Saturday, January 9, 2010

Peace is a Mother

At our recent Adventure in Nonviolence we read the following poem in unison:

Peace Is A Woman And A Mother
By Ada Ahroni

How do you know peace is a woman?
I know, for I met her yesterday
on my winding way to the Wold's fare.
She had such a sorrowful face
just like a golden flower faded
before her prime.
I asked her why she was so sad?
She told me her baby was killed in Auschwitz,
her daughter in Hiroshima, and her sons in Vietnam,
Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Rwanda,
Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya...

All the rest of her children, she said,
are on the nuclear black list of the dead,
all the rest, unless the whole world understands -
that peace is a woman.
A thousand candles then lit
in her starry eyes, and I saw cherubim
bearing a moonlit message:
Peace is indeed a pregnant woman -
Peace is a mother

As we read, the memories of birthing my own daughter filled my heart and threatened to bring tears to my eyes.  At age 37 I was quite surprised to find myself with child, a very pleasant but unexpected surprise.  I located midwives to help me through the prenatal, delivery and postpartum experience.  I was determined to have a natural home birth, using the water tub for pain management.  Some have called me a stubborn woman, while those more generous have labeled me tenacious.  This quality has served me well in many circumstances and I've only questioned it once, childbirth was the moment.  After 14 hours of laboring my baby girl emerged from the water, but there was a problem, she wasn't breathing.  For the briefest moment I held her, calling to her by her name, "Alexa Rose, please breathe, please breathe for Mommy".  I could hear the panic rising in my shaky voice.  Still connected by the umbilical cord the midwives and their assistant hurried us to the bed and the midwives went to work on little Alexa.  With each tick of the second hand a new fuse lit in my heart, threatening to demolish all that I was if that beautiful light had gone out.  But at last a cry emerged and they brought her to my arms and we, mother and child, mixed our tears together as I choked out a song to her, for the first time face to face.

I've been reading "Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.  I realize just how fortunate I was to be assisted by three knowledgeable women, two with many home births to their credit.  If a problem had arisen there was a modern hospital only 20 minutes away.  But for millions of women this is not so.  They birth alone, and usually at such young ages as 14 and 15, their bodies not yet able to handle the stress of childbirth, resulting in obstruction.  They agonize for days, the baby dies and they often do as well.  If not they are left unable to walk and with fistulas.  The fistula and resulting infections create a smell offensive to their family and community so that they are placed in a hut at the edge of the village as food for hyenas.  In the Sub-Saharan a woman has a 1 in 7 chance of dying in childbirth at some point in her life.  These deaths are preventable as are the early pregnancies.  Some have called fistulas the new leprosy.  It's victims and poor, rural females.  If not from pregnancy, the fistula is from violent rape, another common occurrence for women in the developing world.  There are solutions.  You can support the growing number of hospitals that treat fistulas.  Giving girls educational opportunities is another solution which has multiple benefits, including postponement of child-bearing.  Education also enriches the entire community when she is able to join the labor pool.  We are also discovering that educating girls may even reduce terrorism and extremism.  The empowerment of women is the best hope for ending poverty.  and bringing true peace

Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, provides more information at

I now enjoy the company of a beautiful five year old whose sapphire eyes sparkle with intelligence and life.   I know the pain of bringing a child into this world.  I can only imagine the absolute destruction of a mother's soul in losing one.  There is no natural resource on this planet as precious as a child's life.  Not even our sense of security is worth killing and starving children in other countries.  It's time for mothers to stand up and say NO to war and YES to building this global community.  Let's help our sisters so that they can experience those precious moments of holding their healthy newborn and singing it softly, and lovingly into a peaceful world.

Peace is a mother.


Tom H. Hastings said...

Wow. This would be a powerful piece read by anyone anywhere, and knowing you and Alexa Rose I am bowled over. Any other outcome to the birth is inconceivable to me and yet, as you go on to tell us, it is quite sadly conceivable, especially in poor countries. Johan Galtung doesn't call them developing, he calls them maldeveloped. He means nations that were Just Fine before colonization, imperialism and the curse of global predatory capitalism, only made possible by an empire of bases. I know these mothers want peace and I wish to join them. Thank you for your sensitive portrait of a birth, bringing you the Alexa who made all that pain worth it, and for the challenge to consider those who suffer even more pain without the beautiful results.

Terri said...

Excellent point. Colonization or occupation has and continues to destroy so many cultures on the planet. In just 20 years we've reduced Iraq from a thriving cultural center to rubble. A place where women used to enjoy such freedoms, including free education through college level, guaranteed employment after, no enforced curfews or religious codes and now they can't even leave there homes. In 1991 Iraq prided itself on the number of intellectuals per capita, I don't recall the number but it put America to shame. After slowly starving the Iraqis for 10 years, to come in with Shock and Awe was just medieval in it's brutality. How any American could have pride after that still amazes me. And to realize that this is just a continuation of a tradition of colonization started by the British and French, primarily. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.