Let’s start with giving birth, which is, hands down, the most badass thing I’ve ever seen. My wife has given birth three times, and all of them have been via C-section. And while I know that there is a lot of talk right now about the over use of C-sections, that’s not what I want to get at here. What I want to talk about is that a doctor cut open my wife, pulled a baby out, and then sewed her back together three times.
And each time, she handled it like a war hero, up and moving about the next day, her steps short and slow, but still moving, pressing forward, her face a mix of pain and determination to get out of the hospital and care for her new child.
I looked the first time Mel had a cesarean. I nearly passed out. I never looked again because I wasn’t strong enough to even witness it. I can’t even imagine living through it.
And please keep in mind that giving birth is the dramatic end of nine months of confused hormones, emotional instability, and throwing up. All of it just to bring a child into the world. When I think about that, I don’t fully understand why women have, for so long, been associated with weakness.
Because the fact is, having a child squeeze out from between a mother’s legs, with the tearing and blood and very real risk of the mother dying, particularly in the age when an epidural was whiskey and a stick in the mouth, should have given all men, every single one, a moment of pause.
Mothers then have to struggle to get a baby to figure out how to latch on, which seems like a skill children should be born with but aren’t. Milk fills a woman’s chest, and suddenly they become some sort of self-contained Swiss Army nutrition station that is in use every couple hours.
Watching Mel breastfeed, seeing our child need her, constantly, always tugging, attached to her, is frankly inspiring. I’ve never had someone be so dependent on me, nor will I ever because I’m not built to bring life into the world and sustain it.
Then to complicate things more, as if breastfeeding isn’t complicated enough, here in America breastfeeding in public is about as socially acceptable as public urination. I can still recall the first time my wife got a dirty look for feeding our daughter under a blanket at a restaurant. And rather than look down in shame, she just pressed forward, doing what needed to be done to sustain life, regardless of what the naysayers thought, like some sort of badass.
Throughout all this, I watched Mel’s body change. She developed a long, pink, scar above her navel that is larger than any scar on my body. And even if I did somehow get a scar that matched hers, it would never mean as much because it would represent my survival alone, and not the creation of life.
Her hips shifted, slightly, and stretch marks crept along her abdomen. Her breasts expanded, and then contracted, leaving them altered in unexpected ways. And the crazy thing is, all of this I watched happen to her, slowly, and it has made me respect and love her more because of what she was willing to go through to create the most wonderful additions to my life, my children.
But on the flip side, once all the physical torment was over, she was faced with the social pressure to look like she did before she had children, as if surviving what it takes to bring a child into the world was something unattractive and shameful, and she needed to be a mother but not look like a mother.
This is not something I ever had to deal with as a father. But I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch my wife, the mother of my children and the person I love most in this world, deal with it. And while I think the way society shames mothers for the way childbirth changes their bodies is reprehensible, watching my wife overcome extreme social pressure and become comfortable with who she is and why her body changed, showed me that she is tough as nails.
Then there are the sanctimommies, the women out there who feel the need to tear down other mothers through judgment and perfected parenting techniques, as if anything like parenting, with all it’s turning gears and variables, could ever be perfected. There is the constant doubt that a mother might just be ruining her child because they didn’t breastfeed them long enough or feed them organic food, as if that really is the deal-breaker for children.
Should I go on? I could. Do you get the idea?
Motherhood is, hands down, a collection of physical and social obstacles, and what I brought up above is not comprehensive. There is more. And I know that there are people reading this post and thinking that they will never have children.
And if you are thinking that, this post wasn’t for you.
I’m writing to the mothers who have gone through it, pressed forward, and understood the wonder of children and their worth. Because I want you to realize that I see how tough you are, and I don’t give a shit what others say, you are by far stronger than me. I see your incredible strength, and other men see it too. Trust me. Keep pressing forward. Keep being badass. Keep being tough as nails.