Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Motherhood: The Human Experience

When two mothers talk for more than a few minutes, very often the conversation turns to childbirth.  It just does.  Before I had children, I would have thought that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard.  But now, I get it.  Childbirth touches a place in our human experience that can never really be matched by anything else. Being with another mother, there's a shared sense of that human experience.  The details might all be completely different - they usually are.  But there's still that bond there.

Today, I was sitting in the living room of a new friend. A Sudanese refugee. We'd met once before at a birthday party, but only briefly.  Our children were all playing in her backyard.  We were eating Chinese food.  And yes...we were talking about childbirth.  I marveled at how she had twins vaginally, and she marveled at the humor of Andrew's birth in an inflatable fish-decorated swimming pool in our living room. 

Motherhood is a human experience, I keep learning (and re-learning), and it crosses over every external boundary.  Class.  Culture.  Even if parenting methods differ, we know what it's like to fall madly and completely in love with this little person who needs us.

At the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, it came up in conversation with my waitress that it was my first time traveling away from my children.  I was here with a group of mothers.  And she opened up her notepad to show me a picture of her two gorgeous little children.  She hated being away from them all day, but she had to work. From her accent, it sounded as though she was a recent immigrant.  But the way her eyes lit up as she looked at the picture, it made no difference that she was a waitress and I was the one at the table.  She loved her little ones the way I love mine, and I felt so connected with her humanity. 

Once we were both "mothers," there was no class difference between us. And I felt that way with Apojek with our huge cultural canyon between us. 

My conversations with my new friend today did meander through a lot of differences.  She talked about how they dug deep holes in the ground at the refugee camps, so the 85,000 refugees would have a place to use the toilet.  That there were long lines for water, and you could only use the pump during certain times of the day.  While she was living that childhood, I was attending summer camp and taking ice skating lessons. 

But she didn't seem to care. No judgement. And with each new friendship with a Sudanese Lost Boy or Girl, this is the part that keeps leaving me in wonder.  Not even once have they made me feel unwelcome on the path of their extreme life story.  There is so much love, so much warmth that transfers within that community - and they welcomed me in with open arms.  Sharing children's birthdays and the most fabulous hugs when we meet again.

Apojek had her experiences in the past, and I'd had mine.  And while we can never really comprehend the other's path, there was this deep respect between us.  There were so many things to say!

I learned a lot of things today.  Small things: Like ordering Chinese at lunch to get it half-price, even if you save it for dinner.  But also the Big Stuff, as she articulately described the uprisings in Kenya and Sudan and how that affected the families back home. 

The calm sanctuary of her home seemed like such a strange backdrop to the stories I heard - stories of machetes in the streets and hiding in the dark so rebels wouldn't find you.  I wonder what it must be like for her, sitting in this home, so many miles away from her childhood - literally and figuratively.

And in the words of Jack, as he tumbled into the car with rosy cheeks and hair damp from so much jumping and playing with her three children: "That...was an awesome playdate."  I completely agree.