Webale, Maama

This morning I engaged in an immensely thought-provoking discussion with a friend about the cycle of creation and destruction arguably inherent in humankind and all of life itself (this discussion will likely merit a blog post very soon). Throughout it, I could not help but make a strong association with the role men and women play in society and in our lives. Women create life. And it is predominantly men, as the primary perpetrators of armed conflict, rape, murder, hardline national policies and campaigns of mass violence, that always seem to take it away. I looked at my own life, at my youth, and the same cycle that had a tendency to play out in its own way. I looked at this village, with women all around me creating life, sustaining it in the garden every morning and over the fire every day, all day, and nurturing the whole community (and me) through love and support. And all of those thoughts combined to one defining statement that I have to shout to the world for a second:

Thank you, Mom.

My mother is the reason that I am alive. My mother is the reason I have come as far as I have in life. My mother’s love taught me to be the compassionate, passionate, hug-addicted and love-peddling human being that I am. My mother’s love for reading instilled in me a profound curiosity, and teaching me to read at a very early age set me ahead of my peers in school and set me up for a lifetime of success. For those of you who like my writing style, I cannot take credit for it – “I got it from my mama.” I see it in every email she writes me while I am here, and all the notes she will always leave for me when leaving the house when I am visiting her in California.

My mother never pushed me too hard in school. She never demanded I get a good job. She never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do (she even put smaller portions of foods I hated on my plate as a kid knowing my father would make me eat everything before leaving the table). My mother cared about one thing for me as I grew from a boy to a man, and it’s a lesson I will never forget:

“Do whatever makes you happy.”

As long as her children are happy, my mother is happy for us. We all have our disagreements of course. My mother does not regard herself as a perfect mother. She knows that she is human and that all humans have their faults. But she is my creator. She is the reason I am here. Here in Uganda, here on Earth.

And the same is true of anyone who reads this.

I know Mother’s Day isn’t until May, and I know this sounds really dumb, but every day should be Mother’s Day. Mothers are the backbone of this community I am working in, and being able to interview them and work to break down the barriers to accessing quality and timely maternal health services is the greatest honor I could have hoped for at this point in my life. Mothers are revered, as they should be. And I admit: sometimes our mothers can drive us [expletive deleted] nuts. But we love them. We were nurtured into existence by them, and after being around my first deliveries here in Uganda, perhaps the most traumatizing moments in most of our lives was having to leave the safety and protection that their wombs offered as we came screaming into this often unsafe and dangerous world. They slaved in agony for hours, sometimes days, to deliver us unto this Earth.

So stop reading this, and call your mom and tell her how grateful you are that she exists, and that she did what she did and what she could to see you safely through life. If she is no longer around, or if you happen not to speak, that’s fine. Call any woman who has led you through life in any capacity. If you have nurtured, if you have given and sustained life, you are a Maama, and we are all in debt to the maamas of this world. We would be nothing without them.

And if you happen to be the one and only Judy Protze, give yourself a hug for me. I love you Maama.