For Bettina Forbes, a pioneer and great defender of mamas everywhere. Thank you.
Women are warriors, we always have been. From the legends of the Amazonian women to the determination of the suffragettes, we are warriors, even when we don’t realize it.
Mothers are warriors.
They spend 9 months building cathedrals in their own bodies from a blueprint created by her and her partner until that glorious moment when they are finally allowed to glimpse their masterpiece. Mothers’ bodies shape-shift and evolve. Hips widen, breasts become rounder and stomachs stretch to encase their pearl. Like a soldier preparing for battle, our bodies change, they become armor protecting that delicate passenger.
A woman’s body is a miracle.
Within minutes of meeting her baby, a woman’s body stands at the ready, fully prepared to provide the critical nutrition needed in those first precious moments of life in the outside world. If she is lucky and her caregivers see her as the warrior she is, they will see the fatigue, the battle scars, the swell of emotion, and, if she chooses and is able, they will gently, ever so gently, guide her hands, her arms, her breasts into the perfect position to feed this little miracle, this cathedral in human form.
Women are warriors, but so often we forget. And when we forget, others forget too.
I almost forgot.
When my baby and I struggled to make that critical first connection I relied on the experienced hands of my nurse to help us, and then, like the warriors we were, we won that battle and mother and child became physically connected once more. When we continued to struggle a new option was presented, a tiny bottle filled with something else, a formula made other people not by me. No, that’s not what I want; I want to do this, to get it right. But I forgot that I was a miracle and when they tried to offer him that bottle, his tiny arms pushed it away and his cries became louder until our nurse came and guided us once more into position. Soft sweet suckling sounds filled the small orb of electricity that surrounded us in those first hours.
Someone else’s formula is not the enemy. Someone else’s formula gives babies nutrition when their mothers cannot or choose not to. But when we want to breastfeed, when we long to breastfeed and share our own bodies with our babies once more, we are our own enemy when we forget how powerful we are; when we forget about the months of miraculous growth that has occurred in both our babies and ourselves to prepare us for this moment.
To the hospitals who give us packages of formula as gifts for our journey, we must kindly decline. Please keep your formula for the next mother who needs it. She is a warrior too, so do your best to give her the purest and safest options to feed the sweet baby you helped bring into her world. But please don’t bring it to me. You must have forgotten that I am a warrior. You must have forgotten that my body is a miraculous builder of cathedrals; that I am part of a long legacy of fearless and brave mothers who fought through pain and tears to build tiny hearts and brains, fingers and toes.
You have forgotten, or maybe you didn’t know, so I am telling you today.
I am a warrior and everything that I am is all that I need.