I was recently inducted into a private club. It’s not terribly exclusive, as there are only two requirements for membership: you have to be a woman, and you have to be a mother. That’s right! Its motherhood. Or, as I have been referring to it; the society of exquisite pain.
I’m not talking about physical pain – although, if we’re being honest that is definitely a factor in the beginning. The act of pushing a person out of you is not easily described. Or easy at all. It takes weeks or even months for your body to begin feeling somewhat normal again. Parts of me that were formerly toned are now a big pile of smush. Some very mysterious marks have appeared on my upper thighs. I’ve already covered breastfeeding. Parts of me still hurt! The bodily complaints range from annoying to awful, but they are still nothing compared to heartache.
Not many things have happened in my life to make me feel really passionate. I might even describe myself as having a bad attitude. For example, in high school I refused to run the mile just because I thought it was stupid and I didn’t want to. I also handed in a series of physical education worksheets blank because I thought written work for gym class was ridiculous. Okay, so maybe most of my issues were with P.E. The point is, it’s rare that I’m moved to feel deeply about something. Sure, my general temperament can be a bit fiery, but as far as really, truly caring? Not much.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I cared. There was something growing inside my body that would kill me if I didn’t do something about it. In the aftermath of disease, I had to learn everything I could about staying healthy. That was passion. When Tom and I fell in love there was a time when we both thought we might not end up together. The thought of not being with him was like a knife through my heart. That was passion.
This is all a very long-winded way of saying that I “get” something now that I never got before. Its women. Or rather, what it means to be a woman. We all know that women are very different from men. Yes, men don’t necessarily have it easy. But women! A woman’s body is capable of so many unbelievable, miraculous things. It is designed to create more people. When you become pregnant it knows exactly what to do to nurture that microscopic life and keep it safe. It knows how to help it grow. Your belly gets huge and before you know it something is kicking you from the inside. Then your body expands and contracts and stretches and works so hard to get that baby human out. Your bones MOVE. And suddenly there they are – covered in your blood, gasping for air and finding their voice. That’s when you really join the club. That moment you hold that new, warm body and realize that you love them more than you ever thought possible. That love that is so deep it hurts. That’s the pain.
The first time I saw Willow she was hardly more than a blip on a screen. A little tadpole with a heartbeat. She had only been in my womb for 6 weeks and I was looking at her beating heart. That was when my pain began. I will forever be caring for and worrying about this beautiful life that I helped create.
After sharing my experiences with motherhood so far, responses started pouring in. I heard from friend after friend – most of them mothers – who felt a connection with my story. Because it’s also their story. They’re in the club.
At first I was surprised by the information my friends volunteered. After all, Facebook is a place where you project the best possible version of your life to the world, intentionally or unintentionally. It’s easy to find yourself thinking that every other mom out there has it all together and that you are just stumbling through. I was so happy to learn that isn’t the case. In fact, I think that’s one of the best perks of membership – knowing that you’re not alone. That, and little faces like this:
You think that no one can possibly understand the physical and emotional demands of motherhood, until you remember that every other mother on the planet understands.
I am passionate about my membership in this club. I need it. I get it. It’s connected me in such an intimate way to other women. This is why it’s so incredible and so incredibly hard to be a woman – this beautiful, exquisite pain. Its helped me to know that I’m on the right track. More importantly, it’s helped me to feel something that up until now, I didn’t: Pride. Pride in my strength. Yes, strength! I don’t always feel it, but I do when I think of Alexsis. And Sue. And Sarah. And Catherine. And Katie. And Juli. And my sister. And my mother. And every other member of this heartbreaking club.