Tonight I squinted out as the wind hit my face, at the trees passing rapidly by. I was sitting relaxed on the back of my dads motorcycle on our way to an FCA // AIA (fellowship of Christian athletes and athletes in action) meeting at Indiana university. As a former IU athlete I love revisiting the campus and rubbing shoulders with the next generation of athletes. I also love riding on the back of dad's bike, I've been doing it my whole life and always suggest it when the weather is good. I remember one particular time when I was about 9 or 10, my dad and I went on a camping trip on the motorcycle. I kept scaring him (and myself) as I would fall asleep on the back of the bike causing the front of my helmet to collide with his, jerking me awake. That's how comfortable I was and still am on the back of a motorcycle with my dad. I've been able to carry that confidence into the developing world where motorcycles are often the main form of transportation.
But on this particular warm night, as we went over a speed bump, I began to think about how the women would leave the clinic in Togo on the back of a motorcycle less than 24 hours after birth. Those women are strong. Very strong. Could they be "too strong"? Most likely the group of athletes I would soon be meeting with would argue there is no such thing as too strong. But I'm not sure I agree anymore.
Like I've said, these women were strong. They labored naturally with no knowledge of the alternative of pain prevention that many women have the luxury to choose every day. They often deliver their babies on the floor, a more familiar surface in their lives than a bed. And hours after birth they are often found outside cleaning the blood, feces and amniotic fluid out of their hole filled and torn fabrics. How strong is too strong? How can we protect these women more? We would often urge them to go back inside, to continue to rest and let their bodies recover.
But they are so used to hard lives they may not even identify their struggle, because then again, someone needs to clean those rags. Hours later they would swing a leg over the back of a taxi motorcycle, mother in law climbing on with baby in tow behind, and head home. Sometimes women would even walk with their babies a few miles home. Strong. Too strong I think.
How do I as a western woman show how much these women's li
ves are worth? How many generations does it take to create lasting world view change? Is this kind of hard constant work before, during and after carrying a baby for nine months, too much?
We live with such luxury here in the west. Drive through this and that's, smart phones, laundry machines obviously the list goes on and on. Many of us would kill for the lean muscular build of the west African women, yet our lifestyle of luxury means we have to go to the gym to stay fit. I'm not making any kind of claim that one is right and one is wrong. I'm just rambling really.
All I know is that these women were strong, but at times I worry, too strong.
Written by Katie Connor
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