I’ve been known to try to fit a square story into a round metaphor, and I wondered whether the Women’s History Month guest posts would really be nest-making.
Today’s post is by the beautiful Streetlights Imagination.
So far, so good.
There is an undeniable sense of power in being a woman, and I love it. I love my curves. I love my softness. I love the differences between a man and me. I celebrate not just womanhood, but my own individual womanhood. I don’t see my gender as a political weapon or a social statement. I see it as beautiful and there is something awe-inspiring in its beauty.
Of course, I don’t mean ‘beautiful’ in any petty vain way. I mean beautiful in all its mechanisms, in how it works within itself – there is nothing more empowering, more inspiring, than a woman’s body and knowing that it has the capacity to create, carry, and nurture life. Except for when it won’t and it doesn’t and it somehow becomes a betrayal to its very life’s purpose.
All I had ever wanted to be was a mother. Life goals and achievements had come too easily for me. I obtained degrees and higher degrees without much worry or stress. I made the grades necessary in school to be on various deans’ lists and worked hard for the things I needed to work hard to obtain. I advanced in my career as far as I cared to. I had assumed that conception and pregnancy would come easily as well. I had taken it all for granted.
I was so naïve to think all I had to do was have sex with my husband.
It was more than that. It took us a few short years to have our son, and even in that experience I was foolish enough to think it was a temporary set back in my dreams of motherhood. It was such a false blanket of security I wrapped myself in – stubbornness and pride. My body, my woman’s body, wouldn’t fail me a second time, or third, or fourth. This is what my body was for, after all. I loved that pregnancy, but I was busy working and going to school for another degree. I can’t remember all the minute details of a first pregnancy as many women can. I primarily remember exhaustion; perhaps that is all that a pregnancy entails.
And yet, when it was time for my husband and I to approach our second baby – or “trying” as people call it, I realized that all the respect I had for my body was misguided. Where was the easier conception I thought I would have? I thought I deserved? I would stare at my naked self in the bathroom mirror and where I once saw something I marveled at I saw a traitor. My body was no longer my own; it was an enemy. And I had never felt more powerless. I could no longer convince myself that it would be just a couple years like my last child, and I began to reconcile myself to being a mother to one.
My heart ached. I had fallen out of love with my body and with being a woman. I mothered my son and settled into a lifetime career. We still tried to conceive; we still hoped that it would “work”. Not once did my husband ever blame me. Every time I blamed myself. Before we knew it ten years had passed.
In those ten years I had slowly begun to learn my body again. I would lie in bed and listen to its whispers, feeling its hum inside my core. I would no longer stare in bewilderment in the mirror or sometimes tears; the old feelings of inspiration and awe were coming back.
I began wearing eyeliner again.
And I lost a baby. I had barely begun to revel in the pregnancy when the baby was gone again. The life I cherished within me vanished in a night over a series of contractions that rolled through my body. I thought the sun would never rise again. And yet it was audacious enough to do so the next morning.
I was back staring at my body in the mirror, tracing its lines and curves with my fingers. Where was the source of its power? Why wasn’t it working, whatever it was? I’d hold my hands against my abdomen, flat after too many years of no child, and now empty. It felt empty. I held my hands against my heart, feeling the palpitations. Vibrancy.
When we discovered our next pregnancy all I wanted to do was hold my hands against my belly as if cradling the child. My body felt electric and each breath I took was a cognitive exploration of the world. The child growing inside me empowered me to find my own sense of power and strength pulsating again.
I found out I was having a little girl on March 8th – International Day of the Woman. The fetal specialist confirmed the gender as tears flowed freely. My baby girl bounced around in the womb, pointing her finger at us, and we could even see her smile. Ours was the only girl to be ultrasounded on that day. And she stands alone even now – eight months after her birth. Born one month early and after I came close to being lost before delivery, the doctor held her up for me to see before she was taken to NICU. This little girl, my vibrant daughter, looked straight at me and smiled. She hasn’t stopped since.
Motherhood has been the most powerful form of my womanhood. I have never seen my body more beautiful then now with all its scars and stretch marks. I love the stories they tell and the new curves in my form. Would I still feel empowered as a woman without my children? I believe so, though in different ways. I have gained identity through education, career and other forms of self-fulfillment. However, I was forced to learn more about myself through becoming a mother. I had to learn patience for and with myself. I learned a different kind of self-respect. I had to learn to trust others and be humble. Most importantly, perhaps, I had to learn that I couldn’t hold burdens in my own pockets. The greatest source of power is overcoming your own weakness.
My children are sleeping as I write this, one in his room and one right beside me. The emotion swells inside me as I think of them growing up and becoming who they are meant to be. My son, who we discovered growing inside me at the start of spring, and my daughter, who was the only girl on International Day of the Woman: My heartbeats, these little ones, and with each beat I become a stronger woman.
Let it always be known that I chose joy over despair, family over the world, and to fight when it mattered. Welcome to me.–Streetlights Imagination