“Women are strong, strong, terribly strong. We don’t know how strong until we are pushing out our babies. We are too often treated like babies having babies when we should be in training, like acolytes, novices to high priestesshood, like serious applicants for the space program.” –Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance
This is one of my favorite quotes to share at blessingways. The Blue Jay’s Dance is a memoir of the writer’s first year with her third baby (sixth child). She isn’t particularly a birth advocate, the book is a general mothering memoir, but at one point she says the above and I love it. Though, I should note that I think there are all kinds of strengths to be found in birth—not just in pushing out a baby. One can experience “terrible strength” in coping with an unexpected cesarean also. And, of course, womanpower can also be found in other non-birth experiences. When I shared the quote on Facebook, some people commented that they hated it or that it was offensive. I have been surprised by how very personally some of the birth quotes I post on Facebook are taken. There have been several occasions where I’ve felt so upset about it that I thought maybe I should never post quotes ever again! (now who’s taking something too personally? ;)). Then, I realized a strong personal reaction is normal, because birth is such a strong and personal issue, so now I try to be extra mindful of the subtexts that might be perceived in a quote (regardless of original intent) and clarify that below the quote. I truly think the intent in this one is of the potential to discover our own hidden strength via birth, not to say that birth is the only powerful experience available to women. I know that I draw on my “birth strength” in other important moments in my life. I also realized after the miscarriage-birth of my third son that the strength found in birth is present in women, period. It is woman strength and it rises up during birth, but it is always there.
During a recent women’s retreat we reflected on sources of personal power and how we feel when we are standing in our personal power (this question comes from a fabulous book, A Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal). When I first considered this question, I was somewhat sad to discover that the only instances of personal power I could come up with from giving birth—it would be nice to have piles of personal power experiences! More reflection revealed that I also feel like I’m standing in my personal power when I teach. Not a sense of “power over,” but in power with. More freshly, I’ve realized that I find personal power in Goddess spirituality/images and ideas of the Divine Feminine. And, I also experience personal power when I am alone. I feel most whole and authentic when I am just by myself. I like quiet space in my own head in which to think and I also enjoy my own company 🙂
“A woman meets herself in childbirth” –Cynthia Caillagh
Each time I gave birth I realized I was a pretty amazing person with inherent worth and value. The woman that I met in birth was very strong and very capable and very focused. And, she is me.
I hope my baby girl grows up standing in her own personal power and having a profound sense of her own worth.