The Nurture of Women (or Redefining the Hen House)

Gatherings of women often get an unjustly bad rap - the stereotypical hen house image full of clucking, pecking, and feathers flying. Strong, assertive, expressive women are frequently (mis)labeled as "catty" and "bossy," amongst other things. This typecasting begins early in our daughters' social development with groups of girls who are just learning to navigate friendships, be it with girls or boys. I’ve already heard this in reference to gatherings of girls in my daughter’s social interactions, and these loaded words are never used to characterize boys' social behaviors. The thing is, these words do not define my experience, and I find it to be presumptuous, rude, and a very prejudicial and unfortunate way to see the world. I would tell my daughter “it’s unkind.”

The women who share in my life have been and are powerful, uplifting, and empowering. I didn’t view my grandmothers as "catty," but as loving, warm, and generous. I have amazing childhood friends, female ones, that I respect and love. Sure, there are girls I didn’t get along with, women I don’t like, and the same goes for boys and men - but it has more to do with personality and less (well, nothing) to do with gender. I could not be the mother I am without the women, the friends I cherish, mothering alongside me. As an owner of Nola Nesting, I work closely and interdependently with other women. I have so much admiration and love for these women and for all they bring to not only Nola Nesting, but to our clients. They are creative and inspiring, giving and healing women.

As childbirth educators and doulas, we celebrate the power and strength of women, their ability to transform and bring life into this world in a way done by innumerable women before them, a way the predates by millenia the medicalized model of childbirth and the categorization of pregnancy as a condition to be treated and cured. We see women at their most vulnerable and at their most fierce, and I feel nothing short of awe each and every time. I love families at births. The privilege of witnessing a person fall in love with their partner (again) and new baby is one of my favorite parts of birth, but supportive women bring a special energy to labor and birth. The women at my births were tender and held wisdom in a way my very loving, supportive, and nothing-shy-of-amazing husband could not.

To bring Birth Boot Camp to New Orleans, I attended a training in Dallas last month and was surrounded by women I had never met before. These were strong women who were there to learn more about supporting other women and families, and everyone was beautiful, loving, and supportive of one another. I truly enjoyed being in their presence and I left feeling energized and full. In our busy lives it’s not often that we get to gather and just enjoy the company of other women, each uniquely teaching and learning in our turn.

I am grateful for the women in my life, for the way they nurture and encourage me, for being sounding boards, for love and support. These are the relationships with women I want my daughter to see. Whatever she does in her life, whether suffering a broken heart, celebrating a hard-earned victory, pondering life’s meaning, or bringing a baby into this world, I hope she has a support network that includes women who love and celebrate the woman she is. And of course, should she decide to become a mother, I hope she has a doula!

 

(Disclosure: This blog post was edited, as is much of my work, by one of the profound women in my life.  My sister-by-another-mother - one of the most courageous and witty women I'll ever know.)

 

Amanda Devereux is co-owner of Nola Nesting, a New Orleans doula, Birth Boot Camp Instructor, and mom of three breastfed babes.