I am always interested in the ways in which women are changed by motherhood
, the power that comes from the birth process
and the variety of choices that are available. I am hoping for a revolution in the way we share our birth
experiences with one another. The only way to do this is to have honest conversations with other mothers.
Motherhood is far more interesting than we have been led to believe. I would like to live in a time where birth is respected, where motherhood is not seen as a shackle, or a convenient place for blame. Motherhood does not mash us into any predetermined mold. While some moms swear and stomp around when it suits them, others are regularly sacrificing themselves at the feet of “the good mother” image.
We all yearn to see how other women manage to shape their kids into decent people and still have time and energy left over to do things that are only for themselves. I am writing the book I wish I could find when I was faced with my first pregnancy, when I first understood the pressure we put on women. When it first became obvious that mothers are quietly expected to be the keepers of the future without ever needing to be recharged. When I noticed that just being needed was supposed to be enough to sustain us. When women would scoff when I told them I liked staying home with the kids, like I was somehow betraying womankind if I really did like to bake bread and smell baby hair.
My main interest for this project is to record the voices of women as they tell of their birth and motherhood experiences. So far I have interviewed twenty women and five men. The men are included because their voices are suspiciously absent in my research and I believe (and have irrefutable proof) that men are just as awestruck and changed by birth as women.
I started asking the women I knew what their births were like and I was stunned to learn that underneath a layer of almost boring quantifiable data, there was an entirely different and far more interesting story, mainly comprised of fleeting thoughts, new conclusions, scents, sleep deprived illusions and new roles for the whole family.
I interviewed a woman who have given birth at home and then went traveling around the country in a VW van with her husband and infant daughter, living off the land on very little money and loving every minute of it. Her husband was amazing, talked of the birth with tears in his eyes and gave me a warm thanks and genuine bear hug for asking him about his feelings.
Another woman had the most technological birth I could imagine, and planned it every step of the way, even down to sexing out the sperm and watching as the doctor lifted the baby out of an abdominal incision.
One woman chose to have a homebirth and got tangled in a doctor/midwife power struggle that ended up with the police arriving at her door to “take custody of the fetus”. All ends well, fortunately, the Mama went on to have a successful and healthy homebirth despite the doctor and his naysaying minions.
I gave birth to my daughter at home. I also gave birth to a ten-pound son, also at home, but this time in a birthing tub. He was floated into the world in a truly amazing and peaceful way. Both experiences changed and healed me. Birth taught me very important lessons about myself. It produced a high that has not worn off, it gave me power I could not have known in any other way. It gave me direction that I never had before.
Birth and motherhood have changed all of the women I have spoken too. All struggle to retain selfhood while raising decent people and sifting through the deluge of unsolicited advice and well meaning quips. They are all beautiful, funny and perfect as themselves, even though they are incredibly diverse and absolutely unique.
There are many days when I feel like I am on the brink, as though I could not possibly fit all the things I want to accomplish into a life of spills and extended nursing. Then I think about all the women who have let me into their world, allowed me a glimpse of their intimate family life, and then I relax. I know I am not alone. I know it is hard for other women too. I know that the world is full of other moms and they manage in the face of obstacles I can only imagine. We can support each other. We do this though honesty, by sharing our stories with other women. There is real power in knowing that there are a lot of others, just like us, trying to manage grace in the most graceless moments, sometimes managing, other times not, and that it is all OK. It turns out there is no good mother stamp, and that is such a relief.