The maternity ward at the old hospital was full, so they put me in the corridor, not quite sure what to do with me. The corridor was dark and silent, and I was left alone, caught in a web of emotions. “Miscarriage in 1st trimester”, was the dry, clinical diagnosis. “Don’t worry, it happens to one in every 7 women”, said the well intentioned nurse, “everything will be just fine”.
Morning came, and they brought the newborn babies to their mothers, to suckle. I lay in my hospital bed and was just very, very sad. The tears came pouring down when I saw my mother’s tall and graceful figure coming towards me in the long corridor She held me and shed a tear with me. I was so very very sad and her embrace made room for my sadness.
Motherhood is about making room for sadness until it goes away by itself. And sometimes it is simply about making room.
25 years after that grim morning in the corridor, I read in a book “Fairytales of the Reversible Death” by Simona Matzliah-Hanoch (available in Hebrew), the story of her miscarriage; my story, and that of so many women. I had goose bumps all over. I can’t even find the words to describe the feeling of reading my own story told by another woman I never met.
Motherhood is about breaking the silence for others.
“Mom, am I assertive?”, Na’ama, my almost 8 year old asks me, as we’re strolling down the street. And while my mind races in a maze of feminism and language, wondering if I like this word, mostly used to describe women, comes the next question: “What is assertive, anyway?”
“It means holding your ground, standing up for what you believe in”.
“And is that a good thing”?
“Of course. And yes, you’re assertive”.
Motherhood is about saying the right thing. Telling your daughter what she needs to hear.
And motherhood is also about holding them to the highest standards, even if it makes you feel like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. And it’s about inspiring them to harbor high expectations, but at the same time, to remember that they should pursue their own dreams, not yours.
Motherhood is about letting go when you need to, and enfold them back into your embrace when they need you to.
It is about enabling separation and autonomy without conflict.
And motherhood is knowing that we all screw this up sometimes, but we usually get a chance to make it right.
Motherhood is not a physical or biological action; nor is it gender specific. It is a position, a way of being in the world; a commitment to the growth and well being of those around us and those who will come after us.
Yes, it is a commitment to the growth of others.
And now, to Dana’s poem.
Sometimes, the way to foster a leader is to enable one to see oneself in that image. Dana Myrtenbaum, a cause lawyer and a dear friend, says t so beautifully in her poem
It’s a big word, riddled with cliché
But it encases within
Myself – and other women and girls
Of all, it empowers
The strength within me
The voices inside me
The ones that leap and shatter,
Like in a dance
How do we “construct leadership”?
A wise woman once told me
“We say to you, time and again
You are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own –
And a leader you are”.
We tell you, time and again
That a leader you are
And already you are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own.
More than anything,
In the voyages of life I see
That both our hands
Must grasp others,
In endless circles entwined,
For there is no singular leadership
There are many
The places from which I’ve fled,
That beckon my return
Yearning to create,
Reeling fantasies in reprise
The strumming of leadership
On the strings of life
And simply put,
The man I loved and realized I could not change
Children I have birthed and guided
Women that were swept away with me
From words to cries into deafening silence
Towards action, and words, many more words
Friends that uplifted me
And another project born out of the first breath of the day
After the dream
And the elders that mentored me, now I care for them
The endearing pauses,
The gift that I cherished,
Heeding the reading,
Comfort in another task, half a breath
My tempestuous laughter,
A gaze of love,
A dawn’s embrace – in the warmth of the bed
Poem translated to English by Daniel Gouri de Lima