Waking up to womanhood 

by Lisanne Lambert Stoop

The birth of my son was a long and painful journey. Nothing like I thought it would be. When he was finally born after 40 hours of labor, I held his warm and wet body naked in my arms, I couldn’t believe we made it. It was the toughest thing I had ever done up to then.

I had done some arduous things. Hiking through the Himalaya’s, climbing mountains, surfing, off-piste snowboarding… I like adventure, to be challenged, to get bruises and scraped knees and to hang out with the guys. But giving birth was something else, something way beyond.

Bewilderment

To completely surrender your body, to let go of all control, to go through the pain, this required an enormous strength, an enormous grit. I was instantly flooded with a deep respect for all woman that have ever given birth. With that came bewilderment at how it ever came to be that men, who might in their whole life not ever go through such a powerful transition, rule the world? How can it be, that the innate strength and wisdom of a woman is so undervalued?

Conditioned womanhood

And so on that day I was not only born a mother, it also marked the start of my exploration into what it actually means to be a woman. What are the qualities and strengths that come with fully embodying womanhood? And what does it mean to me?

I quickly came to realize that traditional feminism the way I know it, was not giving me any answers. I am deeply grateful for all the work that has been done in the past decades to work towards giving woman equal rights. But as much as we should have equal right, we are not the same as men.

I feel that for most part, reaching equality has meant that we have been trying hard to become more like man. Work like men, act like men, think like men. More and more I see how I was shaped. Growing up in a patriarchal society, we are programmed to regard masculine behavior as more valuable. Valuing work, efficiency and structure above all else. Valuing success based on the amount of power and money we acquire. Repressing emotions to behave in a way that is considered proper and acceptable.

We strive to have a career just like men, regardless of having baby’s. We take a few weeks off to birth a baby, then place the baby in someone else’s care so we can get back to work and continue our career. Isn’t that just trying to be like a man with the added responsibilities of motherhood on top? How does that serve us? How does that serve our society?

We might decide to stay home instead to take care of our babies. But we’ll still live with the same internal patriarchal programming, with a feminist software update on top, making us think we should do it all. We find ourselves at home feeling frustrated for not using our full potential, thinking that maybe we should be doing something more productive, that we are missing out, not partaking in society, that taking care of our kids is somehow a distraction from what we ‘should’ be doing.

Honoring Motherhood

How would it be if motherhood was seen as the most sacred and valuable ‘job’ one could ever have? That we would honor the incredible amount of work that goes into raising children and honor the importance of doing it well, as they are our future? Isn’t that what true feminism should aim for?

I once read somewhere that masculine energy is like a river leading into the ocean. It knows where it’s going and it flows there in the most efficient manner possible. Feminine energy, on the other hand, is the ocean, with wild, beautiful, tumultuous waves. It sounds so lovely and resonates with me on a deep level. And yet I feel starved for role-models, for examples that show me what it means to bravely embody this wildness. I am starving for hands-on feminine wisdom.

Feminine qualities

I am 35 and I just realized my period synchronizes with the moon. How was I not taught this as a young girl? How could I have not known that, not only the few days before, but every week of my monthly cycle brings different emotional qualities. There is such an intelligence to this. That we as woman embody the cycle of life every month. Birth to death. Every month we are reminded that everything is continually changing. How can it be that young girls nowadays start taking the pill from their first menstruation onward without taking a break in between, so they don’t have ‘inconvenient’ menstrual cycles, to avoid being moody, or in pain, or unable to do sports…

We have lost so much wisdom of the true feminine in our culture. I feel a huge responsibility to learn as much as possible, as soon as I can, so I’ll be able to transfer some of this knowledge to my son and daughter.

Equality in womanhood

Men and woman are equally illiterate in this subject and I believe men will benefit as much from rediscovering the powerful and sacred feminine qualities as we will. Both men and woman have male and female energy present in their bodies and we will all flourish when these energies are in balance. That will happen when both energies are given equal right of expression and equal regard. And as long as we as woman do not explore and grow into our full womanhood, with dignity and courage, men will also not know what it means to be fully men.