May I suggest something radical?
There are as many right ways to be a woman as there are women.
And there are as many right ways to be a mother as there are mothers.
I was a really young mom, by current societal standards. I had three kids by the time I was 28 years old. I had several miscarriages before I was able to carry a pregnancy to term, so when I gave birth to twins at 26 years old, it was already my third or fourth pregnancy. One of my miscarriages happened while I was out of the country, working at an orphanage in Guatemala. I bled my baby out on an airplane flying back to the States and then continued to hemorrhage at home until my partner called an ambulance and the paramedics picked me up off of the bathroom floor. I wept for hours until a kind anesthesiologist convinced me to take deep breaths so they could knock me out and scrape my uterus clean. When I later found out I was pregnant with twins, my first thought was “Shit. Now I have to lose two babies.” I ended up carrying those babies to 40 full weeks gestation and gave birth to healthy NINE and EIGHT pound twins via C-Section. Talk about a tough initiation into motherhood. It wasn’t pretty. But alas, I had another baby 2 years later (vaginally). He was a….surprise :)
Kara came to motherhood by way of fertility treatments. Every fertility treatment mama knows the absolute and devastating heartbreak getting your period month after month can be. It usually involved tissues and binge eating chocolate on the bathroom floor. When I finally decided to seek fertility treatment, there was a heavy feeling of guilt...like I would be trying to trick my body into doing something that it didn’t naturally want to do. Even after becoming pregnant after many months of treatments, it felt like some sort of joke...like the universe was making me a “fake” mom. Like it wasn’t meant to be naturally for me, so I forced it. Motherhood did not come to me when I became pregnant, and not even at the moment of birth. Motherhood began when I looked into my son’s eyes and saw myself in them. As he grows I see less and less of myself and more of a brand new, spectacular human that I had a part in making. What an honor.
Sarah came to motherhood after a fierce battle with cancer at 21. When I was diagnosed with cancer I was almost done with my first semester of senior year of college in Washington DC. My world changed overnight and I was rushed home to Syracuse to start treatment. When I finally met with my oncologist he shared with me that I’d be losing my hair. I remember so clearly looking back at him and saying with my sassy cynical tone, “Yeah, I’ve seen a St. Jude commercial- what about being a mom? I’ve always wanted to have kids”. He was puzzled, “Why, nobody’s ever mentioned that before, Sarah”. (Keeping in mind most of his patient population was geriatric) Thankfully he got me in with the wonderful Dr. Rob Kiltz of CNY Fertility that day and we were able to do fertility preservation and delay treatment by 1 month. I was given my life’s greatest gift. I also was put into a medically induced menopause, which honestly was just as bad as the chemo. The years between finishing chemo and getting married my husband and I spent hours in MANY different OBGYN offices hearing that I may not be able to conceive on my own and that time was of the essence. So we started trying soon after our wedding and to our great delight we conceived. All that medically induced menopause bologna I went through worked, it preserved my ovarian function. Because I spent nearly a decade worrying about my own ability to conceive and carry a baby, motherhood and my babies have really been blissful for me. (Most of the time ;))
Claire was overtaken with the insane biological urge to make another human at the relatively young (for today's standards) age of 25. My partner and I weren’t married, we weren’t done with grad school, we didn’t live together, we didn't even live in the same city at the time. We also didn’t have a particularly solid conversation about conceiving a baby at that exact time in our lives. When I think back to the overwhelming need I had to make a baby, it is clear to me how human beings have spread across the earth over the last two hundred thousand years. My family thought we were crazy to have a baby at that time, my partners family thought he was crazy, and sometimes we felt a little crazy. Luckily, I found another brave risk taker to tackle life with, and we have gone through the most amazing transformation that is becoming parents. Now three kids in, we are well seasoned in this work. We appreciate the small moments with baby number three because we know how fleeting they are. The most profound thing motherhood has given me is a vast sense of appreciation for the beautiful small moments that come with having children. It is all heart wrenching, and utterly breathtaking at the same time.
These are just our stories. Every single story is unique in its emotionality, physicality, spirituality, and circumstances. There’s no right way to enter parenthood and there’s no right way to DO parenthood.
When we support women in labor, we come into their space with zero opinions on how it should go. We have no attachment to any outcome other than it being a positive experience for the birthing person and partner. What if we treated motherhood the same way? What if we stopped making judgments about what other women are doing and stop labeling it “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong”. What if we just fiercely and irrevocably committed to supporting other women and telling them they’re amazing, strong, capable, enough? Women need to hear those words from their partners, friends, moms, dads, mothers-in-law, bosses, and even their kids when they are able. I’m convinced that behind every great kid, there’s a mom who’s certain she’s doing it all wrong, messing it all up. As doulas, we know first hand that women supporting women is nothing short of a revolution. It changes everything. What if we supported women in motherhood the other 364 days of the year? What would that look like?
The point is...nobody’s doing it right. Everybody’s doing it right. “Right” is a construct. Let’s knock that shit down. Let’s remind moms daily that they’re doing a great job. Let’s buy them coffee, leave them notes, tell her she made a great choice to give her kids tablets and hide in the closet while eating chocolate! Let’s not expect them to carry all of the emotional burden of a household, or to EVER lose “that baby weight”, let’s give them some friggin time off. Let’s maybe even not expect them to spend Mother’s Day with their kids!! There’s a blasphemous thought that has only been wished by EVERY MOM EVER!
Women are warriors. We walk our own paths. But whether we’re built to be trail runners or to army crawl our way down those paths, we need support. We need to be told that we’re doing it the right way for US.
Happy Mother’s Day to every woman with biological children, heart children, children who are no longer earthside, and children who still live inside a wish deep in your soul. You are all right. You are all capable. You are all perfect. Each of us is every woman and we should be damn proud of ourselves.