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Coming from Pagan Writers Press on March 8, 2013!


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Pagan Writers Press
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Motherhood Experience by Toni Rakestraw

I worked as a doula for awhile. What’s a doula? The most frequent description I see today is someone who attends a birth and ‘holds a woman’s space.’ What this means is they act as a buffer between the birthing woman and the medical personnel. When I was a doula, what I did was attend the mother and her partner. But I’m not writing about that. My everyday heroine is the mother.

Giving birth is hard work. Heck, everyday parenting is hard work… it doesn’t matter how you got there. But back to birth. Like death, birth is a transition. But unlike death, you’re not doing this one alone. Your mother is an integral partner in the journey. During birth, the mother and the baby are working together whether they realize it or not.

Today, giving birth can differ greatly from woman to woman. One may have surgery, another may have an epidural so she doesn’t feel the pain, yet another may feel every contraction. Even so, every birth is a journey that requires courage. From that first tightening in the belly to that final grip that compels a woman to push with all her might to expel a being the size of a bowling ball out of a hole the size of a … well, I can’t think of any common household item exactly that size, but it’s considerably smaller than a bowling ball. Labor is an exercise in learning to let go.
A woman in labor must learn to let go of her modesty. Labor leaves no room for it. You may feel overheated to the point you need to shed your clothing. You must let go of your manners. Words often leave you during labor, and when you can form words, every one counts. If you need something, you may not have the effort to spare for ‘please’ or ‘thank you.’ You may need to curse, especially during transition when someone touches you and you cannot bear it. You must let go of what society expects of you. When that baby is coming out, it isn’t uncommon for baby to clean out your bowels for you at the same time in front of whoever is there with you. You must let go of any timidity and howl, moan, or scream if you must to move that baby down and out. And last of all, you must let go of that baby that has lived inside for nine months and let him or her out into the world.

Of course, some of these are adapted a bit for a surgical birth, but mothers are still learning to let go in other ways.

Watching a woman turn into a mother is a gift for those with the eyes to see. It’s an inner transition, one that is born of pain and sweat and love. Some women reach this moment when the baby is first put into their exhausted arms and they look into that tiny, scrunched face covered in goo. Others come into it gradually over the first several weeks of sleep deprivation and baby cries. While I haven’t had the privilege to see it in adoptive mothers, I hear it happens there, too, as their hearts answer the squalls of motherhood. It is this transformation that turns the maiden to the mother, a nurturing force to be reckoned with.

So, I honor all those mothers out there that have gone through labor, been cut open in the operating room, have taken in children that others have borne, and made room in their hearts for caring for these new scraps of humanity. It is a Herculean task, yet women do it every day and have done it since people began.


Toni Rakestraw is an editor by day and a writer by night. She has written another short story, The Longest Night, for Pagan Writers Press. She also co-authored Titanic Deception, a full-length novel, with her husband John.

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