Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Influence of Women

Yesterday, I went to visit a friend who I hadn't seen in years. We were missionary companions in Arizona a few years ago, and while I always felt close to her and enjoyed her company, after our missions our paths took us to different locations for a few years. Now she has two kids and I have one (we both had babies last October!) and she is living just a few minutes from me.

We had an absolutely lovely day, catching up while changing diapers and feeding babies. She gave birth to both of her children at home, and she talked about how incredible those experiences were. We talked about our desires for women to understand their incredible abilities and be supported in the choices they have in their many roles in life, particularly in marriage, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting.

When I was with her, the time just flew by. I wasn't afraid to talk to her about anything, because she is so supportive and understanding. She is so genuine. Her attitude, her intelligent children, her beautiful home; being with her makes me a better person. Every woman needs friends like that.

And I am very blessed in that department--almost every day this week I have been/will be in the company of amazing women- my mom, my sister, some of the other amazing childbirth educators in Utah, close friends from church, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-laws. How lucky am I!

On the contrary, though, I have seen how the influence of women can not be as positive. I follow an online forum that is mostly comprised of women and have seen how bitterness and hurt can breed ugliness. I am hopeful, though, and have seen already, that many women with grace and love can meet that bitterness and anger, allow it it's moment, and move forward with compassion and optimism.

I have also seen (and experienced) women who tend to isolate themselves from other incredible women, for fear of being judged, or feeling like they don't "measure up." How sad it is to miss out on these experiences!

Days after my daughter was born, I was sitting at home in the middle of the day one day, in sweats, with no makeup and messy hair (and probably assorted baby fluids on my clothes). Someone knocked at the door. My house was a mess. I was tempted not to answer it, but I did. There stood a woman from church who I've always looked up to. She came over with a simple gift of diapers and wipes. She walked over with her dog and had not done her hair or makeup, and was also wearing sweats. I was grateful for the diapers and wipes, but even more grateful for her messy hair, lack of makeup, and the incredible wisdom she shared in just the few minutes we talked at the door. She spoke of her time as a new mom and totally validated my feelings (without me sharing anything!). I was so grateful I'd answered the door, despite my appearance.

All of these experiences and observations have led me to ask myself: what influence do I have as a woman? Do I lift others? Am I sharing my experiences in a nonjudgmental way that promotes choice and empowers women?

It is my belief that we do our best work at lifting others when we aren't afraid to share our real selves. I hope that I wouldn't turn away from helping a friend because of my insecurities.

These women help me define the woman I want to become. I hope that, with their influence and the support of my ever-loving husband, I will be able to become that woman.

As a childbirth educator, the question is often posed: who should I invite to be present at my birth? That question is a very personal one, and between a couple to decide for themselves. When my baby was born, the only people in the room were myself, my husband, and our midwife. It was perfect in the moment. However, I would encourage you to consider the strength that women give each other. I felt that strength from our midwife and from the women who I knew were offering their love and support and experience to me, even if not in the room.

I would encourage you, always, but especially while pregnant and as a new mom, to find women who lift you, and surround yourself with them. Hopefully, by doing so, we can all be a little bit better.

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