Birth changed you. It transformed you. It turned you upside down and inside out and sent you spiraling into foreign territory; certainly a land of many sorrows, a place of shadowy fear, a continent of grief and unspeakable longing for that which has been lost or misplaced.
You are not the woman, nor the mother, that you were before either of your powerful and deeply raw births.
But you are not damaged. To say this would imply that your value and usefulness has been reduced. And the way that your healing spills forth unto your fingers, which fall onto keys, which form words from symbols that give Goodness and Hope to the world…proves you are useful. Your value is inherent (priceless) and increases with each kiss onto the brow of your children.
The body that grew and birthed your babies is the same body that encased your son in the purest of mamalove as he drew his last breath. It is the same body that knows how to tuck the covers up around a chin for the fifth time in one night, how to stir the food that brews in the pot to feed a family’s belly, how to scoop up a child in the midst of a meltdown or an owie, how to open one eye as the first step in making it through one more day, how to nourish a baby from your breast, and how to cling to your lover – in a fit of passion or despair – as if it’s the only thing that matters in the world.
But you certainly are Good. Good in the way that your babies are and were and will always be. Good in the way dark chocolate pieces break jagged from the bar and melt onto your tongue like raindrops on an open blossom. Good in the way that you emerged, fresh from the nest of your very own mama. Good in the way the soft light surrounds the trees, regardless of season. Good even in the way the brine of your tears leaves both a path of remembrance upon your cheeks and cleanses the weariest parts of your heart.
Good in the way that any woman who has ever birthed – via the red door of her belly or the wide opening in her Center – is. For no two wombs compete in this realm for “Best Birth”. In this journey of birth, no winners prevail, no underdogs are bet upon, no comparisons are made. No one crosses the line more emboldened, empowered, or impressive than another. There are no mamas perched atop a stepped stand wearing tube socks and a striped running suit with Birthing Medals around their necks.
Our medals of honor are in our scars, our tiger stripes, our marks, and tags and sags. Our medals are the small coves carved from the river of tears that run through our hearts. Or from the way that a memory or a toothless smile can fill that cove with the warm, white glow of peace. And we honor one another by standing in a circle of sisterhood; padded hip to padded hip, shoulder to shoulder where babes have rested their heads. We cheer with silent hugs, with knowing eyes, and smiles whose corners turn down slightly in quivering acknowledgement of something profound.
Because really, if birthing were an athletic event, it would most certainly be a team sport; one in which women are connected through the natural, ancient mysteries of our bodies and the thankful intervention of medicine when it’s needed. And in team sports, when one athlete participates, they are all strengthened like an extra line of silk on a spider’s web. Together, our orb is woven: with each push within the swirling water of a birth tub, each breath upon the readied bed within the hospital, each supplication to the skies before we are hushed into the dream-sleep darkness of a birth supplemented with the steady hands of a surgeon.
Perhaps birth isn’t so much to “give life” as it is to “give into life”, life in every form. Sometimes that means that we birth in order bring life, in order to save life, or in order to release life. You have bravely done all three. Who are we to decide which cause and path is nobler?
The importance lies not in the manner and method of how we birth our babies, but rather how we nurture them – in body and in spirit – once they arrive. I know for a fact that your body (and heart) has accomplished this task with the soft grace of the Swan, the wisdom call of the Owl, and the bellowing strength of the Lioness.
But if it is your heart you speak of that has been damaged, then I do not arrogantly presume to know what words I could construct that may bring comfort. Because I honor the pliability of the heart, the knowledge that it can be broken open easily and that healing isn’t as swift as the breaking. I sit in silence as your words well into water within my eyes, finally flowing forth as this body attempts to heal for yours across the rivers, and miles, and the border. Because there is a part of me, hidden far inside the roots of my mamahood, that reserves its very presence for the unfathomable chance that I may one day walk in your shoes.
Because in that space, there exists no language.