While I was in hospital recently with my youngest daughter, I received many beautiful messages from friends from far and wide who all encouraged me by saying, “You’re so brave!” Whilst I was grateful for the encouragement, at the time I wanted to shout back “I am not brave!” I am scared and confused. Desperate and sad. I am not brave. Isn’t brave having it all together? Isn’t brave being strong? Isn’t brave a cool slogan on T-shirt or bracelet? Brave is not me right now. Brave is not crying until it hurts. Brave is not getting angry at doctors. Brave is positive. Brave is believing the best… or is it? I just wasn’t feeling it. I could not be brave.
And so, right then and there, in that moment, I chose to reject all that I had believed about bravery because it felt as if my “brave” couldn’t handle the situation that I was facing. The truth is that, as a woman and a mother, I didn’t feel brave while my child was going through so much and so, I suppose, my feelings led me to believe that my “bravery” was failing me. My ideology could not and would not sustain me in that moment.
Fast forward three weeks and, as we recover and heal as a family, I have begun to recognize a shift (a good shift) in what I believe about “brave”. I’ve come to believe that true bravery is not what we have limited it to through trendy T-shirts and Googled one-liners. It’s not public in nature and glamorous by default. It can’t be manufactured through social media platforms. True courage is the strength to stand — and keep standing — in the face of unspeakable pain and grief. The ability to do something even if it terrifies us.
As a woman and a mother, I have much to be afraid of today. The world can be a scary place sometimes. But my eyes have been opened in wide-eyed wonder to the immense courage of the women around me. The women (and men) standing up and facing the unthinkable on a daily basis. It is inspiring beyond anything that words can do justice to. In a strange way, I feel as if my courage to stay standing in the face of adversity grows every day as I watch these women stand, determined and focused to do hard things. Really hard things. As I watch them make choices that are not just “brave” but warrior-like. Women fighting for radical changes in their homes, workplaces and communities.
I see you, women of courage. I see you.
The woman who has been battling cancer for nine years, with extreme annual treatment, who pours out joy and passion to everyone that she encounters. I see you.
The woman who lost her mom to cancer and could not face an ICU ward and yet sat with me every day in ICU as I cared for my baby girl. I see you.
The woman who has chosen to love her husband and choose their marriage despite his failings. I see you.
The woman who has tragically lost her husband but believes, even amidst the deep grief, that she will find love again. I see you.
The woman who gets up every day to care for her ageing mother. Who washes her, reads to her, feeds her and changes her nappies. I see you.
The woman who, month-in and month-out, follows procedures to fall pregnant. Hoping, just hoping, that this will be the month. Who attends baby showers with gifts and smiles that cover her deep pain. I see you.
The woman who gives all that she has in energy and resolve to love and train children how to be magnificent human beings. I see you.
The woman who works an eight-hour day to bring in a salary to sustain her family and after that becomes Mamma until the next day begins again. I see you.
The woman who sits with her baby girl for eight days as she battles a secondary infection after a routine operation and hangs on to hope, even when all seems lost. I am you.
Courage comes to us in many shapes, forms and sizes. Often in women that we encounter every day. Courage doesn’t choose us, we choose it and, as women, we often do this unwittingly — forced to choose to stand even when it’s excruciatingly hard. We stand up, we breathe deep and we embrace hard things because that’s just what we do. And it’s beautiful. It’s painfully beautiful to watch.
This Women’s Month, my hope is that you would know deep within yourself that You are Woman. It is not a hindrance and a problem. It is a gift. Your womanhood is a gift that offers you more courage than you ever believed that you could possess. So, be all that you can be in this world. Stand tall. Walk forward. Press on. And know that you are stronger than you think in any given moment because You are Woman.