In the vast nebulous of social media, nestled in between the narcissistic announcements of daily routine, food porn, inspirational fluff and photos of funny cats, is a video that’s both hilarious and thought-provoking. This snippet of modern media is produced by a group of men who refer to themselves as “The Try Guys.” These “guys” often take on random tasks that they would normally not perform, and then document the results on video. The most recent one to achieve popularity as of late is a video record of the Try Guys trying “motherhood,” specifically in the form of attaching electrodes to the abdomen, back and perineum which are then stimulated to create muscular contraction similar to those experienced by women in childbirth. (Full Video Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b81Cr97ANrk. Trust me, it’s worth a watch.)
As a mother myself, the idea that men would voluntarily undergo the simulated (and let’s admit it nothing close to realistic) pain of childbirth, in an effort to better understand what women endure, intrigued me. I watched the video. I laughed so hard that I peed a little (another little after effect of vaginal birth that wasn’t covered in the video, btw). Each man was allowed an “out,” in the form of a safe word (ironically “epidural”) when the pain became too much. Not a single one made it through “birth” before tapping out.
Afterward, these brave men were interviewed about the experience. Some of the responses included:
- “I don’t care who you are, your mom is tougher than you.”
- “It’s a really special feeling to know that your mom went through all of that just to create you.”
- “I feel like I have to call my mom and say thank you.”
- “The next time I see a woman I’m just going to tell her I’m sorry… your body is trying to kill you.”
- “I can’t believe my mom endured all of that pain, and then still raised me for 18 years. She probably wants to kill me.”
Suffice it to say, after experiencing a few minutes of what many mothers experience for hours to bring life into this world, these men developed an entirely new respect for motherhood, childbirth in particular. (They also have a series of videos in which they experience pregnancy, raising a newborn, etc.)
As a “traditional” mother – meaning that I experienced pregnancy, gave birth, and am raising my daughter along with my husband – I heartily applaud the effort for men to understand what “motherhood” feels like. I still remember contractions so strong they caused dry heaves and the inability to breathe. I remember all too vividly the morning sickness, fatigue, and the discomfort of pregnant belly and kicks to the diaphragm. The memory of perineal tears and stitches will likely never dissipate. Knowing that my body carried, nourished and gave fruition to life makes me feel like Wonder Woman. Knowing that there are men out there that are taking the time to understand just how friggin’ strong I am as a result is pretty awesome too.
Yet, we do a disservice to so many when all we do is focus on the physical act of motherhood, or to the “traditional” motherhood model. I do not mean to suggest that all those women who physically created and birthed life do not deserve a medal. (I mean, have you actually watched a birth? Wow.) I simply mean that there is so much more to motherhood than the pregnancy and birth, and we disrespect mothers when we fail to remember that fact. We also disrespect all those mothers out there that are doing it in “non-traditional” ways.
I believe the reason we honor the mothers that have carried and given birth to a child so heartily, is because that physical act is an easy way to exemplify the essence of motherhood. To watch a woman’s body completely change, (physically, emotionally, hormonally, and physiologically) in order to house, and nourish a child – only to culminate in perhaps one of the most painful and selfless acts physically possible in order to give that child life, is the very epitome of what motherhood is, at its core. The deep connection between mother and child during gestation and immediately after birth is unrivaled. I suggest that this kind of selfless love is what makes a person a mother – not her ability to conceive or give birth.
Many a mother has loved, protected, nourished and raised a child to which she never gave birth. Does this make her any less a mother? Does the fact that a child never took up residence in her womb in any way diminish those maternal bonds? What of the many women that have nurtured children for the brief time those children crossed their paths, forever changing that child’s life for the better? What of children, adopted by a woman who didn’t grow them in their womb; or mothers, adopted by children who simply desired unconditional love, and found it in the love and nurture of someone who took the time to care?
The essence of motherhood is this: selfless love and devotion to another to nourish, protect, and comfort. Motherhood is a mantle taken with great trepidation and reverence, and worn with honor and humility.
It is this that makes me a mother: a preponderance of sleepless nights spent in prayer for those children I call my own, rather than sleep. It is the blessed deprivation of my own needs in order to tend to the needs of another. It is the willingness to bear the weight of worry when one of the kids is sick, or sad, or hurt. It is the ability to rejoice in both the small and great victories that grace the lives of my children. It is the incredible joy that I feel when I hear the word “mom,” be it from the child that adopted me, or the child to whom I gave birth.
I wore the maternity pants. I washed baby puke (and other bodily fluids) out of my hair. I’ve endured sleep deprivation, and extended periods of “this is why we can’t have nice things!” I’ve cleaned marker and nail polish out of the carpet, and sat in the emergency room while yet another, probably preventable, injury is mended. I’ve shed sentimental tears over random “I love yous” and unsolicited hugs. I have burst and beamed with pride over a daughter’s college graduation, and marriage, and motherhood of her own. I’ve wept very real tears over pains born and heartbreak endured by my girls. Despite all of these things, however, I am a mother because I chose to love someone more than myself, no matter what that entails.
So, to all the mothers out there: those that gave birth, those that adopted, those that were adopted, those that were a mother in the moment, and those that are mothers for a lifetime, regardless of relation… Happy Mothers Day. Thank you for that selfless love you’ve never hesitated to share.