The way I saw the whole world shifted the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my son. Though it may not have been apparent from the outside, I was consumed by the concept that every movement I made was shared by the human growing inside me. Every experience, every task, every thought and every morsel put in my mouth was carefully weighed knowing the life within my womb would be a reflection of the lengths I went to and the sacrifices I made along the journey of pregnancy. And I know with a resounding assuredness that every single mother has experienced the same. Every single one.
Here are some things I DID NOT do while pregnant: eat deli meat, clean the cat’s litter box, drink caffeine, strain my body, sleep on my back, get too hot, travel after a certain milestone, die my hair, sit in vibrating chairs, painted, gain too much weight, gain too little weight, eat sushi, eat soft cheese, drink alcohol…
Things I DID do: ate 40+ grams of protein per day, hired a midwife, hired a doula, drank lots of water, took birthing classes, took prenatal yoga classes, drank lots (and lots) of water, planned a natural birth, kept a food journal, perineal stretches, bought a birthing ball, pre-made lactation cookies, bought a thermometer you attached to the child to take constant readings, read countless articles on what else I should be doing and countless articles on what else I should not be doing.
These were the lengths I went to before ever setting eyes on my son. The amount of sacrifices I gladly made were only magnified once I finally held him in my arms. Those were the kind of sacrifices that are ancient traditions of motherhood. Once my son was in my arms, those sacrifices expanded into depleting my body of essential vitamins as I tried to heal and provide, losing sleep (either because he was awake or sick or teething or wanted to experience 3AM), high anxiety worrying about his position as he slept, trying and barely succeeding at feeding my child with mother’s milk…
These are concerns that kept me up at night in my privileged life. Deciding which stroller to buy took weeks of research, reaching out on social media to ask other moms and fretting whether I needed to look at one with four wheels or three.
If I had to consider how to raise my child in poverty – meaning malnutrition, cries of hunger, inadequate clean water, watch him itch with bugs – or watching him grow knowing organized crime would entice him to join or kill him – or know from personal experience that my daughter was likely to be raped well before she ever reached the legal age consensual sex – I cannot even imagine the lengths I would go, or the risks I would take, to keep my child safe and provide a better life for them. If instead of knowing that cleaning the litter box could potentially make my unborn child sick, I lived knowing my child would grow to suffer unimaginable fates, I would cross deserts. I would swim rivers. I would jump borders even if it meant new risks. I would pray that the freedoms in the stories I was told, and in the words I read, were possibly even slightly true.
Mothers do not put their children in danger unless the unknown future holds more hope than the known present. For the sake of all of the mothers who have come before us, let us come together to lift those around us trying to escape horror only to find the worst heartache mankind has ever experienced – having their children separated from them for choosing new risks for the possibility of their freedom.