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Motherhood is Always New
I was talking to a friend of mine when I was back home a few weeks ago. One of my role models, actually; a mother of six who has beautifully behaved children, glows with inner and outer beauty, and always loses her baby weight within 3 months of the birth.
I occasionally curse her under my breath when my pre-pregnancy jeans won’t fit over my post-pregnancy hips and when my wretched children burp in church while hers sit, impeccably behaved, in the front row.
When I saw her, she was sporting a new baby bump. I felt it was my duty as a midwife to inquire as to how she was doing, although I was certain that she was handling everything with her usual grace.
Boy, was I wrong. She looked at me desperately and said, “I’m really scared!” Then she proceeded to pour out a list of concerns: how is she going to take care of a baby, will she be able to handle labor, will she be able to breastfeed (she’s breastfed all 6 of her other children), is she a responsible enough person to be a mother . . .
Frankly, she sounded like a first-timer, not a veteran mother of 6.
For the first time, I saw her as a person, and not as an impossible ideal. A person who is so busy being a mother to six children that the thought of adding another infant to her life leaves her weak. A person whose smiling facade leads people to forget that she needs sympathy and support, too.
Stereotyping is too easy. It’s tempting to look at a pregnant woman who already has several children and think, “She already knows all of this; I won’t waste her time chatting about it again”. In reality, that conversation might be the only chance that this woman has to talk about her hopes and fears regarding pregnancy with someone who understands. Every pregnancy is different, and welcomes a completely unique human person into a family which must change to accommodate it.
The moment that taking care of women becomes routine for me is the moment that I should stop caring for women.