This Memorial Day Weekend I went to see Dance Africa at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As usual, the dances were amazing. What stood out to me most, though, wasn’t the dancing at all. Through the clapping, shouting and audience participation, I noticed the stretchmarks on one of the dancer’s bellies. Things suddenly began to move in slow motion for me, almost like when Maria and Tony see each other at the dance in West Side Story.
I realized that I was watching a mother, and suddently felt some cosmic connection to her. I began to wonder whether her children were in the audience, how old they were, or if any were possibly sharing the stage. I wondered how she was able to find time to do something so magnificent with herself while conducting a family. I wondered whether or not she raised her children, or if they knew how talented their mother is.
At the end of the show I stood in applause. Of course, the round was for all of the dancers, musicians and singers who graced the stage. There was, however, a special beat in my heart in praise of the woman I had identified as a mother. I’m sure she wasn’t the only mother on the stage. In fact, the audienced was sprinkled with mothers holding small – and not so small – children. If I was surrounded by mothers, what made this one so different?
During a time where it’s almost impossible to watch television for an hour without a cocoa butter or other stretch creme commercial promising to help women either prevent or erase their stretch marks, I found it amazing that this mother proudly bore the marks of her birth(s). Just as waist beads, hair style, or jewelry denote status and rites of passage for women in traditional African cultures, so, too, do stretch marks.
Watching this mother’s belly flap to and fro across the stage brought me back to the precious moments immediately following birth where a woman bonds with her baby face to face for the first time, and took me to the moment that I observe in so many women when they realize their bodies have undergone an amazing change; she not only birthed her baby, but she birthed her motherhood as well. So, I stood and clapped that Monday afternoon in praise of motherhood.
These last few days I’ve been in reflection mode. In reviewing both business and personal goals, the one thing that keeps coming back is the Yoruba proverb that’s the inspiration for my doula practice:
Oriṣa bi iya ko si, iya la ba ma a bo
There is no Orisha like mother, it is mother who is worthy to be praised.
Praise mothers. Praise them for the weeks they carry and nurture their children in waiting. Praise them for the sleepness nights they endure for so many years of their lives. Praise them for the decisions they make that often leave them holding the shortest stick in the bunch. Praise mothers, simply because they are worthy to be praised.