I phoned my mentor because I had just been asked to make Holistic Peer Counseling available to a large population of women experiencing birth trauma. I desperately needed to speak with someone who could provide me with guidance and grounding—and with over 30 years’ experience in work similar to mine, my go-to person for such calls is my mother. Unfortunately, my mentor did not answer the phone that day; instead, it was her wounded child that picked up.
It took me some time to figure out what was going on because I was so engrossed in my own fear. Like a child coming to her mother, I simply wanted what I wanted. But then my body got really loud; in fact, it got so loud that I finally had to take notice. “STOP! Notice what is going on for a second Nekole!” My mentor was not available, only this broken child.
I was speaking to the part of my mother I have feared most of my life. The part of her bloodied by her birth father at the age of two for playing too loudly while he had sex in the other room. The part of her that lived in fear every day she came home from school, wondering what part of her body would be black-and-blue by the end of the night. The part of her who had never known what it was to be cradled, loved, and told, “You can do whatever you want with your life because you are amazing!” The very same words she has repeated to me more times than I can possibly count.
As my mother’s wounded child spoke to me, my child-self slipped to the background of my psyche and my mother-self stepped forward. Tears welled in my eyes, pain gripped deep in my belly, and my heart exploded with courage, yelling “Who would ever do that to my sweet little mother!? How could anyone have possibly treated her so horribly!? How many times has her body been violated? How many times has she heard how horrid she is?”
These are things I have never experienced; not from my peers and certainly not at the hands of the people my newborn-self looked to, wide-eyed and trusting to define me. Compassion overtook me. I set aside what I felt were my own petty fears and used the remainder of our phone call to give her something no one had the strength to give her before: I mothered her. I mothered her as I mother my own children. I loved her. I listened to her with a mother’s ear. I let her feel what it is to be mothered by a woman far less broken than her mother.
This phone call was one of numerous game-changing interactions I’ve had with my mother in regard to our relationship. In addition to being significant for our dyad, something new became clear to me that day: this represented a continuation of ancestral healing that began far before I was born. Each generation of women in my family has worked vehemently to pull herself up from the dregs of being considered property. Gratefully, each generation has acquired more healing and, thus, more grace and strength in the pursuit.
What was new for me in this particular call was the gift of seeing my own Feminist Privilege. I saw it not from an academic perspective, but in the context of a human-to-human interaction with one of the most valuable people in my life. I had been raised to be less broken than she and now it was time for me to gift her with what she had worked so hard to gift me. It was time for me to care for the shoulders of the woman I stood upon. It was time for me to stand with her, my hands on her shoulders and her hands on mine—two humans working together to bring the world the healing it deserves. And so we move forward.