Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sisterhood and Motherhood

I have been teaching labor and delivery to women from all over the globe here in Atlanta. For over thirty-five years and there are many similarities I can point to. Most women express a fear about the unknown, worries about the pain of labor, concern over how they will behave in front of their husbands,ambivalence about breastfeeding and the typical list goes on. However there is one glaring difference I have found and that is the lack of sisterhood in our culture. We are not very supportive of each other when we are pregnant and as we approach childbirth.

In many places women celebrate the pregnancy with stories of how very natural it is to be having a baby. It is a mark of initiation into the wonders of womanhood and the pleasures of a shared sisterhood of common experience. They help each other cope emotionally and physically and some would say spiritually as well. They speak of their labors in positive terms and don't talk about how horrible their deliveries were. They welcome a new sister into their world with kindness, glad tidings, song and joy. They help their sister with providing care for other children, preparing meals for the family and sometimes are constantly in attendance to be present for anything that might be needed. Breastfeeding is the only way they feed their infants and they pass on every tip and freely share their suggestions to make breastfeeding as easy as possible. The new mother's job is to take care of her baby in all ways and to allow her sisters the honor of being available to he for her needsr and those of her family.

I have been amazed time after time how negative other women in our culture recall their pregnancies and labors and deliveries. It almost seems as if it is a completion for the longest and most difficult experience. And that there is a prize for the grizzliest story, scaring the wits out of the mother-to-be. We are not gentle and supportive of our friends and family members but rather antagonistic about what we  have endured and still go on enduring. It is a shame that it is decades before we recognize the value of our women allies. We can be warriors together not against each other.

As women mature they become so close to each other with shared experiences and commonalities. Many a time I have heard women exclaim that they don't know how they would survive with out their female friends. The bonding that happens when women begin to " be there " for each other is when the isolation and loneliness of so many lives is permanently eradicated and life becomes not only easier to endure and compassionately shared.

Perhaps because we don't, in this culture, share and reflect on the compassion we can offer each other, that post partum depression  is so common. In some places, PPD is unheard of. My hope is that as we continue to evolve, grow and develop, especially in light of the ease with which we can now communicate with the women of the world, that we will take a tip from other culutes and treat our own sisters with more kindness and caring.