Ever since I could toddle and talk, I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to hold babies even if they were nearly as big as me. I was infatuated with feeding them and changing them and wrapping them up in blankets; as I grew from tot to little girl I loved all the baby gear- the strollers and beds and infant seats and clothes and bottles and all those amazing things that come with babies.
Once I was old enough to babysit, I learned that caring for babies and children is much more involved than snuggling them with a bottle. I became somewhat adept at entertaining them and even teaching them simple lessons which, years later, blossomed into a teaching career. Looking back I see that my entire life centered on caring for children in varying avenues: from playmate to babysitter to youth leader to teacher. But was I prepared for motherhood?
As a little girl playing with baby dolls with my friend, I never pondered the nuances of motherhood. To me, being a mom meant having all the babies I could possibly want and getting to enjoy all the fun things needed to take care of those babies. Of course, maturity tempered my naïveté about the responsibilities of child rearing, but it wasn’t until I began having children of my own that I began recognizing the gravity of having souls so closely connected to mine.
In six years, I have birthed six babies and now my oldest is an avid reader and pondering thoughts of a spiritual nature. During my pregnancy with him and during his very early years, I was much like that naive little girl, thinking motherhood consisted primarily of baby schedules and baby care and finally having all the baby gear I could want. But as toddler transitioned into preschooler and preschooler into a vivacious young boy with many younger siblings the complexities of mothering unveiled before me. And now I see how much I didn’t know when I first became a mom, beginning with childbirth (or maybe even before that).
To date I have had 3 traditional hospital births and 3 home births. Our first home birth ignited my passion to learn all I could about pregnancy and childbirth. It felt like I was encountering all of it for the first time even though I had already delivered 3 babies! It was as if my body and I were only then beginning our acquaintance; after the first home birth I couldn’t stop reading and learning and continued through the second and third births (and am still reading). And with each book I read I’m able to connect my own birthing experiences. My experiences and the discoveries I have made throughout them have altered my opinion about our society’s attitude towards motherhood.
There has been a recurring theme in all of the books I’ve read, a theme which, I believe, is not isolated to childbirth alone. All of the authors have agreed in their writings that the mother’s role in motherhood is being trivialized through our society’s approach to childbirth. “Surely not!” you might say. “Look at the hospital’s elaborate birth centers and all the insistence on prenatal care.” It’s true that the trivializing is subtle; it is there just the same. In part II of this blog, I will explain how our society undermines mothers by:
- Portraying pregnancy and childbirth as conditions that must be treated and overcome.
- Making her a bystander at her own birth
- Ignoring the fourth trimester
It is my developing belief that our attitude towards pregnancy and childbirth, where the mother herself is conceived and birthed, greatly impacts the motherhood journey itself. When it is esteemed, celebrated and explored, the mother flourishes and is able to strive for her greatest potential. When it is trivialized, she questions her abilities as someone who can deliver and nurture the future.
I look forward to continuing this discussion in my next post.