People like to tell war stories, especially when they’ve been through something hard. It is validating and liberating to speak about the pain, to break the silence. Mamas especially love to tell a good war story. Whether it’s a blood and guts tale of labour and delivery or a jaw-dropping story about the trials of breastfeeding, Mamas love to tell you they’ve been to the brink and lived to relay the details.
This makes total sense because mothering is damn hard work and birthing is pretty heroic, so it is important for these stories to be told and for space to be opened up for honesty and authenticity. Trying to figure out all the uncertainty, the not knowing, the learning on the spot in every stage of childhood and with every different child, is tough going. Giving life to these little ones is called labour for a reason.
But I wonder sometimes if in our search for authenticity and honesty if we have swung too far toward the harrowing. Not only Mamas, but my generation and possibly others, are in a period of exposing the truth, living with vulnerability and seeking to be authentic in how they present who they are and what they are going through. This is a remarkable time. A time when shame gets more of a kick to the curb as people speak openly about struggle, heartache and difficulty.
But I am worried we are missing the other side in our pendulum swing toward exposure. We have inadvertently assumed that everyone knows the good stuff and it is just the struggle we need to expose. So when I read blogs from new mothers, what I read is how hard the postpartum days are. I read about the nightmare that a 2 year old toddler can be. The stories centre on the child who won’t listen, the mother who is exhausted, the body that won’t return to its former glory post-birth.
What I don’t hear nearly as often is the transformation for the positive. The space that little life fills that you didn’t realize was empty. The joy you feel when that baby is first placed on your chest after birth. The rush of taking a baby home for the first time. The beauty of lying next to your sleeping baby and just watching their little chest rise and fall. Seeing your toddler get themselves dressed, watching your little one try something new for the first time. Laughing until you can’t breath at some weird and wonderful thing your tiny human just said to you.
But I want to hear it all. As a soon-to-be Mama, I want to hear about the struggle and the difficulties, they help me to be well prepared for the momentous transition that lies ahead of me and I also want to hear about the joy and the elation, they help me to look forward to what is coming. I want to know what it’s like to sit in between such extreme and bold emotions and to hold onto your head in the midst of it.
For me, pregnancy has been relatively easy. I haven’t struggled with morning sickness or back pain, I have been healthy and comfortable enough to keep doing most things. I don’t sleep well these days, but I sleep enough and I have the freedom to rest during the day if I need to. For the most part, I feel peaceful in my spirit, as if this is very much meant to be and my life to this point has been preparing me for it. These things feel awkward to say, because so many women struggle in pregnancy. They hate it, feeling uncomfortable, unwell and anxious. But to falsify my experience, claiming it’s been the worst 9 months of my life to fit into the Warrior Mama club is futile. So I stand in my good experience, give some gratitude to the gods and hope that the Warrior Mamas don’t hate me for it. I choose to go into delivery and postpartum hoping for a bit more of the same. Maybe it will all hit me upside the head when I get to that stage, or maybe it won’t be as awful as people say. My guess is that there will be enough goodness to savour and a lot of struggle to get through; I expect a good dose of both.
I am profoundly grateful for the Mamas who have told me both sides of the story. The ones who are boldly honest about the struggle and beautifully celebrant of the joys. I hope that as all of us seek to be authentic and honest about our experiences that we remember the necessity of speaking the whole truth, exposing both the difficulties and the joys. It’s never all struggle, even on the darkest days and being able to share both sides of the story is a gift to others and a gift to ourselves, helping us to maintain perspective, to hold onto hope and keeping all those pesky fears at bay.