The morning was humid and clouds reigned the sky, hinting of rain. As Finn and I approached the pavilion, just off the boardwalk a gull herring dove into the lake for fish, which fascinated us both. This spot in the park was chosen to provide shelter in the event of rain, but it seemed as though the threat of a storm would hold off until later in the day.
One by one, women arrived with babies and children in tow beside them or in strollers or woven wraps. Some of these women knew one another and some didn’t, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. We had a common thread, and that was our birth stories; moments when we became mother.
We settled in the grass under a tree and near enough to the water to feel a light breeze. It’s amazing to me how occupied babies become when in a group. Finn rarely sits in one place these days, but he is much more likely to do so with other babies around.
One by one, each woman shared her story or in some cases stories. Together we relived those difficult hours of labour, unexpected twists and turns in the lead up toward birth. We shared chills and tears and a few laughs.
In listening to these women, I became struck by the similarities in emotions and experiences despite one birth being very different from the next. From years of infertility to surprise pregnancies (sometimes experienced by the same woman!) to home birth and scheduled cesarean section. One woman commented how each of her births was transformative, while another explained how complications in her first birth led to life saving action with her second. Babes sometimes went beyond the expected date of delivery and others arrived weeks earlier than expected. Some Moms praised the support and connection they shared with midwives and others credited the decisive action of their obstetrician. In this way no two stories were alike.
During pregnancy, I was struck by this proverb:
Being pregnant and giving birth are like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge. They can greet you on the other side. But you must walk the bridge alone. – African proverb
Imagining it in this way caused me to see birth as a very solitary act. Sharing stories today reminded me that there are many who are there to greet me on the other side. Community still exists in support of women making entry into motherhood, you just have to cultivate space for it.
Thank you to the beautiful women who came to share today. May you each take time in the quickened pace of your every day to be mindful of the depths of your strength and all that you’re capable of enduring.