to play in a greater plan, beyond the home fires and the battle lines.
As much as the birth of a baby is a defining moment in any person’s life, giving birth is something uniquely female. While you supported us by staring at the floor (or in some cases, kissing it), willing with us for a safe end and a grand beginning, we still had to do this thing alone. It is our crowning achievement, and one of the grandest highlight our human hearts will ever experience in life’s journey.
And finally, it makes me think about my own mother, and grandmothers, and all the women who came before me. As a child I loved hearing Mom tell her story, because it entwined with my story. She loved me so much and willingly went through all that for me, even before she held me in her arms or saw me take my first breath.
Her heart became my heart. Her legacy became my legacy. I love being a Mom. Someday, no one will remember that my favourite colour was pink or that I loved the smell of moist earth after the rain. I will become a name that appears in a long list of other names – Jenn, mother to Big Guy and Little Guy, Wife to Hubby. So if another Mom wants to swap war stories about the day our babies were born, then I’m in!
Happy Mother’s Day!