I am grateful for labour, of the childbirth variety. I know that sounds like a strange thing to be grateful for, but …
It is my baby’s birthday today, April 26th, the youngest of my brood, four daughters who are no longer babies at all, but instead are full-fledged adults, living lives in which I am an accessory, no longer a necessity. I can’t pull them on to my lap and kiss away their tears when they are hurt. I can’t speak up for them and be their shield when others would do them harm. I can’t go along with them to interviews and proclaim their unsurpassed value and how bloody lucky any employer would be to have them, mother bias aside.
It’s a strange sensation, every now and then, when I realize how quickly the time passed. The diapers and night-time feedings, the getting teeth and the losing teeth, and the growing pains that required leg massage in the wee hours of the morning, are all but a distant memory.
I just saw my Laurie, daughter number three, through labour and delivery as she welcomed Abigail Anne into this world. It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart and there were moments I felt crazed enough to demand to know where the off switch was, so we could both take a breather from the torture-like endurance test of giving birth. Laurie may have had it a little more difficult than myself if I am being honest, but it was really really hard. No other way to say it.
As I collapsed into bed at 6:00 in the morning, when it was all done, after running this marathon for almost twenty-four hours I was thinking about labour and wondering why it is so painful and wouldn’t we do better having been equipped with a zipper or using a teleporting method or osmosis or something without so much intense pain. Wouldn’t that have been a better idea? I may ask the powers to be when I get to where I’m going and I might consider some scolding and encourage evolution to pick up the pace. In the end, I think labour serves a valuable purpose.
Motherhood is all encompassing. It is my life’s work, and everything that came before or after pales in comparison. Labour and delivery is a rite of passage, and it is an experience that tells women we can do anything, that arms us for the heart-ache that comes with watching our child hurt and struggle, or worse, to lose them. Having been through the intensity of birth tells us we are survivors, even in those moments when we are certain we will not survive.
I recently heard a speech given on how we cripple our children. We have created a generation of those who feel entitled, who don’t want to fly the nest, who think life should be perfect and aren’t willing to settle for less without complaint and angst. Most of our suppositions about parenting are clearer in hindsight, so I tend to err on the side of what my heart tells me to do.
We could take some notes from the animal kingdom. Beavers allow their young to stay with the family unit for more than two years before driving them out. Elephant mothers nurse their young for four to six years, the calves staying with their mother for as long as sixteen years. But my favourite – the killer whale, whose young stay with their mother for life. That makes the most sense to me. And what do I have to say about the mind-numbing pain of labour? Worth it, every second.