The title may be a bit misleading. While actually giving birth to my daughter I didn’t have a lot of time to ruminate on the finer points of motherhood. I was decidedly NOT philosophizing. But afterward, right around Mother’s Day that year when someone asked me what qualities I thought embodied motherhood, my mind went immediately to that day, those women, and the powerful qualities I watched them exemplify.
My ladies: One my mid-wife Gail, who because I had to go to the hospital instead of give birth at home as hoped, ended up in the role of my doula during the birth. Two, my good friend Megan, who woke up in her bed right around the time my water was breaking in my own bed and “spontaneously” started calculating what she would need to pack in her bag in order to join me at the birth. And who then, upon receiving my phone call 30 minutes later, got in her car and drove three hours to join me at the hospital.
This is what they taught me about what I consider among the most powerful embodiments of mothering.
It includes an indescribable depth of love which also has, embedded within it, a profound message of “I have confidence in you.”
Gail exuded love. And I mean that. It was oozing out of her every pore. It was shining from her eyes as she looked at me. But more than that, every time I looked up at her I saw etched on her face the dual messages—I love you AND I have absolute confidence in your ability to do this. This probably goes without saying but giving birth is HARD. It’s not like just walking down the road or something. It’s aduous. It taxes every bit of strength and surrender you have in your being—and it’s messy. Totally messy. Like weird grunting and bloody messy. During this whole untidy process, my mid-wife would look at me with so much love. Her confidence in me shone in her eyes. Looking at her face I could feel her adoring every part of me, (even the gushing messy parts) and the strength and courage that I was exemplifying. Her presence said, “You got this Love” with every encouraging nod.
To me watching someone— with love —go through even the hard and messy parts of life with a confidence in your own being and comportment toward them that says, “You can do this (no matter how hard it is)” is an embodiment of the best mothering. Because life does have trials for sure. And your kids will go through them. And sometimes it feels dark, uncomfortable, or painful. But it is going to those depths that gets you to the other side.
In my mind’s eye I can still see Gail’s tearfully joyous eyes shining at me—pure love pouring out— when my daughter was born. I had made it through the journey to the anticipated outcome, just like she knew I would. And of course, what I produced, a happy healthy baby girl, was a miracle in itself.
No bullshit honesty, upon request, in an effort to help you accomplish your goal.
Megan gave me this. Personally, I consider Megan a birth goddess. She’s had three babies at home in the water, totally un-medicated. I loved that she’s had that privilege and I wanted her and that vibe in the room with me that day.
I was sitting in the bathtub in the crux of labor. I had my eyes closed but during every contraction my mind was going nutz-o with the intensity of the pain. I turned to her and said, “I need help.”
What I was hoping for was some trick that I could use to tell my mind that the pain was bearable. Millions of women have done this before, so I knew that it was. I wanted something like, “With every contraction your baby is coming closer.” What she said was, “Open. Open. Open.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear—but it was the best advice. When asked, in the moment of my need, she responded with truth and foresight offering what she knew would be the absolute best way for me to accomplish my task. I highly value honesty. There was no sugar coating—“It’s going to be okay honey.” Instead she led me right into the heart of the matter and showed me how to do it. No tricks. Just straight forward truth as she knew it had to be done.
Fierce warrior strength and protection the moment it’s needed.
At another point in my labor the “doctor” (who was really a doctor in training because I was at a teaching hospital– I tell the full story of this ludicrousness here.) was trying to get me to do something. I don’t remember now what it was. But when she assessed that I might not be willing to do whatever funny test she was asking of me, she started to launch into a diatribe of everything that could possibly be wrong with the birth if I didn’t comply. She was trying to tell me what she knew from her textbook. But she was also trying to scare me into doing what she wanted.
The moment the “doctor” started to launch into her list, my girlfriend cut her off mid-sentence.
“No.” she said strongly. “That kind of talk has no place in a birthing room. You set the tone with your words. Do not go there.”
The “doctor” gaped and shut her mouth.
In that moment Megan was a fierce warrior. She stepped in between the person she loved and the other without thought –providing a shield. She protected me, without apology, the moment it was needed.
Altogether those moments embody for me some of the best of what it means to mother well. And what I strive to embody with my own children. Motherhood to me means you are soft and nurturing, and you provide support and love—a launching pad or a landing place that your babes know is there for them as they navigate the (sometimes hard) trials of life. It’s a confidence in your being that tells them you know that they are capable. And it’s a purity of love that shines through during the process. You’re also honest and authentic. You speak what is true for you, teaching them by your example that it is safe to be themselves, stay true to their vision and to say what they deem important. And when it is needed, without hesitation, you draw upon your own strength and rely upon the warrior goddess inside who knows exactly the right moment to step out and provide protection. And does so without hesitation or apology.
When I finished giving birth to my daughter I remember leaning into my mid-wife and saying, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” She smiled at me, nodding with tears in her eyes, and said, “Yes. Yes you could have.”
Maybe so, but thank god I didn’t have to.
All my love,
What about you? What is the embodiment of motherhood to you?How would you answer that question?