A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Mount Mommy: Discovering Real Strength

 What does it mean to be strong? People used to call me strong before I had a baby. I guess it was because I was opinionated and outgoing and rigid. I’m guessing. I was a passionate advocate for the kids I worked for. I never shied away from a fight for what I thought I was right. I suppose that is why. I never asked. I never really thought about it. I never really agreed. People call me strong now; after having had a baby. I supposed because I went through the process of labor and birth.

At first glance I can see this. I watch birth videos and I am in awe of these women. It’s hard for me to place myself in the same group as these women even though I am. But I am not sure I can completely agree that I am strong because I gave birth. I had no choice. I had no option to give up or wimp out. Believe me, if there was the option I would have taken it. So is it really strong to just limp and scream and scratch and claw and kick through a terribly painful situation that you can’t get out of? It’s not like climbing Mount Everest. People who climb Mount Everest push through trying emotional and physical challenges when they could just as well turn around and go home.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding her son.

I suppose strength can sometimes be judged from the outside with muscles or social power. But I am beginning to think that true strength is something much deeper, something beneath the surface and not necessarily seen or known by others. The challenge of childbirth doesn’t register on the charts compared to the challenge of motherhood. The pain of seeing your baby sick or cry for an unknown reason. The pain of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for test results or realizing you made a decision for your child that you now know was the wrong one. Having to stomach these things is far more difficult than anything I have ever done. Before Jack had I been confronted with this type of stress I would have taken a chill pill, drank a bottle of wine or had a crying fit meltdown to my husband. Now when confronted with these situations I still have to be a mother to my baby. I have to put my entire self to the side and move forward. Those things that made me strong before won’t help me now. I have to dig deep and discover a new level of strength to bring me through it.


The stressful situations noted above may not seem all that stressful at first glance. Mothers can certainly understand what I mean without me having to explain. However, if you are not a mother you may need more convincing about the depth of fear that these situations provoke. I am not a talented enough writer to do that so I will rely on a quote by Elizabeth Stone: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” And on top of it you don’t know this going in. You only realize this when a baby head pops out of your vagina (or belly). This stranger/person you’ve know forever/extension of yourself is placed into your arms and of course this is lovely and beautiful and all, but it can be terrifying as well. Now how do I get some guarantee that this person will be protected forever? Nope, sorry, not part of the deal. In fact you have little control ever again over what happens. You will now look a new level of terror right in the eye everyday.

So, what does it mean to be strong? To me it means to become a mother, to learn just how far you can go, just how much you can take, just how deep you’re able to dig. It means rocking your baby when he’s sick while trembling with fear inside or cuddling him in the Emergency Room waiting for test results while your heart beats in your throat. It also means being honest about past choices and being willing to change, asking questions when your pediatrician wants you to shut up, reading the latest research and altering your approach to parenting. It’s sort of like climbing Mount Everest. You can crack under the pressure. You can give up. You can resort to drinking, drugs or having a meltdown, but then you wouldn’t really be fulfilling your role as Mommy. To be Mommy you have to keep climbing even when the biting wind is whipping you in the face and your legs are about to give out under you. You have to keep going past the causalities on the side of the trail and the reality that could be you at any moment. The only difference is there is no top of the Mommy Mountain. We climb the rest of our lives.

Abby Theuring, MSW