A Review of "Motherhood Speaks" 2016
There is something very special when individuals from varying walks of life come together to share their experiences with one another. The older helps the younger one to learn, the experienced helps the inexperienced to grow, and everyone, with their story, vulnerably shares something they believe could help another. Such a process can be healing for the speaker as well as the listener. For this purpose, an event called "Motherhood Speaks" was created by Nova Birth Services, and hosted by the Arts at Center Street for the first time in 2015. This year, attendees were blessed to have the experience again, with several new faces being blessed for the first time--from women just entering their childbearing years to grandmothers. There was no shortage of creativity offered amongst the diverse group of women--the night was teeming with performances that offered a window into the soul of each mother who shared.
There was an air of anticipation as each woman took the mic, willing to share her pearls of wisdom with the room ready to receive them, without judgment or critique. The night began with Julie Carpenter, mother of two, who shared a heartfelt letter written to her daughter, Mercy. In it, Julie recounted Mercy's birth and the calm but steady miracle that happened as a result of being surrounded by caring friends. Julie was supported by her loving husband and trained birth workers who together cared for her seamlessly and skillfully, themselves being witnesses to the Lord’s presence amidst unexpected chaos. As she shared the details, the room filled with laughter, knowing sighs and tears at God’s faithfulness in the most fragile hour.
The stage was soon cleared for a beautiful and moving performance by Tara Garner and her teenage daughter, Genesis. Tara performed a spoken word piece, “If I Should Have a Daughter” by Sarah Kay, as Genesis elaborated the imagery through a thoughtfully choreographed modern dance. Together they reminded the audience about the powerful lessons that a mother has to teach her daughter, through both the beauty and heartache of life.
The evening continued with pieces that explored the very candid emotions that are unique to the motherhood journey. One mother reflected on her relationship with her only son, recognizing how time will shift and she will one day share her son with another woman, his wife. The poem was spoken in tribute to her mother-in-law, who like her, is a mother "to daughters, and a son." Others spoke with candor about the pain experienced in their birth, or confronting their fears with faith, or the challenge of being an adoptive mother. Each voice and line delivered was honest and authentic.
One of the sweetest parts of the evening was hearing the voice of the first time mother, Leah Sherrod, as she disclosed her inner thoughts from one morning before her son’s first birthday. She listed all the things “[She] Never Knew” would change her life for the better upon becoming his mom--humorous things like her newfound habit of birdwatching because of her son’s love for them, to more poignant things, like “the skillful practice of calming [her] own heart in order to calm his.” Soon after, a mother of ten spoke sincerely about the mix of heartache and pride that she felt as she watched her firstborn son leave home to start his own life. The contrast was rich, compelling the listeners to embrace their present moment with their children as time does not move slowly, for any of us.
The evening concluded with Chelsea Carver, mother to a baby with a congenital heart defect. Her concluding poems took attendees on a path from tear-streaming laughter over a toddler's commentary to a deep conviction that mothers must be there for one another. Her charge energized the attendees to consider the role they could play in the larger picture of motherhood, and the significance of storytelling for the purpose of empowering other mothers:
"Roar your story, or whisper,
But remember those who are listening
That they are listening, and reaching,
for some semblance of control… some seeking a foothold on what to expect
Others just looking for someone to accept
That their birth wasn’t wrong, or bad, or a failure….
Women don’t hear the directness of a coach
“good job, atta girls”
We’re looking for “me too! I felt that way!”
Or “totally, I’ve been there, there is no shame!”
We look for our place among the mothering..."
Studies have shown that the sharing of birth stories as a rite of passage has more impact on a mother’s expectation for her own birth and entrance to motherhood than formal childbirth classes or literature. It becomes the duty of the older generation, whether mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters or friends, to gift younger women with their experience and perspective. It was evident that this event provided a safe place for this exact moment to transpire.