His First Story

Her belly tightened. She inhaled, sharply–a reflex–and rubbed her palms over her abdomen. As the tightening subsided, she breathed again. But the next wave hit her before she could get off the couch to find the phone.

This was Ellie’s first pregnancy, and she wasn’t due for three more weeks. She’d insisted Matthew go to Chicago, kissing him out the door that morning as the winter’s first snowflakes fell on the car behind him. And it hadn’t stopped snowing yet.

It’s all new to us …

Giving birth or handling any emergency sets our actions into automatic motion. We run out of gas on a deserted road. Our elderly parents aren’t answering the phone–in another state. While hiking, we come upon a bear.

What can we do, especially if the situation is a new one for us?

Or is it? 

Our brains’ database searches for stories we know. Whether in a book or a movie or a family story, we’ve learned from others’ experiences and this is why–to help us in similar situations.

Stories empower us.

Let’s do this …

We become participants in story as we read or watch or listen. We experience what the characters experience–biologically. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves.

Birth stories teach us about miracles and strength.

Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it can be to grow up while we discover with the protagonist that we, too, are unique and strong.

Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are.

Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but might like to try certain thrills.

Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes.

Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story.

Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us not only where we came from, but inspire us with what our ancestors have overcome.

Ellie’s story

Even though Ellie was alone, she was also the youngest sister of four. She’d listened to her sisters’ and many friends’ birth stories. She’d read, not just childbirth books, but also birth stories, and she knew what to expect.

But more importantly, her brain knew she could do it. Again, or so it thought.

Once she knew her midwife was on her way in her four-wheel drive Subaru, she called Matthew. Together–Matthew from his hotel room, Miss Cassie beside her–they encouraged Ellie as she labored to give birth to her first. But because of the stories she already held on to, she knew she could do it.

Hours later in the early dawn hours, she rocked her newborn baby. She stroked his soft cheek. And she told him his first story.

What’s the first story you can remember? Do you have a favorite type or genre of story?

How We’ve Progressed in Motherhood- Part 2

 

Several decades ago, women blushed about their pregnant bellies yet were proud to answer, “I’m a mother,” when asked, “What do you do?” While today, mothers show off their beautiful bumps but, if asked the same question about what they do, will focus on their outside jobs even if it’s just part-time.

Mommy Wars (the battle between working moms and stay-at-home moms)

When our mothers or grandmothers had babies, the majority stayed home. Then, as more and more mothers began to work outside-the-home, judgment and insecurity surfaced on both sides, creating a divide. Accusations, shouted or whispered, of laziness, selfishness, and even intelligence swirled.

Today, most moms work for income, whether outside the home or from home. Yet we still engage in the mommy wars. Insecurities abound, but we’re fighting our own sisters and destroying ourselves in the process.

 

Tolerance and Understanding

Every mother knows mothering is hard work. Let’s focus on that. That attitude unifies us, elevating our common bond no matter the route of motherhood we chose.

What another mom decides to do or not do about outside employment doesn’t lessen our own preference anymore than our neighbor’s selection of her spouse shouldn’t diminish our own pick. 

Let’s accept the mom who embraces full-time mothering and sacrifices an outside income source. Let’s honor her choice. Instead of feeling threatened or judged, let all women encourage and support her.

And in the same way, let’s affirm the mother who works part or full-time and who also makes sacrifices to do what she does. Let’s respect her without judging her decision. 

Instead of fighting each other, why can’t we stand together and give each other the grace that we are all doing our best for our families?

Let’s not judge each other or struggle with each other. Let’s not, in order to reinforce our own right judgment regarding our own lives, find fault with other mothers.

Instead, let’s love one another. Mother-to-mother. That would be the best progress of all.

How We’ve Progressed in Motherhood- Part 1

 

Baby bumps. Baby mama. Baby daddy.

I read an article Sunday by Patricia McLaughlin, a fashion columnist, called “Thank goodness maternity wear has come so far since the 1950s.” Long title, I know. Her main point is that our increased acceptance of pregnancy “proves that there is progress in human history.”

Before

I agree with her that we’ve come a long way from the 1950’s. Back then, words like baby bump or baby mama or baby daddy couldn’t have been imagined. Even if they had, no one would have been spoken them aloud. The terminology surrounding pregnancy caused embarrassment. Pregnant women were “expecting,” or “with child” even though maternity clothing concealed the woman’s “condition” about as well as a tent could hide a mountain.   

Back then, pregnancy meant sex which was a topic only whispered about. Parents told their children the stork story, an elaborate fiction to explain how babies arrived in families in order to postpone the dreaded birds-and-bees’ talk.

It seems silly now.

Society complicated motherhood further by creating an ironic conclusion to the embarrassment of pregnancy. Despite their awkwardness with women’s baby bumps, society cherished the mother, even reverenced her.

Americans valued the full-time job of mothering.  

About-face

We’ve evolved. Pregnancy doesn’t bring embarrassment anymore. We say we’re pregnant instead of “expecting.” Women wear the baby bump with pride, its beauty evident to most.

Moms wears stylish clothes, identical to other fashions but with (sometimes slightly) more fabric. Options include form-fitting tops and bottoms, designed to show off their bump. No doubting the fact she’s pregnant.

Celebrities use pregnancy as a marketing tool for attention. Nude mothers-to-be pose on magazine covers. Some very pregnant moms start the baby book with photo shoots of their naked baby bumps. 

It seems we’ve gone so far in appreciation of the pregnant mother that now it doesn’t matter if we are married or not. The stigma is erased from all women who have babies.

We needed new terms, baby-mama and baby-daddy, to explain the relationships we created as Americans became less concerned about the mother-baby relationship and more concerned with the woman herself. 

Topsy-turvy

As we changed our attitude toward pregnancy, we also shifted our regard for motherhood. Back in the 1950s, we tolerated pregnancy yet cherished motherhood. Today, we cherish pregnancy yet tolerate motherhood. Whose plan was this? 

It’s hard to tell why this happened, but now many consider motherhood an inconvenience. Mothering became less important than other occupations. We value a mother who teaches a classroom of children more than one who discovers the world with her own.  

What now?

We will continue to develop. As individuals, we can be aware of the evolution of motherhood and what it means to our society. We can bring honor to motherhood in our own spheres, leading by example the importance of family.

Perhaps the next generation of mothers, our daughters and granddaughters, will benefit from an unembarrassed pride in their growing bodies while at the same time will promote the value in motherhood.

That would prove true progress.