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Elena tells us of her experience as a mother with a 15-year-old son. She reflects upon how generally you are personally not prepared when you become a parent, mainly because of the partial and judgemental narrations around motherhood (and non-motherhood), leaving women feeling lonely and not up to the task. Elena encourages to build sisterhood relationships of women supporting each other, respecting the right of a free choice regarding motherhood.

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ELENA: «I’m Elena, I’m 51 years old and I live in this beautiful place not exactly in the wood, but in a small village down there, Malosco for about 10 years, but I was born in Lombardy.
I have a son, his name is Matteo.
He’s definitely the love of my life, but, let’s say,,, this adventure is much more complex than I expected.
Let’s put it this way.
I really wanted to have a child, even if… I hope he will never know this it wasn’t really planned, it kind of happened.
When I knew I was pregnant, at first, I totally panicked.
I was 36 years old, so I wasn’t a teenager.
And although I desired him very much, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing having him in that moment when nothing was clear yet in my life.
I haven’t had much clarity of paths in my existence But once he came, I knew it was the right thing to have him, and I hope it’s like that.
Undoubtedly, even if I feel a love I didn’t think possible, The love for a child is a love that you can hardly understand it until you experience it first hand.
It is so overwhelming, that you don’t think you can handle it, until it happens.
However, I sincerely thought, more than once, that my life would have been very different without him.
For better or for worse.
One the one hand, I thought, more than once that maybe his presence aved me from myself, more than anything else.
Because I didn’t have many limits, I wanted to do everything, every time, all kind of things.
I hadn’t…
I wasn’t very stable, let’s say.
His arrival imposed me some order in my life.
Even on managing day-to-day life.
One the other hand, I asked myself if he held me back on many things I wanted to do.
Maybe also regarding experiencing new things, going to live abroad, having different job experiences, where I could test myself in different things.
I thought about it, more than once And I’ve come to the conclusion that surely things would have been different without him.
But…asking myself… I mean, sincerity involves me saying that it could have been better, yes, but maybe clearly not.
His kind of redeeming intervention, I live his existence in this sense.
As if he had given me a different purpose, compared to thinking just about myself.
And since I didn’t really love myself, maybe loving him created a new level for my existence.
I remember really well a night with some of my childhood best friends, where those of us who had children, looked at each other’s eyes, saying, “But, if you could go back… would you do it again?”
And everyone honestly said, because we were in a safe space, so between ourselves we said, “what the hell were we thinking about when we wanted one, two, three kids?”
“Really, what the hell were we thinking about?”
And I remember that as a beautiful moment, a truly liberating moment.
A great moment of group awareness, and also kind of thinking, “Good! I’m not the only one thinking that this, however extraordinary it can be, it’s difficult, hard and exhausting.
And really sometimes it takes your breath away.
So, it’s true that mothers who have the courage to admit that although this is certainly an adventure, it’s really hard, are just a few.
And usually they manage to admit this, if they are in a safe space, among friends or people who they know… they know they can be understood by them.
Otherwise, it’s true that society doesn’t welcome easily these considerations.
And it comes to my mind those terrible social media groups, full of sweet bellies, sweet mommies, little hearts, and so on… where there’s a huge lack of knowledge, that much is true, but it’s also true that children become their only reason of live, and the only reason for being with a man, or having a relationship.
They even talk about sexual relations as a duty, a duty you have to fulfill, in order to obtain the big result of having children.
And I think this is awful, that there are women completely unable to live, to honestly and peacefully live their potential motherhood.
Instead, they feel forced into something that doesn’t even belong to them.
I find it a terrible reality.
I sincerely think that society isn’t ready to accept that a woman can decide not to have children.
Because, unluckily, we’re the only ones who can do it, the only ones who can continue the species.
So, it becomes like a moral duty not to stop mankind.
On the other hand, even just talking about how hard motherhood can be, it’s seen by society as an insult towards this extraordinary gift we have been given, which is being able to give birth.
On the one hand, for goodness sake, I remember when I gave birth I felt like Wonder Woman.
Really like God, in that moment the creation of a new life was an unbelievable adrenaline rush, and I really felt omnipotent.
The creation of a life is something amazing.
But on the other hand, I try to remember the first year of my son’s life, I have very vague and confused memories of me being dead tired, of only few hours’ sleep in a day.
I remember always being sucked.
Being at the complete disposal of this creature who took everything from me:
time, sleep, energy, milk, everything hurt.
I had a very rapid labor, which on one side it was great, but I was shattered.
I even had a twisted nerve under my armpit, so I had one arm in this position for 4/5 months, before I could use it again.
Of the first year of my son’s life where I only remember nappies, tits hanging out, an incredible lack of sleep, and just some brief memories of a baby who was growing and smiling, and who was starting to say his first few words.
But it was really hard, incredibly hard.
And I still see this today in girls giving birth nowadays, friends and people who I know, nobody prepares you to this first phase.
And you are completely crushed by fatigue, by responsibility, by fear…Even holding him for the first times makes you uncomfortable, because you’re afraid to break them, because they’re so tiny.
So, this myth around becoming a mother and knowing exactly what to do, it’s a legend, it’s not true.
You learn bit by bit every day, and this certainly doesn’t stop when they’re toddlers, but it goes on.
Now my son will be 15 in 10 days and I still have no idea what I’m doing.
I’m improvising.
And this is also something that you hardly say, because you appear like someone without maternal instinct.
Just see what happens when, for God’s sake, in some terrible and dramatic situations, mothers kill their children.
And when this happens it seems to be even more serious then other murders.
It’s as if a mother isn’t allowed… to be human, to have some weakness, fearing not to be able to handle a situation.
Go as far as murder because one can’t handle it.
While men usually are even justified, such as, “He was jealous, he was blinded by jealousy” “Blinded by passion, crime of passion” Why it’s never a crime of passion when it’s a mother killing her children?
What can be more passionate than that?
Still, they don’t take this in consideration, because obviously it’s a moral sin more then a mortal sin.
But it is a moral sin, because you have no right not to be a mother to the core.
So, you must be available, you must be everything for your son.
You must be.
And sorry if I change the topic but I’m thinking also about this thing, how women who decide not to breastfeed are judged.
They have babies and decide not to breastfeed, for a thousand personal reasons.
And I even heard other women judging them harshly, as if having other priorities was wrong.
Not even humanly understandable, but just wrong, period.
Profoundly unfair towards one’s own child.
For goodness sakes, I grew him inside me, I carried him for nine months I gave him life, I’m raising him, and if I don’t want him to drain me sucking my breasts, I’m doing something wrong, anyway? This is terrible, isn’t it?
So, I don’t know, I really think this is an overbearing patriarchy, that it doesn’t take in consideration in the slightest what can be women’s fears, needs and choices.
Everything is taken for granted. Women are made to be mothers, so that’s what they have to do.
The maternal instinct is… I think this is also extremely subjective.
I can only tell what I have experienced myself.
For me, the maternal instinct began when I got pregnant.
Before I felt a great fondness and tenderness towards children, I found them lovely and funny as long as they weren’t in my house.
But I believed I wanted a child, but I didn’t have this huge urge.
In fact, I arrived at 36 years old without suffering for not having them till then.
Moreover, when he arrived, it was all a mess, because it was obvious that his dad wouldn’t be my life partner.
The situation was weird, I had a part-time job, nothing was that “appropriate” for the creation of a family, of a life, a child Still, I didn’t even take in consideration the idea of doing some tests to make sure he was healthy.
It was like a huge protective instinct, straight away towards him.
And this is the only thing that constantly continues up to today, A huge protective instinct, more animal-like than human.
I felt like as a she-wolf, a lioness, an animal protecting her puppy,
from everything: diseases, outsiders, cold, hunger.
A huge urge to protect him, but more animal-like than rational.
Something really instinctive.
For me, the maternal instinct is only this, nothing else.
It’s not the need of having a baby, or the desire to have more than one.
It’s just about protecting him once he is there.
In this sense I can experience this definition.
There is something that is still very much lacking today, and the more we go on, the more I feel that young girls don’t understand the importance of this, which is precisely the sisterhood, a group of women supporting each other.
When my mom was young, she was born in 1928, she used to tell me that they were 5 sisters, and those were times of huge poverty, the society was completely different.
But there was solidarity among women, there was a way to create a female community within the community of reference, which became a kind of “village” that raised the child.
An African proverb says you need the whole village to raise a child.
I think the village was exactly that created by the community of women and mothers sticking together, and who helped and supported each other for all the delicate aspects that were difficult to face, especially with men who often seem unable to understand some aspects around what motherhood means for a woman.
I have the feeling that this support among women unfortunately now only exists within some groups but it’s not so common.
It’s like we don’t have anymore this sense of female solidarity, which is based on being honest when dealing with certain stuff, being transparent when talking about delicate and difficult aspects.
This belongs to us and it should be our thing, something that makes us feeling good.
I feel that these young girls who have children really early, even around 20/22 years old, which I think it’s very very early considering our current society.
They even change their life to such an extent that they stop hanging out with their friends, as if their status changed so much and their new lifestyle does not include friends.
As if friends were those to hang out with when you’re single, to go have fun, go dancing and all those things.
When you become a mother, that changes.
You have to have to have friends who are mothers themselves, in order to share this small world revolving around motherhood.
Or friends who don’t have children but they want to have them.
As though it was dangerous to hang out with women who don’t want children
when you have one.
Maybe because it brings you back to the realization that it’s possible that too.
And maybe for someone it is painful thinking that now you’re stuck with your child, while you want to be dancing with her, god knows where…I don’t know.
But I’m really asking myself how many of them are aware of how important it is to keep seeing your friends, with your reference people, with the people you grew up with, those who make you feel good, because those are the ones you can be completely honest with.
And when you can be totally yourself you can also say something not totally orthodox for example “In this period I can’t stand my child”.
Because it’s something I said before and some friends laughed and a huge sense of solidarity.
“My child has such an attitude too, I can’t stand him, why we had him?”
In other situations I felt really judged, and people even said, “How can you say something like that?” “You can’t say something like that” “It’s wrong and immoral saying something like that”.
And I challenge any teenager’s mother not to say that at least five times a day they feel the urge to strangle their kids.
I challenge them. I wanna see a teenager’s mother, whether a boy or a girl, who says , “No, all good, all perfect” “It’s just love”. I don’t believe it.
I’ll never believe it for a second.
The problem is that whatever you do it’s always wrong, So, if you don’t have children, you’re selfish.
How can you not care about mankind’s fate? How can you not fulfill your natural duty to have a child? If you only have one child, “Why you only have one child?”
“Do you realize this is wrong for him?” “He surely feels alone. Then, with only one, you will spoil him” If you have two children, “You know, now with the overpopulation” If you have five, “What’s on your mind? Are you crazy? Who pays for these expenses?”
Well…whatever you do, you get it wrong.
It’s like the guy with the donkey: if he gets on it, he tortures the donkey, if he walks next to it, he’s dumb, because he has a donkey and doesn’t use it, if he carries it on his shoulders, he’s even dumber.
Well…any choice women do, they can be judged, even harshly.
Not based on their own choices, but because they dare to make a free choice.
For me, that’s the main problem.
The fact that in this society a woman is seen like somebody who don’t have the right to choose, because any choice she makes, it’s not the right one.
I wasn’t aware of having a desire for motherhood.
And it was, that too, sort of imposed by society, by the fact that we were a lot in my family, my aunts and cousins had, more or less, three children each.
There I was surrounded by young people, and it seemed the right thing.
Then my family was deeply catholic, so obviously the sense of family and what surrounded us was important too.
So, yes I had this desire of having children.
I really liked these beautiful, soft, chubby, funny, perfumed babies.
They seemed really lovely, but I hadn’t really understood what this would have brought to my life.
And I remember a very beautiful conversation that I had with one of my best friends, she’s like a sister.
A Turkish girl with whom I have a great sisterhood relationship.
She was the first one to know I was expecting a child, and after about one year, she got pregnant too.
She was married with a Dutch guy, and they had traveled a lot in their life and still did, they took a flight approximately 6/7 times a year.
And I remember she said, “Now I understand what it means when they say a child changes your life”.
And she hadn’t had the child yet, so I asked her “What do you mean?” And she told me “I don’t even know the exact number of flights I took.
Yesterday, for the first time, I got into the plane and I feared about a crash.”
And I think this is extremely symbolic of the effect of the presence of a child.
In this sense it changes your life, as for the first time, you start thinking not only for yourself.
And it makes a huge difference, because you took thousands of flights, without thinking that it could crash.
And even if it would. Well, tough luck!
Instead, for the first time you realize you don’t live only for yourself, and this completely changes you.
And if you had this awareness before making a baby you would think about much better.
Very very well.
My long-lasting friendship with this Turkish girl is still here, I really love her, even if she lives in Istanbul now.
It was one of the most important things for me when I got pregnant.
When I went to her, I was crying, desperate, because if on the one hand I was really happy and I felt in an incredible way, which was beyond words, the huge joy to know that something was growing inside me.
On the other hand, I had a real panic attack.
And if she hadn’t been there listening to me, next to me, considering the pros and cons of what I was putting myself into, I would have felt so totally alone, so much so that I might have been unable to face the situation.
Maybe I would have been able to carry the pregnancy to term anyway, I’m not saying I wouldn’t but.. I’m sorry…But when you’re pregnant being alone is terrible.
There’s nothing worse, because you’re facing infinite changes, starting with the body.
It’s seems a joke, because we are used to think “Look, such a beautiful pregnant belly.”
But seeing the belly growing disproportionately, no longer being able to walk, or to tie your shoes.
Finding relief only in water, because your back hurts.
Your breast growing incredibly bigger and bigger, everything swells excessively, and people saying “How beautiful you are”.
And you look at yourself and see yourself terrible and swollen, even your pores seem different.
And already this change is terrible, for every woman: both those used to feel beautiful, and those not considering themselves particularly beautiful.
And feeling alone in the midst of such a change it’s terrible.
So I really believe that if we, as women, we started talking and listening to each others, even telling each other these things, in a more peaceful, serene and free way, sharing about what’s coming, without putting anyone off, for God’s sake.
Besides, I think that if a person really wants a child, you can tell her whatever, even if you tell her about your delivery in great details, she will have her baby anyway.
But it’s good to know,”Look, this is what happened to me” “I felt this way” “I had moments of depression, tiredness, fatigue” “You’re not alone, don’t be afraid, because it’s normal” Or else “At times I seriously thought I shouldn’t have had a child” “Really? You too?” “Yes, me too”.
Being able to freely talk about this, maybe it should help to free the new generations of girls who need to listen to those things.
They need to know they can make a choice, a conscious choice, whatever direction they’ll take, whether they won’t have any child, or they’ll decide to have 20.
It’s important to know they can choose, and this should be clearer and clearer.
We need to stop judging each others, thinking “What she have done?”
“She already had five children, and had another one” “What were she thinking?”
Or “With so much money, why doesn’t she have children?” I heard these talks.
We should instead be the first to say, “What a beautiful person, I want to be her friend.
I want to have a great relationship with her, and if she feels like, she might tell me about her children” That’s how it should be, we should have simple, clean, transparent relationships, that would encourage girls to ask these questions.
Feeling free to say, “Did it happen to you? How did you feel?” “I would like to…What do you think?” With the freedom to feel and be human.
For me Lunàdigas is more than a milestone.
Lunàdigas represents a breach of light in a terrible darkness.
Lunàdigas is: you as a woman have a choice, in a society which says the opposite, as a woman you don’t have a choice.
As a female, you have to do what nature imposed you making you a woman.
Lunàdigas is the way to create this community, for women to feel close one to another.
It’s the possibility to talk about ourselves, the possibility to talk about our choices, The possibility to let a woman know that her choice can’t be judged,
it’s her choice.
For me this is really precious.
And I ask myself how… I am really happy to be part of it, even just a little piece, because it makes me feel part of a community of free women.
And this for me is priceless.»

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