When does it all change?
Is it gradual or is it abrupt?
Is it societal or is it personal?
When does it change?
The answer to these questions, I will probably never know. But with some things I witness in this life, I can’t help but ask them.
I am an intern at the midwifery clinic, and one day a woman came into our appointment room just before lunch-hour. She brought her first child with her. The little boy was tied on her back in a beautiful woven cloth that wrapped under her breasts, securing his little bottom. His face was sweet and innocent, perhaps only 16 months old. He had a few teeth coming in. He tickled her neck with his little fingers and made little squeals in her ears, playing with her hair, and smiling as he clung to her. His eyes were bright and something in them was familiar.
This little boy’s mother was pregnant with her second baby. She unwrapped the boy from her back to climb on the examination table. From the first centimeter of space between his body and hers, the little boy began to cry. And not just a whimper. He squirmed and squealed, begging with his gestures for her to take him back into her arms—his sanctuary. Screaming, he wailed and wailed and shook in his little body. He was incorrigible. We worked quickly in our through our routine 20-week examination as his relentless shrieking filled the room. No one could soothe this little man.
When she was finally finished on the examination table, she wrapped her skirt back over her five-month bump and reached her arms out for her little boy (who was still screeching). In an instant, the shrieks stopped. The whole room quieted. Tears no longer streamed down his damp fat cheeks. His lip quivered only slightly now as a few residual shakes moved through his body. He immediately nestled up to her neck and bosom, grabbing her hand-woven shirt in his little fists, smiling.
In just an instant, he was cured by his mother’s touch.
After this long day at the clinic, I boarded the overcrowded bus for the 45-minute ride home. I look out the window and I see young men on the street turning to stare at my fellow women—catcalling, whistling, making obscene gestures, threatening with their actions, and sometimes even grabbing them.
This is what I witness and experience for myself on a daily basis by (I kid you not) hundreds of men. My body feels threatened and fearful, and I sense the same reactions in all the women who experience this “normal” street harassment.
But when I face these young men and really look into their eyes, I see the same eyes of all the little boys who come through our clinic clinging desperately to their mothers. In their faces, I see the reflection of the baby boys I have helped bring into the world for the first time through their mother’s bodies. I see the little baby boys who I watched take their first breaths and first sips of their mother’s milk. I see the little toddler hiding behind his mothers apron, the place he feels safest in the world—simply by his mother’s side.
So again, I ask the question: when does this all change?
When does a little boy of this world—who clung to his mother, cried out for his mother, and was soothed by nothing other than his mother—become a man who makes women feel unsafe? What turns this little boy into a cat-caller? An assailant? A rapist? A wife-beater?
Does he not remember when he could only be soothed by his mother? Does he not remember feeling so safe with her? Consciously he may not, but I know that something in his being does remember that it was a woman who shared her body with him so he could grow. It was a woman who shared half of her DNA with him. It was through a woman’s body that he entered this world. It was a woman who shared her milk with him, nourishing his entire being. It was a woman who stopped his tears. And it was a woman who could make him feel safer than anything else in the world.
Tell me, when does it all change? And when will it change back?
Author: Bry Kring
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron