Last weekend, I attended the wedding of a friend from high school. It was the first wedding I’ve been to since my own almost two years ago. I was surprised at the emotions that came up, as no wedding I’ve attended has felt that way before. I had a running log of varying thoughts on that day….
When she walked down the aisle, stunning in her gown and looking beautifully happy, I thought about the several weddings I’ve attended in my lifetime (three of which were my mother’s!), and how I don’t recall being emotionally impacted. Sure, they were beautiful or fun or both, but they never made me really feel anything. Even my own first wedding had very little impact…of course, looking back, I get why! Anyway, the point is that because weddings didn’t hold much value for me, I didn’t expect much when I got married again in September of 2010. Then, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” started and I walked towards my soon-to-be-husband.
It was, in a word, magical. I cried the whole way and when I got to him he said, “It’s okay, it will be all right”, to which I replied that I knew it would be and that’s exactly why I was crying. In that moment, surrounded only by our closest friends and family, I understood what all the fuss had been about. I finally got it.
I recalled the above feelings as she turned the corner and approached her own husband-to-be. I wondered, and hoped, that she felt that same inner calm; the knowledge that she was walking towards a lifetime with her best friend.
As they recited their vows, I thought about what it took getting to that day. I thought about the planning, the weather (it was threatening rain at their outdoor ceremony) and how it should be everything she wanted.
Since birth is never far from my mind and I see parallels with it everywhere, I couldn’t help but think of my friend’s recently posted essay “All That Matters is a Healthy Husband.” It’s a scathing, sarcastic look at how our society respects and reveres wedding days while being almost completely dismissive about birth days. She and I have long discussed how ridiculous it is. We all know that delays, mishaps and disappointments on wedding days do not directly reflect how happy the couple will be or how long they will stay together. Still, though, if a bride recollected her day with pain, sadness, disappointment or any other emotion besides joy, NO ONE would say to her “at least you have a healthy husband”. Instead, we would empathize with her feelings of loss at the special day she’d taken so much time and care to plan going awry. We’d think anyone who interfered with that dream of hers was awful. On the other hand, we have tons of research to prove that the way a woman is treated during labor/birth, her perception of the events and her care immediately postpartum all deeply affect her AND her baby. So why, then, are mothers shushed and shamed when they experience negative births (or more importantly, why are they having these negative experiences in the first place)? Why are they told that they are not important in the process, “the only thing that matters is a healthy baby”? These thoughts are why I do what I do. I do not want mothers to have to “get over” their birth experiences. I want mothers to be able to plan the births they want for themselves and their babies, and to have every possible opportunity to see them through that way. I want them to feel fully supported in the decisions they made.
I also think about how many hours were spent meticulously planning my wedding day, how many blog posts I wrote about it, how no one ever said to me that it was “just one day” and to quit talking about, planning and dreaming of it. The truth is that yes, it was just one day, but that one day sustains me during the rough waters. When I’m angry at my partner, I think about walking towards him and the feeling I felt right then. I think about the love in his eyes and the tears I saw when he spoke to me, to my children…who became our children. These snapshots remind me of that moment of pure love, pure joy.
Why do we not expect…no DEMAND…the same thing from the births of our children? Why are women having unnecessary, sometimes (often?) physically and/or emotionally damaging, procedures done to them at vulnerable moments in their lives only to be told that it’s just one day and to get over it? Why are we not standing on the rooftops shouting, “All that matters is a healthy [MOM AND] baby?”
Just as the snapshots from my wedding sustain me during the rough moments of my marriage, so do the snapshots (like above) from my children’s births. The pure ecstasy of meeting them for the first time. Yes, we can have those moments even when the rest is crap, but shouldn’t we strive to give mothers as many of those as possible? Mothering is hard work and we need as many moments of pure love as we can get!
And finally, as my friend and her new husband were returning from the marriage altar one couple and one family, I got these delicious warm fuzzies. My heart literally felt warm with happiness and love remembering my own wedding day. Excitement for them, that they too will experience the kind of joy and love we have. Everyone deserves that! Everyone deserves to look forward to waking up next to their love and to call them way too muchwhen they’re away because they have to share right now. They deserve to laugh ridiculously loud and have inside jokes that only they will find funny. Just as I wish all mothers to have happy, healthy pregnancies and births, so do I also wish each person to find their perfect partner.