more info on revolutionary motherhood

February 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

for those of you who are interested in being able to get advanced copies or more information about the revolutionary motherhood publications please sign up to the listserve:   thanks lilia.

call for submissions: revolutionary motherhood

February 23, 2008 § 1 Comment

Revolutionary Motherhood

Call for submissions

Due by March 30th, 2008

We are creating a global multi-media publication called Revolutionary Motherhood inspired by the Incite! 2008 Southwest conference and the workshop entitled: Revolutionary Motherhood.  The intention of this publication is to inspire, connect, and organize women and transfolk of color who perform motherhood and daughterhood to co-create life-affirming, mutually liberating communities.

Please send submissions to mai’a at

Please check out, and for more information.

We are asking for articles, essays, interviews, black and white visual art, photography, poetry, etc .

 Exploring themes and questions such as:

What does it mean to be a mother?  What does it mean to be a daughter?

What does it mean to give birth?  How do we give birth as empowered women and transgendered folk?  What is the transition into motherhood?

What is revolutionary motherhood?  How does our experience and performance as women and transfolk of color intersect with our experience of mothering?

What are the daily acts of resistance in which we engage as mothers and daughters?  How did motherhood change our vision of resistance, revolution, and radical action?  What is our relationship to activism and the activism world through the experience of motherhood?

What is the experience of mothering those who are older than us such as parents, grandparents, etc.?  What is the experience of mothering those who are not biological descendents such as students, godchildren, stepchildren, etc.?

In what ways did our mothers model ‘revolutionary motherhood’? What is revolutionary daughterhood?  As a daughter, how do we relate and engage with the mothers and daughters in our community?  Who and what inspires us as mothers and daughters?

What does it mean to be the revolutionary mother of a boy-child/a son?  What is the experience of being a son?  How do we respond to the demonization of mothers of color who care for boy-children/sons? 

What are the specific ways that violence intersects with the experience of motherhood? In what ways does the anti-violence movement need to be more responsible to the experience of mothers of color?  How do we respond to the violence in the medical establishment in terms of pregnancy, birth, child-rearing, elder-care, etc.?

What are specific ways that the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality play with the acts of mothering and daughtering?



family pictures

February 22, 2008 § 1 Comment


marijuana and morning sickness

February 21, 2008 § 8 Comments

Medical Marijuana: A Surprising Solution to Severe Morning Sickness
By Erin Hildebrandt
Issue 124 May/June 2004

As is the case for many young women, my indulgence in recreational drugs, including alcohol and caffeine, came to an abrupt halt when my husband and I discovered we were pregnant with our first child. To say we were ecstatic is an understatement. Doctors had told me we might never conceive, yet here we were, expecting our first miracle. I closely followed my doctor’s recommendations. When I began to experience severe morning sickness, I went to him for help. He ran all of the standard tests, then sent me home with the first of many prescription medicines.

Weeks passed, and, as the nausea and vomiting increased, I began to lose weight. I was diagnosed as having hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe and constant form of morning sickness. I started researching the condition, desperately searching for a solution. I tried wristbands, herbs, yoga, pharmaceuticals, meditation—everything I could think of. Ultimately, after losing 20 pounds in middle pregnancy, and being hospitalized repeatedly for dehydration and migraines, I developed preeclampsia and was told an emergency cesarean was necessary. My dreams of a normal birth were shattered, but our baby boy, though weighing only 4 pounds 14 ounces and jaundiced from the perinatal medications I’d been given, was relatively healthy.

When, six months later, I again found myself pregnant, I was even more determined to have a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy, and sought out the care of the best perinatologist in the area. At first, I was impressed. This doctor assured me he had all the answers, and that, under his expert care, my baby and I would never experience a moment of discomfort. However, as my belly swelled, I grew more and more ill, and my faith in my dream doctor began to falter. What convinced me to change healthcare providers midstream was this doctor’s honesty. He admitted that, due to constraints imposed on him by his malpractice-insurance company, some routine procedures that he knew to be harmful would be required of me. We left his office that day and never went back.

As I searched for a new doctor, I ran across information about midwifery and homebirth. At first, I thought this was simply crazy. Have a baby at home, with no doctor? No way! I thought. But, as I began examining the statistics, I discovered an unexpected pattern. In studies comparing planned home versus hospital births, planned homebirths, with a midwife in attendance, have lower rates of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Not only that, but midwives’ rates of such invasive procedures as amniotomy and episiotomy are much lower. Everything I had believed about birth and medicine suddenly came into question. I located a midwife and made an appointment to see her.

We were very impressed with this woman’s education and experience, and were delighted to invite her into our home to share in our second birth. She gave me many new ideas to try to abate the morning sickness, which still plagued me. But despite her best efforts with herbs, homeopathic remedies, and even chiropractic care, my illness remained intractable.

About this time, I ran into an old, dear friend from college. When Jenny came to visit me one particularly awful day, we shared stories of the old days, and I soon found myself laughing as I hadn’t laughed in years. Despite being interrupted by numerous trips to worship the porcelain god, it felt wonderful to share some time with her. But when we began talking about my burgeoning belly, I broke down in sobs. I told her about how I was desperately afraid of what this malnutrition was doing to my baby. I explained how my midwife had told me that preeclampsia appears to be a nutritional disorder of pregnancy, and I didn’t know how I could avoid it if I couldn’t eat.

Jenny listened and cried with me. Then, she tentatively produced a joint from her jacket pocket. I was shocked. We had shared a lot of these in college, but I had no idea she still smoked. Slowly, she began telling me that she knew some women who smoked marijuana for morning sickness, and it really helped them. She hadn’t known anyone with as severe a form of the illness as I had, but reasoned that if it works to quell the side effects of chemotherapy, it must work well.

Understandably, I was concerned about what kind of effect marijuana might have on my baby. The only information I had ever heard on the subject was that it was a dangerous drug that should not be used in pregnancy. We discussed for some time the possibility that it could be harmful, though neither of us had enough information to make any sort of truly informed decision. What finally convinced me to give it a try was Jenny’s compelling reasoning. “Well, you know that not eating or drinking more than sips of tea and nibbles of crackers is definitely harmful, right? You might as well give this a try and see what happens. You don’t have much to lose.”

She was right. I was 32 weeks along and had already lost 30 pounds. I had experienced four days of vomiting tea, broth, crackers, and toast. Nothing would stay down long. In an excited, giggly, reminiscing mood, I told her to “Fire it up!” I took two puffs of the tangy, piney smoke. As it took effect, I felt my aches and nausea finally leave me. Jenny and I reclined against my old beanbag, and I began sobbing again and unintelligibly thanking her—here was the miracle I had prayed for. A few minutes later, when I calmed down, we ordered a pizza. That was the best pizza I had ever tasted—and I kept down every bite.

It was sad that I had to discover the benefits of this medicine late in my second pregnancy, through trial and error, and not learned of them long before—from my doctors. This experience launched a much safer and more intelligent investigation into the use of cannabis during pregnancy.

I spent hour after hour poring over library books that contained references to medical marijuana and marijuana in pregnancy. Most of what I found was either a reference to the legal or political status of marijuana in medicine, or medical references that simply said that doctors discourage the use of any “recreational drug” during pregnancy. This was before I discovered the Internet, so my resources were limited. The little I could find that described the actual effects on a fetus of a mother’s smoking cannabis claimed that there was little to no detectable effect, but, as this area was relatively unstudied, it would be unethical to call it “safe.” I later discovered that midwives had safely used marijuana in pregnancy and birth for thousands of years. Old doctors’ tales to the contrary, this herb was far safer than any of the pharmaceuticals prescribed for me by my doctors to treat the same condition. I confidently continued my use of marijuana, knowing that, among all options available to me, it was the safest, wisest choice.

Ten weeks after my first dose, I had gained 17 pounds over my pre-pregnant weight. I gave beautiful and joyous birth to a 9 pound, 2 ounce baby boy in the bed in which he’d been conceived. I know that using marijuana saved us both from many of the terrible dangers associated with malnutrition in pregnancy. Soon after giving birth, I told my husband I wanted to do it again.

Not one to deny himself or his wife the pleasures of conception, my husband agreed that we would not actively try to prevent a pregnancy, and nine months after the birth of our second son, I was pregnant with our third child. This time, I had my routine down. At the first sign of nausea, I called Jenny, who brought me my medicine. In my third, fourth, and fifth pregnancies, I gained an average of 25 pounds with each child. I had healthy, pink, chubby little angels, with lusty first cries. Their weights ranged from 8 to 9 1/2 pounds. Marijuana completely transformed very dangerous pregnancies into more enjoyable, safer, and healthier gestations.

But I was caught in a catch-22. Because my providers of perinatal health care were not doctors, they had no authority to issue me a recommendation for marijuana. In addition, I chose not to tell them I used cannabis for fear they could refuse me care. Finally, even if I could get a recommendation, I knew of no compassion clubs (medical marijuana cooperatives or dispensaries) in my area. I had to take whatever my friends could find from street dealers.

Many times I would go hungry, waiting four or more days for someone in town to find marijuana. I became so desperate for relief that I would contemplate driving to a large city like New York and walking the streets until I could find something. Fortunately, each time I almost reached that point, some kind soul would show up with something to get me through. What else is a sick person supposed to do when the only medicine that helps, and is potentially life-saving for her baby, is unavailable? I would much rather go to a store and purchase a product wrapped in a package secured with the seal of the state in which I live than buy from some guy on the street.

Along the way, I discovered the benefits of using marijuana to treat other disorders. At times, I have been plagued by migraines so severe I would wind up in the emergency room. I would receive up to 250 milligrams of Demerol, and sometimes, when Demerol failed, even shots of Dilaudid. Thanks to my sporadic use of marijuana and a careful dosing regimen, I have not been to an emergency room in more than three years. [In September 1999, the Food and Drug Administration approved an application for a rigorous study designed to investigate the medical efficacy of marijuana on migraine headaches.—Ed.] In addition, I was diagnosed as having Crohn’s disease. After months of tests and treatments for my symptoms, I began using a dosing method similar to what I’d used for migraines, and I found that, once again, marijuana provided more relief than anything else. All in all, I’ve been prescribed more than 30 truly dangerous drugs, yet the only one that has provided relief without the associated risks is one many doctors won’t even discuss, much less recommend.

My history with medicine and with marijuana has been more extensive than average. It is my sincere belief that if the American public were told the truth about marijuana, they could not help but support an immediate end to cannabis prohibition. Even I believed it was dangerous, until I began researching the issue. What I discovered is that not one person has ever died from smoking marijuana. The same cannot be said for the results of the misuse of some of our most commonly used substances, such as caffeine, aspirin, or vitamin A. In addition, marijuana is no more a “gateway drug” to other substances than is caffeine or alcohol. Most kids try these things long before they experiment with cannabis. And, finally, unlike such legal drugs as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, marijuana is not addictive. As with Twinkies or sex, a user can come to psychologically depend on marijuana’s mood-altering effects; however, no physical addiction is associated with cannabis.

Now I find myself mother to five beautiful, intelligent, creative children for whom I would lay down my life in an instant. I have been blessed with the challenge of helping them grow into responsible, hardworking, and loving adults. I have also been blessed with the challenge of protecting them from a world fraught with dangers. There are those who would have me believe that, in order to protect my children from drug abuse, I must lie to them; that I must tell them that marijuana is dangerous, with no redeeming qualities. Some say I should go so far as to tell them that it couldn’t possibly be used as a medicine. Then there are those who would say that if I ever find out that my child has experimented with marijuana, I should turn her over to expert authorities in order to impart a lesson. While this does send a message to the child, it is not the message I want to send.

What I teach my children, ages nine and under, about drugs is that medicine comes in many forms, and that children should never touch any medicine (categorized broadly as a pill, liquid, herb, or even caffeinated beverage) unless it is given to them by a trusted adult. My cabinets are full of herbs, such as red raspberry leaves and rosemary, which I use in cooking and as medicines. I have things such as comfrey, which I use externally, that could be dangerous if taken internally. Like all responsible parents, my husband and I keep all medicines, cleaning products, and age-inappropriate items, such as small buttons, out of the reach of our kids and safely locked away.

However, I am aware that the day may come when my kids figure out the trick to the lock, so I add an extra measure of safety by educating them about the honest dangers of using medicines that are not needed. In addition, by sharing my views about the politics behind the issues, I am teaching them another, equally important lesson. As Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Gerald Uelmen stated last year at the medical marijuana giveaway at the City Hall in Santa Cruz, California, “We are teaching our children compassion for the sick and dying; only a twisted and perverted federal bureaucrat could call that the wrong message.”

I have also tried to impart a deep respect for natural healing. By using cool compresses and acupressure for headaches before grabbing a pharmaceutical such as acetaminophen, I’ve taught them the importance of avoiding dependence on drugs. I have also shown them the benefits of the wise and careful use of pharmaceuticals by using them when they were my best choice. I try to instill in them a sense of reason and resourcefulness by honestly presenting the answers to their questions and admitting what I do not know, but searching until I find the answer.

When our oldest child overheard my husband and me discussing marijuana prohibition, it opened up a wonderful line of communication about the subject. I gave him a very basic explanation: that marijuana is a plant that can be used as a medicine. I explained that it could be overused and abused, as well. Then I told him that this plant is illegal, and that people who are found to possess marijuana can go to jail. The question I found myself floundering to answer, however, was when he asked, “Why would the police put someone in jail for using medicine?”
It is long past time parents stood up and took notice of the abuses being leveled on our children by well-intentioned but misinformed governing officials. We need honest and responsible drug education that treats children as intelligent pre-adults who are learning how to live full and healthy lives in a dangerous world.

They need every shred of information we can give them, so that they do not choose to huff butane or snort heroin simply because they survived smoking the joint we told them was dangerous, and because they therefore assume we must be lying about the rest. We need to provide an open line of communication so that, if they ever have to face areas of ambiguity or situations we have neglected to discuss, they will feel comfortable coming to us, and not friends or the Internet, to advise them when they need it most. In order to do this, we must first educate ourselves.

Bolton, Sanford, PhD, and Gary Null, MS. “Caffeine: Psychological Effects, Use and Abuse.” Orthomolecular Psychiatry 10, no. 3 (Third Quarter 1981): 202–211.

Campbell, Fiona A., et al. “Are Cannabinoids an Effective and Safe Treatment Option in the Management of Pain? A Qualitative Systematic Review.” British Medical Journal 323, no. 7303 (7 July 2001): 13–16.

Conrad, Chris. Hemp for Health. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1997.

Department of Health, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Rota. “The Safety of Home Birth: The Farm Study.” American Journal of Public Health 82, no. 3 (March 1992): 450–453.

Duran, AM. Dreher, Melanie C., PhD, et al. “Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study.” Pediatrics 93, no. 2 (February 1994): 254–260.

Grinspoon, Lester, MD, and James B. Bakalar. Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, rev ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Hall, W., et al. The Health and Psychological Consequences of Cannabis Use. National Drug Strategy Monograph Series 25. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994.

House of Lords, Select Committee on Science and Technology. “Cannabis—The Scientific and Medical Evidence.” London, England: The Stationery Office, Parliament (1998). Cited in Iversen, Leslie L., PhD, FRS. The Science of Marijuana. London, England: Oxford University Press, 2000: 178.

Joy, Janet E., et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1999.

Munch, S. “Women’s Experiences with a Pregnancy Complication: Causal Explanations of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.” Social Work and Health Care 36, no. 1 (2002): 59–76.

Nettis, E., et al. “Update on Sensitivity to Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” Current Drug Targets: Immune, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders 1, no. 3 (November 2001): 233–240.

Randall, Robert C., and Alice M. O’Leary. Marijuana Rx: The Patients’ Fight for Medicinal Pot. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1998.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Dept. of Health and Human Services. National Household Survey on Drug Abuse 2000. Washington, DC: SAMHSA, 2001.

Tramer, M. R., et al. “Cannabinoids for Control of Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting: A Quantitative Systematic Review.” British Medical Journal 323, no. 7303 (7 July 2001): 16–21.

US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition.” Docket 86-22 (6 September 1988): 57.

“Vitamin A Toxicity.” The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Sec. 1, Ch. 3, “Vitamin Deficiency, Dependency and Toxicity.”

Woodcock, H. C., et al. “A Matched Cohort Study of Planned Home and Hospital Births in Western Australia 1981–1987.” Midwifery 10, no. 3 (September 1994): 125–135.

Zimmer, Lynn, PhD, and John P. Morgan, MD. Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence. New York: The Lindesmith Center, 1997.

Zimmerman, Bill, PhD, et al. Is Marijuana the Right Medicine for You? New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1998.

Americans for Safe Access:
Coalition for Medical Marijuana:
Drug War Facts:
Marijuana Policy Project:

For more information about nausea or marijuana, see the following articles in past issues of Mothering: “Nausea During Pregnancy” no. 52; “Marijuana in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding,” no.42; and “Coping With
Nausea in Pregnancy,” no. 30.

Erin Hildebrandt is a writer, an activist, and a happily married, suburban mother of five. Her website is at

drugs and pregnancy

February 20, 2008 § 1 Comment


March 09, 2006

Laws that make it a crime to be pregnant and addicted undermine women’s and children’s health and seriously threaten women’s reproductive rights. Moreover, they are based on a number of unsubstantiated and costly myths.

Myth #1: All Drug-Exposed Children Are Seriously Damaged At Birth.

Some newborns exposed prenatally to some substances do suffer adverse short or long-term consequences. These infants include those whose mothers lacked access to quality prenatal care and adequate nutrition, smoked or drank while pregnant, or used fertility-enhancing medications that cause multiple births associated with prematurity and other life-threatening hazards. However, sensational, inaccurate, and misleading news reports, especially about crack/cocaine, have convinced many people of the necessity of punitive responses to the problem of drug-exposed children. Today, dozens of carefully constructed studies establish that the impact of cocaine on newborns has been greatly exaggerated and that other factors are responsible for many of the ills previously associated with cocaine use — with poverty chief among them.

Myth #2: Women Who Use Drugs Could Simply Stop.

Women who are addicted to drugs cannot simply stop their use. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease whose recovery takes time. Nevertheless, addiction is frequently regarded as a moral failing, and pregnant addicted women are presumed to be selfish and uncaring. Many of these women, however, were sexually abused as children or beaten as adults, and turned to drugs to numb the pain of the abuse and trauma they were experiencing. Then, they become addicted.

Once addicted, pregnant women face numerous barriers to getting help. The lack of adequate treatment for women has been well documented, despite evidence of drug treatment’s success and cost-effectiveness. Research shows that comprehensive treatment programs that do not separate mothers from their children help women and their families. They are also cost-effective, especially when one compares their price tag to the staggering financial and social costs of imprisonment and separating mother and child

Relapse, however, is a part of the disease. Even when there is meaningful treatment available recovery is a process that occurs over time. Pregnant women should not be jailed and punished when they exhibit symptoms of a disease. Similarly, pregnant women should not be singled out for a form of medical vigilantism that requires them to accept and comply with treatment that may not even be medically appropriate for them or face arrest and imprisonment.

Myth #3: Threatening Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs With Criminal Penalties Will Protect Their Children And Improve Their Health

Far from protecting children, the threat of prosecution deters women from seeking prenatal care and what little drug treatment may be available. That is why every leading health group to address the question has opposed the use of criminal laws to address this public health question. These organizations include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Society on Addiction Medicine. Similarly organizations such as the Center for the Future of Children and The March of Dimes that are concerned specifically with children’s health oppose the use of criminal laws in this area. As the March of Dimes explains: “targeting substance-abusing pregnant women for criminal prosecution is inappropriate and will drive women away from treatment.”

Fortunately, research demonstrates that even when women can’t abstain completely from drugs, they can nevertheless have healthy pregnancies if they get prenatal care and help for other problems, especially those associated with poverty. Putting women in jails and prisons where health care is notoriously inadequate and where drugs are nevertheless often available, is certainly not child protective. Similarly forcing a pregnant woman to go cold turkey in prison or out of fear of arrest can in some cases cause her to lose the pregnancy.

Finally, there already exist numerous laws criminalizing drugs. Clearly criminilzation has not been a successful strategy in curing addiction. There is no evidence that yet another drug law will work any better.

Myth 4: Prosecuting Pregnant Drug Users Will Not Interfere With Women’s Reproductive Rights.

The premise underlying criminal laws that punish drug using pregnant women is that fetuses may be viewed as separate legal entities with rights hostile to and in conflict with those of the pregnant woman. Each decision that recognizes such interests eats away at the basic premise of Roe v. Wade and the health and interests of women and their future children. Moreover, for some women, an unwanted abortion may be the only way to avoid arrest and imprisonment for continuing a pregnancy to term despite a drug problem. Coerced abortions violate the fundamental constitutional right to procreate.

South Carolina: A Lesson To Learn From

In 1997, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that viable fetuses are persons under state law, and as a result, that a pregnant woman who uses an illicit drug, or engages in any other behavior that might endanger a viable fetus, may be prosecuted as a child abuser. Shortly after the decision, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office explicitly stated that the case provides a basis for prosecuting women who have post-viability abortions — for any reason and regardless of method — with murder and imposing the death penalty on the women as well as their physicians. Since the decision:

* Infant mortality in the state increased for the first time in a decade.
* The state has also saw a twenty percent increase in abandoned babies.
* Drug treatment programs providing services to women saw a dramatic decline in the number of women seeking drug treatment.

What Should Be Done?

As the Center for the Future of Children recommends, “[w]omen who use illegal drugs during pregnancy should not be subject to special criminal prosecutions or special civil commitment provisions.” Instead research should be done to “determine the effectiveness of drug treatment and intervention programs” and drug treatment “should be available for all drug [using] pregnant women, parents and infants.”

February 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

cuando una mujer avanza, no hay hombre que retroceda.

mujeres rebeldes

mexico, centro america

maternal sacrifice

February 7, 2008 § Leave a comment

god, its hard out there for a mama.  today my back is achey.  aza is with cal and i am sitting in an internet cafe.  trying to catch up on life online.  drinking a beer and wondering if it is going to rain.  the sky is overcast and white but i think the clouds are keeping the heat held against the earth.

and i refuse to sacrifice myself for my kid.  sorry.  but its true.  and i think that she deserves a mama not a martyr and yeah , everyday i feel that social pressure, invisible, and spoken and whispered.  and it is a daily struggle to reiterate that motherhood, my experience of motherhood, is more than just what i am willing to give up.  and i cannot perform motherhood as a maternal sacrificial role. 

whatever happened to adrienne rich and her description of motherhood.  that there is no such thing as maternal instinct.  and lets be suspicious of expectations of unconditional love.  i mean what does unconditional love mean?  maybe i dont have to love my child all the time.  maybe there are moments (at 5 am after she has needed to feed like every hour for the past 8 hours) that i dont love her unconditionally.  i love her so much more when she decides to sleep.  isnt that feeling and reaction so much more human and honest than the virgin mother sacrificial images.  

when i was pregnant i searched for images of pregnancy and motherhood that werent the image of a woman blissed out by the sacrifice of motherhood.  we have to look deep.  because even women who call themselves feminists, even among women who claim to pro-woman, supportive of women lives, discount the experience of the majority of women, because they are mothers.  especially those women who admit that they chose to be mothers.   well, if you choose to be a mother, then you chose to sacrifice your dreams, loves, ambitions, your ability to create beauty in the world, and in return you get to breastfeed.  you get to hold that sleepy loving babe in your arms.  you get to sing silly songs to help her calm down.  you get to forget that anything other than this moment with your baby is relevant.  but i believe that we create the world that our children grow up in.  and that is what it is about being dedicated to your children is not just some ridiculous ideal of ‘ unconditional love’.   but to create beautiful art, and families, and communities.  to tell your children that it is more than just about their desires, but it is about creating a world in which their desires are able to be realized.  and so to be good mothers, we must be good artists, good lovers, good organizers, good partners, good revolutionaries.

and if there is a sacrifice to be made, it is that it must be worth it to us, as mothers, as women, to struggle to create the world that supports motherhood in all of its manifestations.  we must be willing to tell someone: to fuck off, if someone tells us who we are as mothers, who we are as women, who we are as workers, who we are as artists.  we dont fight this just for our children.  but for the rights of children to be children, by having mothers who are human beings.  for the rights of women to be women, by refusing to divide working moms from stay at home moms, by refusing to divide moms from unattached women.

because motherhood is the frontlines of human beings moral liberation.  and how we position mothers in our society and our world is equivalent to how we see ordinary beautiful human beings who do the ordinary beautiful work of creating life and love and community.  selah.

In addition to asserting maternal primacy, Breeder also follows the new momism dictum that idealizes maternal self-sacrifice. My students’ were quick to notice this element in the stories in the collection. Despite expressing some uncertainty over the life-style choices made by the authors, many students praised them for exhibiting unconditional love, a quality they identified as being important to being a good mother. Several students, as the following journal excerpts reveal, could not point to specific maternal actions that clearly exemplified unconditional love, but they nevertheless attested to its existence in the stories:

“People might look at the non-hegemonic lifestyles as being wrong and traumatizing for the children. However, the book does not portray them as being that way. They stress the fact that they love their children unconditionally, so raising them in a non-hegemonic environment doesn’t seem to have an affect on the child.” [student 1]

“Another very important quality of a mother is unconditional love. This is seen in some of the stories by the struggle that some of these women went through to have a baby.” [student 2]

Almost unanimously, the students applauded what they called “mother love.” I suspect that, at least in part, these reactions, with their vague grounding in the text and recourse to idealized notions of motherhood, arise from the fact that none of my students were parents themselves, and so the only way into discussing motherhood for some of them was through these ideals or through (wishful?) reference to their own mothers.

[22] Additionally, students identified selflessness and sacrifice as being important traits for a mother. While many were quick to point out in their journal responses that extreme maternal self-sacrifice can also be a negative trait, many saw it as a defining quality. As the following journal excerpts show, other students went on to argue that this trait manifests itself in narratives in Breeder:

“When I think about what a mother should be, many characteristics come to mind. One is to be unselfish and to put the needs of the child’s before the needs of the mother. I saw this in many of the stories I read in Breeder.” [student 2]

“All of the stories involved the mother sacrificing something in her life such as a job or time in order to be a better mother.” [student 3]

“Good mothers are willing to make sacrifices for their children.” [student 4]

“I think of my own personal ideas on motherhood: Not for me! Any way you cut it, parenthood is about sacrifice. Of course for some the gains are worth the losses but the losses are profound nonetheless.” [student 5]

“I think the number one characteristic for a good mother is sacrifice, which all of the mothers in Breeder did.” [student 6]

Sacrifice strikes me as a strange quality for my students to appreciate in a collection of stories that the editor claims is about women who chose “to have our kids while, not instead of, following our dreams.”

[23] However, some students observed that some of the authors do in fact give up careers and educations or switch careers and educational plans, as a result of having children. The following journal excerpt summarizes two such examples:

“Another story that showed this motherly quality [being unselfish] was ‘The Piano Tuner.’ This story talked about a woman who had studied music all her life. She had worked very hard at it and had a true passion for it. She then got pregnant and had a little girl. Because she had a child, she put her dreams on the back burner. Another story this characteristic is found in is the story about the mother who was a poet. Once she had children, raising them became a priority. Even though she would have loved to have time to write, that time was very limited once she started a family.” [student 2]

Gore’s point that these mothers are challenging the socially scripted time-line for when women should have children (after education, career, and marriage have been achieved) seems lost in my students’ assertion that these mothers follow the conventional social script of women sacrificing their careers for their families, which the students saw as desirable if not unavoidable. My students’ observations suggest that despite subverting culturally scripted time-line for motherhood, Breeder can be read as upholding the anti-feminist romanticization of maternal sacrifice.

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