Women and Babies

not alone

Making babies is a right of passage for a woman. In past lives we would have gathered together around the birth of a new child. Women coming together to recognise the incredible social and biological transformation that takes place, not in the birth of the child, but in the birth of the mother. It’s a spectacular shift.

Things are different now. We don’t gather together. We tend to judge instead of celebrate. We buy things… lots of things… for new babies. But what we don’t offer is recognition. Support. To the mother. And at the end of the day, who needs all of these pastel things anyway?

I’ve been thinking a lot about pregnancy and babies. It is coming very closeto the time that we I had planned to start trying for a second child. Planning… not knowing what was just around the bend for my family. I was planning the growth of our family, while he was dismantling it. Seems somewhat silly now. I still have the list of prospective names tucked in my desk drawer. Names for a baby that I was dreaming of. A baby that doesn’t exist. A baby that isn’t mine. But I can’t throw it out. I can't let go.

After a year or so people generally start asking a new mother, new parents, when they plan to have another. And another. From what I have gathered from my enormous birth club community is that after the first year women are in one of two camps. The I do not want another baby (right now) camp, or I desperately need another baby (right now) camp. There isn’t too much in between. Women become jealous and sad when other women get pregnant. They get annoyed or upset that they  feel that they have to justify their desire to push for career or other goals instead of another child.I sit pretty firmly in the I’d like another baby (right now) camp. Which is frustrating… because it’s not an option. And although I know that it’s silly and it’s illogical and it’s out-of-my-hands right now, and although I am extraordinarily grateful (and exhausted by) the little person I already have. I can’t help but let my thoughts stray to those tiny fingers and toes. To the bulging belly and the whispers of promises in the night. The imaginings of face and the incredible unbelievable rush that is that very first moment together. And then feel a little pang of sadness. A little pang that comes from grieving a child that doesn’t even exist yet, from a relationship that has fallen apart.

I know the logic. And it’s how I talk myself down from these feelings every time they creep in. Every time they wrap their little hands around my heart for one good, hard squeeze. I talk myself down with logic. But the feeling is still there.Lurking behind closed doors. Waiting in the shadows, ready to pounce.

What is it? Where does it come from? Hormones? Probably. Isn’t that the age old excuse for irrational female behaviour (note the extent this concept is dripping in sarcasm, can’t stand anything more than being called an irrational woman, emotional woman… like my sex is an insult – but that’s another story)? Oh it's just those pesky hormones again... or is it more than that? (It's definitely more than that)

As women I think we are isolating ourselves by not talking about these things. One of the many silences… one of the forbidden topics. These emotions, these feelings of yearning and need and pain and loss and love and joy and… and… and… surrounding childbirth both past, present and future. Surrounding pregnancy and loss and relationships. They are universal (are they not?). They are part of the female experience. Part of who we are. Part of our physiology. Are they not? Where is our voice to speak up and say, Hey, no I don’t want another baby, get off my back. Or, Yes, desperately, I feel like I’m not done… but it’s not possible right now. Instead of removing ourselves from each other to deal with our jealousy and our grief. Why do we not band together? Together we say, I am jealous of your pregnancy and I am also so absolutely, wonderfully, completely over-the-moon joyful for you at the same time.Together we say, I feel your pain. I feel your joy. I feel your comfort. I feel your passion. Together.

We can feel jealousy and happiness at the same time and not be ashamed to admit it. We can say, I want what you have, without being bitter or resentful. We can feel joy and sadness and grief together without having to hide. Can we not?

What has happened to our red tent? What has happened to our rite of passage and our village? We used to give birth surrounded by people we knew, women with strong hands and minds and love. Now we give birth with strangers. We return home to our homes. Alone. With no time with which to transform from woman to mother. We return home where we have many gadgets and pretty little things that are told us will make our lives as a mother "easier"... We have bouncers and rockers and seats to put our baby in when our arms get tired. Monitors to watch over our baby when they sleep. Flashing toys and dancing mats to entertain them. So many gadgets that we are told we need. Gadgets that do what a community would do, to hold, and watch, and play with our infant so we can have a moment with ourselves. So many gadgets that say they help, but really, just encourage us to be alone.

And when we come to some of the biggest emotions, perhaps even illogical emotions, we turn inwards. Solitary. Silenced. Afraid that what we feel could be judged as ungrateful, or irrational, or ridiculous. So we turn inward. Leaving us alone.

There is nothing simple about women and babies. The link between the mother who bares a child and every mother who has ever born a child is undeniable. We are many and varied and different. But we are also one.

Even when it feels like it, you are not alone. I am not alone.

We are not alone.

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