I’ve often said I celebrate Mother’s Day differently now that I’m a mother myself. Today, I’m glad I have this amazing piece to feature here, because, let’s face it, intense, constant pain doesn’t go well with writing amazing pieces. At least not for me. So without further ado, here’s a tribute to Mother’s Day from Stephen Larriva:
I was standing in line at the supermarket. Behind me in the line was a mother with her two teenage children: a boy about 13 and a girl maybe 15. The boy was sulking, arguing with his mom about some item that he wanted her to purchase for him. The girl was feverishly texting and at the same time nagging her mother to let her go to a party. Words like a dumb and old-fashioned were being used repeatedly on the poor woman. Everyone who was standing in line became increasingly uncomfortable with the way these two teens were treating their mother. I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned around and looked at them squarely in the eyes and said “This woman (pointing at their mother) at great personal expense,” I paused for affect “Pushed you both out of her vagina. Your arguments are invalid.” There was silence. An elderly gentleman stifled a cough. The cashier cleared his throat. Then laughter started and spontaneous applause. The old man slapped me on the back the tears streaming down his face in laughter. The cashier whispered in awe “Dude, you’re totally like, my hero.”
Then I woke up.
While it is highly unlikely I would ever actually do this in real life. (I admit it is fun to think about) it really got me thinking about how much we take for granted the tricky job of motherhood. Perhaps because women have been doing the difficult job of motherhood for thousands of years with such amazing grace and breathtaking finesse it’s easy to forget how hard it actually is.
For starters, just being a woman difficult – and not just metaphorically or historically, although both of those are very valid point in cases of how difficult it is to be a woman. The just the physical transition that a woman must endure to become a mother is mind bending.
I’m the first to admit that, as a man, I’m about as qualified to discuss this subject as an auto mechanic who has never owned a car. But I have assisted in a few births (and by assisting, I mean watched) and once delivered a baby when the midwife didn’t show up on time. (I’m still extremely proud of myself for not fainting.) I also have attended a Lamaze class as well as having repeatedly viewed all the drawings in the very end of the “144 basic book” during my teen years.
For those of you who may have missed sixth grade Sex Ed – and by missed I am specifically referring all us guys who actually attended the class but at first mention of the word ‘vulva’ started giggling like Japanese school girls in the back of the classroom and never heard another word that the teacher said. You can imagine my shock when I attended my first Lamaze class (which is basically sixth grade Sex Ed while you sit on the floor) where it was all re-explained with the use of flash cards and a video of a birth starring two completely nude and surprisingly hairy individuals. For those of you who may have missed Lamaze class I will do my best to recount what I learned.
First I would like you to take a deep breath, in through the nose and exhaled slowly out your mouth, as we take a moment to talk about the uterus.
The uterus is described in medical textbooks to be the basic size and shape of an inverted pear, a statement that uteruses worldwide resent immensely. In the months that follow conception, this little ball of inter woven muscle will increase its size by about 600%. After nine months the uterus starts to figure that looking like an inverted pear may not be so bad after all. So in a matter of hours it contracts, causing the cervix to dilate and forcibly expelling a fully formed human. Men cannot experience this. And that is a good thing. For if we could, the human race surely would have died out long ago. Here is a link for a video of 2 men who gave it a try. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A44oEcmDn1c . It is interesting to note that these guys simply had electrodes stuck to their stomach muscles so it was the equivalent of a couple hundred sit-ups. Not exactly the same as a disgruntled baby expelling uterus, but I feel they deserve a thumbs up for the noble attempt. While we’re on the subject things that women have that men don’t, let’s take a moment to talk about:
Ovaries are about the size of your thumb and are considered by the medical community the practical jokesters of the female anatomy. When they are not busy producing copious amounts of estrogen they take turns producing eggs. For reasons that science has yet to explain ovaries somehow have been left with the impression that it is one of their responsibilities to influence the woman’s behavior. For the most part they are fairly well organized. For example, one may take full responsibility for producing the acquiring new shoes hormone, while the other focuses effort on chocolate acquisition. Normally this works fairly well. Until a woman becomes pregnant. This upsets their schedule of egg making and throws the rest of the little ovaries planning totally out the window causing them to rebel and retaliate by making the woman’s feet swell so that she cannot wear shoes and forcing her to crave strange things like Marmite flavored gummy bears or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.
I could go on and on because as I understand it there is at least a dozen other things that happen in a woman’s body when she becomes pregnant but I can’t remember right now because at some point in the presentation the Lamaze instructor said the word “vulva”.
Here’s the part where it gets really crazy. Pregnancy and birth is the easy part! That’s right the EASY part! Because after you have a baby it becomes your responsibility to actually care for the child.
How mothers do it is a mystery to me. Sleepless nights and poopie diapers, colicky babies and ear aches. Colds and coughs, tummy bugs and projectile vomiting, scraped knees and visits to the emergency room. Potty training and teaching to read. Meals cooked, dishes washed, mountains of laundry folded, of hundreds ouchies bandaged, thousands of tears kissed away…
Sure, there may be a tiny hiccups from time to time. A slip that gives you a glimpse into how difficult her job really is. She may occasionally make the same thing for dinner two nights in a row. Or perhaps skip eating her dinner all together and go straight for a glass of wine. Or for a brief moment forget a child’s name and work through the list of names of all her other children before getting it right. But these inconsistencies are so short and infrequent that if you blink you probably will miss it. And she goes right back to soldiering on, picking right up where she left off in the endless list and duties and responsibilities that she carries so bravely.
To be a mother takes superhuman strength. I have no clue how they do it, but they do. Day in day out with a grace and beauty and elegance that I find impossible to put into words. Watching a mother be a mother I think is kind of like watching a ballet. They make it look so easy, so effortless. And even though in theory we know it must be difficult you never really know for sure unless you actually try it. If you ever curious to give it a try, let me know, I will let you borrow my pink tutu.