Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Am I A Fierce Mama?

Am I a fierce mama?

Oh, you bet I am. I’ve thought about how hard yet rewarding this whole mothering journey has been. I think about all the pratfalls we’re set up for, all the false expectations of what a mother should want, what a “good baby” is, and how to go about gestating, birthing and raising human beings . . . Instead of warm fuzzy feelings, I am overcome by the deep rumblings of a ferocious and primal womanhood which has had to fight its way past many obstacles.

I am fierce because I never doubted my ability to birth. I’m fierce because I dared to question a routine ultrasound, and when the nurse told me refusing could lead to a dead baby, I told her to get my medical records copied so I could find another provider. Even as a young mother, I was not going to be bullied.

I am fierce because I found myself a midwife and planned a home birth in Midwestern America, where ignorance and persecution keeps most out of hospital births under the radar. I kept my internal flame burning as I threw up every day at work for 6 months until I took an early leave. I kept faith and love in focus as my husband lost his job and we were forced to move to a smaller apartment.

And I survived through a home birth transfer to hospital that tore away my trust for the people who should have been supporting me most. I survived over 50 hours of labor, the latter half an experience of dehumanization, coerced medications, genital mutilation without consent, the near loss of my newborn baby, and the scolding and condescension of the medical professionals surrounding me. I survived the three days before I held my son for the first time. Against pressures to do otherwise, I protected his prepuce and his beautiful, intact body.

I pumped my precious milk every 3 hours until I was ALLOWED to hold him, ALLOWED to nurse him with my own breasts, three days after I pushed him out, after he was immediately severed from me. I survived that week while they poked and prodded and gradually unhooked him from the various life support machines. I remember his defiant swatting at the plastic oxygen hood that masked his face and the precious smug look on his tiny face as they finally removed it.

I am fierce because I never doubted he would be well, and though the doctors were cautious, he did nothing but improve and gain weight. And I took him home, and loved him ferociously . . . partially to make it up to him, to try to heal the wounds of our birth.

For me, those wounds included self-doubt and hatred, undeniable and heart wrenching grief, and later flashbacks and waking nightmares. I did not value sleep as much as I valued the time I spent with him, learning his ways, listening to my deep intuitions as I should have all along. I could not resent him, or mourn a life I used to have because I nearly lost before I ever had him . . . and because a large part of me died in that hospital.

I am fierce because I began to listen to myself and my baby above all other voices. Ignoring my intuitive voice had led me to a sham of a birth which had hurt us both. I set my mind to researching parenting, the evolutionary psychology of birth and childrearing, and I wore my baby in slings and other soft carriers. I nursed him on demand and coslept. We started practicing Elimination Communication as a family. I refused any and all vaccinations for my baby, whose immune system was flawless by design and inexorably tied to our breastfeeding relationship. I could not and would not let my helpless child “cry it out” and lie to myself that it was for his own good, as my mother undoubtedly did to me.

I am fierce beyond belief because, even as my husband remained distant or took to uncontrolled raging fits which left holes in doors, I stood firm. I told him that if he lay a hand in anger on my child or myself, he would know fear. And he listened, and we talked. I am fierce because I recognized the helplessness and fear that our birth and our situation caused in the man who was supposed to be able to protect us, and I told him that it mirrored my own pain and terror . . . and that we could weather this storm together.

I survived the cold and sometimes violent withdrawal of my husband, and I saw him open the door to hope. I would not stand down, and I would not take no for an answer. I did not accept that he did not, and could not, love our baby. I weathered their bonding issues and kept on believing that they could get along and form a close bond. I watched them play together, and saw the day my toddler cried when daddy had leave for work. I am fiercely proud of my family.

I am proud I pushed my son out of my body of my own will and power, under threat of surgical knife. I am fierce because I did not let the subsequent nightmares overtake my life. I slipped many times, but I never failed to get right back up again. I wrote, I read, and I thought and cried until I couldn’t any more, and when it was time, I beat back the demons that plagued me so that I could live my waking moments without the past intruding.

I am strong. I am fierce, and now they think they can tell me to stop nursing my baby because he is too old? Or because his nursing and my giving milk will harm the new child growing within me? I have listened to the objections, and I have read my fill of research . . . but more importantly, my heart says I am healthier, happier, and more full of life and love than I have ever been.

So I will do as I please.

Because when they tell me how to parent, or what’s good for me or my babies, they do not know to whom they speak.

Am I a fierce mama?

Oh, you bet I am.

By Leslie Kung

Leslie Kung is a babywearing educator & birth activist. She writes an empowering blog http://lkbaby.com/ that all Fierce Mamas should check out!


  1. wow! thank-You Leslie for writing, and thanks Arie for posting.
    Your experience with your husband mirrors our own. It is hard to believe the deep impact that a traumatic birth experience can have on the fathers of our babies.

  2. I totally understand where the husband is at on this one. My first baby had some problems shortly after she was born and it was hard, after that, to connect with her, to bond with her, because nothing I could do at that point would guarantee her safety. She was so small and fragile, and when there was uncertainty about the cause of the problems, and the outcome, it was hard not to pull away a little, because the potential loss would have been too great.

    To think about a situation like this one, it makes me realize just how little I've come to terms with how I felt back then and how little I've forgiven myself.

    Thank you for this article, Leslie and Arie. It's given me a lot to think about.

  3. Thank you for the article! Love you!*hugs*

  4. Now that's fierce! Thanks for posting.