I am never doing this again.
I can do this. I’m never doing this again.
This was my mantra during the brief hours of labor with my second child, our daughter, Juniper. It was a strange second birth, preceded by my water naturally breaking at home, and a day spent watching HGTV while waiting for labor to start. It was strange in that it was very unlike Milo’s birth, which was preceded by a week of cyclical back labor and long nights of pain and fatigue. I know I’m in good company when I say that, though they were different experiences, I'm glad both are over.
As I mentioned, by this point Craig and I had already decided that after this we weren’t going to be trying for more biological kids. (It's the plan, anyway.) So, in those hours of labor, I found some slight relief in the idea that this would be my final act of uterine madness. No more screaming, crouched in the hospital shower. No more mortar-and-pestle pain in my hips. No more counterpressure.
No. More. Counterpressure.
Though labor was in many ways, exactly as painful as they say it is (whoever they are), through it I became the recipient of an extraordinary gift.
You might expect me to list my children here, but you’d be wrong. My children are undoubtedly two of the most incredible and overwhelming gifts I’ve ever received, but the gift I’m referring to is something I didn’t expect:
I have been given the gift of moms. In fact, I have been given the Flying V of moms.
It is a grand understatement to say that this has surprised me. Before having Milo, I was so unversed in the language of parenting, of children and really, of empathy, that I was blind to the cause of mothers, even if I already counted them among my friends. I could love and appreciate my own mom and mother-in-law, and I could respect my peers who had children, but I put very little effort into understanding the hard work, long-game strategy and deep value of what they were investing in as parents, and specifically, as moms. I should really go around and ask the forgiveness of every mama I’ve ever known, because I was just so terribly lazy in my friendships with them. Their interests weren't mine. The kids were noisy. The diapers were... diaper-y.
Note that this is my story as an individual, and has no – read: ZERO – bearing on how others relate to parents. For example, I am awestruck by how so many of the people who we’ve gotten to work with over our years in the camp industry, whether age 15 or 50, have been perceptive and intentional and kind in how they have befriended me as a mom, all with what seems to be genuine warmth and interest. This wasn’t my way.
I wasn’t nearly as gracious.
And yet, despite my under appreciation and lack of effort into really knowing mothers, I currently find myself completely surrounded by an astounding group of these women. I wore their pants while I was pregnant. My children are clothed in their children’s clothes. I have snort-laughed at their texts at three in the morning, and found relief at their stories of pebbles being crammed up little noses and daughters eating paint chips and overstressed relationships in the violent wave-pool of kid-dom. They have been some of the most encouraging people I’ve ever encountered, many of them all the while running their own ever-changing, ax-swinging gauntlet of parenthood.
This is my Flying V. They are transparent, strong, honest, forgiving and have a killer instinct for when toddlers are up to no good with the toilet paper roll. And they are diverse. They are ten years younger than me and ten years older. They are mothers and they are super-mothers, who’ve already done the dance once and are now grandparents. They are liberal and conservative. They are urban and rural. They are single, married, and divorced. They are like me, and they are not like me.
And yet they hover and protect.
And yet they fly together.
This weekend, I celebrate you mamas. I sit and think about your impact on not only your families, but on the other parents and caretakers who share your world. I know that many women who desperately desire to have children aren’t given the chance or don’t have the opportunity, but, oh,
I would wish on them a tribe like you.