After what can only be described as a blissfully zen pregnancy, one that I naively believed would beget an equally blissful delivery, my first baby was born via a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. emergency c-section. As I was wheeled into the operating room, tied down like a mental patient circa the 1800’s, I couldn’t help but note the situational irony: what a beautiful day to saw my blissful ass in half.
After the surgery, my doctor sat opposite me, an indifferent spectator to my hormonal and overly-medicated rollercoaster ride, and told me very matter-of-factly that I would never deliver a baby the old fashioned way.
Apparently something was “wrong” with me.
I was hearing her, I just wasn’t hearing her.
You see, I am nothing if not stubborn. Like next level stubborn, like a toddler intent on wearing her Princess gown, tiara, and plastic high heels to the grocery store kind of stubborn. And as the doctor spoke, I made up my mind then and there: I would have a VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean, for my yet-to-be-conceived future children. I wasn’t “broken” as the doc would have me believe.
I was on a mission, people, and that mission was pushing a person out of my vagina!
When my husband and I learned we were expecting our second child, my stubborn switch flipped into overdrive.
I met with new doctors and poured over my medical charts,
I hired a doula,
I devoured literature on VBACs,
I meditated to Hypno-Baby tracks,
I put my intentions out there for the Universe to hear!
And nine months later, my mission—or obsession, if you’re talking to my husband—finally came to fruition. I pushed our beautiful baby girl right out of my vagina.
My daughter barely whimpered as she lay on my chest, and ooey gooey mess of perfection, so when the nurse announced that her clavicle was fractured, we were surprised. The tiny girl at my breast didn’t appear to be in any discomfort, and if she were, she never let on. As I looked her over with concern, our eyes met and, mid-suckle, hers said, “What, fractured? That the best you got?!”
And I knew it instantly: she was our fighter. The Universe had indeed heard my intentions and delivered unto us a miniature version of me: stubborn, won’t take no for an answer, gonna prove you allll wrong.
As you can imagine, my parents appreciated this as they laughed and laughed and high-fived Karma.
As a feisty 4-year-old, my daughter resembles me more now than ever. Her inextinguishable fire continues. She loves freely and fiercely. She holds her own with her big brother, and will take you down to Chinatown if you dare mess with her baby sister. She is quick to hug, quicker still to whine, and at the end of every day, collapses into an exhausted ball of perfection that so reminds me of that tenacious newborn at my breast.
I don’t know how long until it happens, but it’s going to happen. She is an outspoken female; therefore, it is inevitable, and as her mother, it’s my responsibility to prepare her for B-Day.
The day on which my daughter is first called a Bitch.
The first time I was called a bitch was about 30 years ago. I had been so ashamed; the word was ugly and hateful, I grew up despising it. What kind of person warrants such a vicious name anyway?
Turns out, the kind of person I aspired to be. Slowly, I began to see that the women I admired most were often on the receiving end of the word bitch, and they embodied the characteristics that I now hope to instill in my both of my daughters.
A woman is called a bitch when she is strong, passionate, intelligent and determined. But that doesn’t mean the people throwing the word around necessarily intend it as a compliment. That’s why, even though my girls are still young, I’m already consciously trying to teach them to embrace their inner bitch…
Embracing Your Inner Bitch, Lesson #1: Relationships:
Life is a revolving door of people; they will come and they will go. Some will build you up. Others? Not so much. Promise me that you will always stand up for yourself—and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. All relationships test us, but do not conform. Rock the boat when necessary, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than, not good enough, or that you don’t matter. You will be called a bitch for not compromising your self-worth, and that’s OK. You want to be That Bitch.
Lesson #2, Bitches in the Workplace
You can lean in, lean out, be bossy or whatever. Just make sure you always do your job to the very best of your ability. Also, be aware that, because you are females, when you are recognized for a job well done, your achievements may be called into question. This is because some are intimidated by successful women; others are simply jealous. It’s not right, and hopefully the perception of powerful women will change, but for now, society feels the need to slap a label on us, and they have their heart set on bitch. So wear it.
Embracing Lesson #3, Education:
Under no circumstance should you ever hide the fact that you are capable or articulate or well-read. Women can be intelligent without being pretentious, and those who disagree are insecure. Never conceal your strengths to make others feel better about their weakness.
Lesson #4, Money:
Don’t be afraid of hard work; the harder you work, the more money you’ll make, and living comfortably ultimately means less stress. But be warned: the more successful you are and the better you’re able to support yourself, the more you will be called a bitch. Some may attempt to insult you by dropping F-bombs (Feminist.), but at least they won’t be able to drop a D-bomb: Dependent!
Our fifth and final Lesson, Confidence:
Confidence, a key component of embracing your inner bitch, is often misconstrued as arrogance. You don’t even have to be the assertive type to earn the reputation; quiet confidence leads to assumptions that you have ulterior motives. Either way, self-assured women are branded with a scarlet B just because they believe in themselves. Keep believing.
I want my daughters, and women everywhere, to understand that, although our culture’s definition of the word is meant to bring women down, being called a bitch really just means we’re doing something right. And always remember: words only have the power we assign them; so lead by example and rewrite that definition! Like when a doctor implies you’re broken…Nod, smile, rewrite. Be kind, be honest, be stubborn, be a fighter, be you. And don’t ever forget what Mommy has taught you: when someone calls us a bitch, we say thank you.
Sit! I'll come to you.
I read this essay at Pittsburgh’s first Listen To Your Mother show in May 2015. Don’t worry if you didn’t make the live performance, I’m bringing it to you now! Below is the video of my reading and–behind the scenes spoiler alerts coming!–I got a little choked up when talking about how my girls are fighters. I kept picturing my youngest who we thought, at that time, was battling serious medical issues. I felt my nose start to run, but wiped the fast paced snot with the help of constant fidgeting. I apologize to everyone who watches this; you may suffer from motion sickness. I blame the Italian side of my family who taught me to talk with my hands.
Photo copyright: lunamarina