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A Fresh Perspective (or, Agree to Disagree?)

November 11, 2010

Since I became a mother, I look at a lot of things differently.  I’ve been reading a book called “The Mask of Motherhood” that my sister sent me and there is a passage in the book that really sums it up; I’ll have to paraphrase because I can’t find the passage.  Basically, the author describes how during the third trimester of her pregnancy, she stood on a street in New York and looked at everyone passing by and realized for the first time that every single one of them was carried in a womb and born into the world as an infant.  Of course, it makes obvious rational sense, but until I carried and gave birth to a child, it didn’t really sink in with me either.  I don’t want to adopt that attitude of if-you-haven’t-given-birth-you-can’t-understand, so I’ll try to explain why this has caused a profound shift in my views.

Pregnancy and childbirth is a huge investment of energy, both physical and emotional…and that is only the beginning of the whole process of raising a child to adulthood.  Before I went through this, I had a sense of the inherent value of human life but I also had that sense that there are SO many people that some loss of life due to war or disasters was just part of human existence and that would be ok.  But now, for every person I see/hear/read about, I wonder about the mother who looked at her baby who would become that person.

Example: a US Marine and eight unnamed Afghani civilians die in a bombing attack–each of them was carried in a womb for (about) nine months and born to a mother who (probably) held the new, tiny body and wondered what would become of the life she had created and brought into the world.  And those tiny babies would spend years growing into adults with a complex set of experiences.  And then one day, all nine of those lives would be thoughtlessly snuffed out by one or more other people, each of whom was carried in a womb and born to a mother…but those people who did the killing didn’t think of their victims in the same way.  At best they probably saw their victims the way that I used to see people, and figured the loss of those lives was justified for one reason or another.

But…it’s not.  Every human life is such an investment of energy, time and (probably) love by the mother who created and bore that life, that each life has so much more value than we generally assign.  Now I understand the footage you see, of women crazed with grief, weeping over the bodies of their children.  I can see myself in those women now, and I see how the loss of a life that you brought into being would make a person almost inconsolable.

I love being a mother.  There are downsides, which women often hint at but don’t really like to discuss openly, which is the main theme of this book “The Mask of Motherhood.” (I highly recommend it, by the way).  When I Googled the book, though, one of the hits let me to this website which touts the benefits of living a child-free life.  Now, I understand that having children is a choice that not everyone can, will or should make, but to look down upon those who DO have children is just stupid.  Yes, you can pity us child-burdened people for our lack of sleep, lack of social life, occasional lack of hygiene (NEED SHOWER) but how the heck  do you think you came into this world, lady?  Two (hopefully) people who were willing to spend countless hours on your well-being and upbringing, so you could grow up and blog eloquently about how stupid it is to have children.


There is a part of me that understands the perspective; I do occasionally wish I could go on long bike rides without arranging a babysitter, or go out to dinner wherever and whenever I want, or still be employed full time and have way more disposable income, all of which I did before I had LM.  But then LM’s face lights up when I walk back into her line of sight, or her big beautiful eyes look up at me while I nurse her, or I think about what it felt like to have her tiny body shifting around in my belly (the poor blogger describes herself as “HORRIFIED at these prospects [of labor and breastfeeding].)  Me and the child-free will just have to agree to disagree, because this new life changed mine irrevocably:

Still mystified by the world at four days old...

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