I had a baby 35 years ago on this day. I remember those moments like they were yesterday. I remember the first contractions I had coming back from getting haircuts on St Patrick's day, thinking that maybe today would be the day. Having had such a long first labor I was determined to ignore this 2nd labor. Then while watching Tom Selleck on Magnum PI that night I knew that this had become "real" labor and was not going away, and it was time to make the hour trip to Spokane to go to the birth center where I had given birth to my first daughter not quite 2 years before. The trip was horrible with contractions getting so close I could barely hold onto my seat and relax with them. I remember sitting and waiting in the parking lot for the birth center staff to meet us and let us in. I could hear the St Paddy's Night revelers yelling and honking as they drove up and down the street. It wasn't much over an hour after arriving and just after midnight that I caught up my fresh new baby boy in my arms and smelled his deliciousness.
We know that women remember giving birth like it was just yesterday, because when you meet a woman who has had a baby she wants to tell her birth story to whoever will listen, no matter how old she is and how long ago it was. We can thank the work of women like Penny Simkin, who have validated the importance of women's birth memories, by using research studies and science to "prove" that women acutely remember their birth experiences for the remainder of their lives. I am not sure why we needed to prove it to anyone. I think the medical providers we were trying to convince that birth should be more humane, because we acutely remember the experience, never fully got the message in a way that changed anything. Maybe it did and I am jaded, but I am convinced that if women lived forever we would always remember giving birth and we would endeavor to find other humans who are willing to listen to our stories.
Women are such amazing beings in so many ways, but that we have the capacity to grow another human in our bodies, sometimes several at the same time, and even do it multiple times, makes us distinctly incredible. Do you ever think about this like I do? Sometimes I will take a pause in my life and really let myself think about all that it takes to grow a baby. I do this knowing how easy it is to take this fact for granted. We are seriously some robust bad asses that we can do this work. Our bodies can take our egg and a donation of a sperm, whether lovingly donated or otherwise, and facilitate the egg and sperm coming together to form an entity that our bodies assist growing into another human that we don't reject. We provide it with hormones and nutrients to nurture its growth even to our nutritional detriment, and more often than not we find ourselves sending it warm loving thoughts that we are so happy they are in our body growing. This is in spite of the fact that they are in reality a little parasitic interloper that causes drastic changes to us, physically and emotionally, to our lives in general and forever, and ultimately brings changes all our relationships we have ever had before they came into our life (body).
Do you take time to tell yourself and your body that you are a fucking bad ass - in every way? If you don't have that wonderfully thoughtful and communicative baby daddy in your life that tells you how inspiring you are and what a beautiful human you are for having grown your baby in your body, do you take the time out of your busy life to appreciate yourself? Do you feel acknowledged, seen and heard, for all you have done for your family, by your child(ren) and the man who is your partner or the sperm donor of your baby(ies)? You may not feel appreciated. More often than not women don't seem to hear the affirmations they long for and rightly deserve for the bad ass work they do. I hear a few men describe how inspired they are by what their partner or the mother of their child(ren) did in giving birth, but not a lot of them, and certainly few once many years have elapsed post birth. I suppose in many ways men can't relate to what women go through to give birth. I mean really - how can they? Maybe they think they have told us, but somehow we can't hear what they are trying to say.
I recently experienced this verbal expression of admiration, not even really about my giving birth, but it made me think of it. For that kind of care and admiration of myself and my vessel my internal welling up of an emotional response was that I would have grown that person all the babies they ever wanted. That was a huge amount of unexpected emotion, but if you know me you know that I feel things intensely. Frankly I thought it was a weird response, even for me. The thought of ever having another baby is big "hell no" for me. Obviously I CAN'T have another baby, but even before I hit the "I can't" have another baby stage of life I had reached the "hell no I don't want to be pregnant ever again" space. However, this person's appreciation for me drew out this longing to be able to give them something immense, the biggest gift I could create from myself - a baby, another human. As I have mused on this I can see that the gift would ultimately have been for me as well, because I knew this person would be a wonderful labor companion, would pour out love and affection, nurture and support me the way all women want to feel cared for during labor and few receive except from the women in their lives. That is why the go-to feeling in my heart was that I would give them all the babies they ever wanted. I know my response was surprising to him and honestly it was to me too. But we as women and the bodies we inhabit, are longing for this type of care that women have been taught and perhaps more innately give one another.
Men are different creatures than women. We all get that. If we are honest we don't expect them to be like us, nor do we even want them to be. One thing I have learned over the last two years is to appreciate and admire the differences and not have expectations that anything needs to or should change. However, I have had the opportunity to see beyond the immature men, the fairy tale romance novels , TV and movies we watch that teach us what we should believe normal is, and what we should desire. Frankly, we all really understand that this immature bad-boy will never be fixed by our love. They will only continue to hurt us and themselves over and over again. Instead, the good man, the authentic and real man, the communicative caring and nurturing man gets left unacknowledged for the gem that he is. Let's admire these men that we know. Let's use him as the model to hold up to our children and the young people in our lives. This is who we want our daughters to partner with and our sons to be. He is who our stories and movies should lift up, the man who doesn't need to be fixed, the man who has done the work to have his shit together and can be a supportive partner and lover that we can support and love in return, without it turning into a confusing angry mess on a regular basis.
In the meantime let's do our work. Let's be the women a man like this can be attracted to. Let's not play games and pretend. Let's not want the bad-boy man and make the good man feel unappreciated. Let's say what and who we want and be willing to wait until we find them, because they do exist. Let's love each other. Let's make room for each other. Let's be the change we want to see in relationships and applaud the younger generations that are more often rejecting the bad-boy persona. We should feel encouraged that the younger men, the up and coming men, our sons and the sons of our friends are seeing the importance of sharing and giving and nurturing. Good job to us for being the mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and women who see the truth and are teaching the men in our lives what it can mean to really love a woman and love your children and love your community and tribe.
35 years ago today I gave birth to a baby. I gave birth to my first man child. I ultimately gave birth to a man. I took that work seriously. I take it more seriously than ever today. This is big work we do as women, as mothers as wise women and healers in our families. We grow men. A few years ago I wasn't sure how I felt about men. I didn't understand them and if it was possible for me to relate differently to them than I had for the previous half century. My boys had become men and I knew I loved them, but beyond that I was unsure. I have taken this opportunity to grow to understand men better today. I gave myself time to get to know them and to see where the culture at large had let them down too. I can say that as I love myself and love women I also know I love them. I love men. In the end I believe I must love them if I am truly to love myself and to love women. We can't only love half of ourselves and truly be whole. Let's keep working at loving ourselves and each other. That's my goal today. Happy Birth Day to me and the little man I grew in my body, who left some of his cells behind inside me, and has grown-up into a beautiful inspiring man. I have been changed forever.