In more primitive cultures women were available to communally support each other. They worked side by side, raising their children and sharing their lives. These days we are considerably more isolated. We’re so fiercely independent and we’ve accomplished so much good — it’s a very empowering time to be a woman. We have so much going on! But I worry that with all our gains we have lost the best part about being a woman: the sisterhood of women.
Particularly during our most primal moments (here’s looking at you, childbirth) we need each other. We need to know that we aren’t alone, that others have done it, and that we will be fine. There’s a very tangible comfort that comes from communing with an empathic woman, it’s a comfort and a bond that no man can replicate. It is beautiful and it is powerful.
Unfortunately, just as fear governs so much else in our lives, fear is what keeps us from this astounding gift. We are so afraid: afraid of being wrong, afraid of not being strong enough, afraid that we don’t know how to do what it is we were born to do … We are afraid of the judgements not from the others, but that we create within our own insecurities and project as coming from others. We are too afraid to ask for help, and too afraid to offer help.
But guess what, ladies? Childbirth, nursing babies, raising children, dealing with death, these are all part of the natural course of things but they are things we simply cannot do alone. Yes, they are natural, but they are not intuitive. We need to learn how to do it, and in the case of breastfeeding, we then have to teach the baby how to do it. Without proper guidance we are doomed to finally give up, throwing our hands in the air and citing a lengthy list of why nature has failed us. The truth is, we have failed nature. We need an army of women surrounding us, supporting us, and teaching us. Nursing may be nature’s preferred method for feeding young, but young humans don’t come out knowing how to latch perfectly and human mothers need to be taught first and foremost what makes a good latch (and how to achieve it, and how to read the baby’s signals, and how to identify a clogged duct, and fix it before the need of antibiotics, and why you don’t need nipple cream, and that you really do need to get that much rest and drink that much water, … I could go on.)
The change from being a carefree woman to being a mother is huge. Priorities need to change, perspective is skewed, dreams put on hold, new dreams created … it’s a big job. Gestation does a good job in laying the foundation but I truly believe that the process of labour plays an equally important part in changing us. You are not the same person after something like that, which is good because the old you isn’t equipped to handle your new responsibilities and emotions. Yes, labour hurts (it is called labour after all) but we would do well to accept it as temporary and life-altering instead of worrying so much about how to avoid it. The pain is eased and the time well-passed when in the company of an experienced and supportive woman.
As for childrearing and mourning the dead, I don’t think I need to belabour the point that those are made easier with good friends.
This is the epitome of feminism: together we are all-powerful. With all the austerity of success and the sterility of science we’ve lost the power that propagated our species for centuries. I say not only can we have both the modern and the necessary, but that we must. Without each other, we are lost. Without each other we are nothing. For all we can do for ourselves, for all men can do for us, there are some things that we can only gain from the fellowship of other women. Reach out, sisters, you don’t know who needs it. It might even be you.