First of all, I would like you to envision the kind of man my OB is: he is definitely in his 50s, probably in his 60s, and might even be close to 70. I don't know, it's sort of hard to tell. As far as I can tell, he is one of the physicians responsible for coordinating the clinical education of medical students and residents at the hospital where I delivery. He is originally from Africa, but I'm not sure where. He speaks with a very thick accent, and his name is French. Sometimes I can barely understand him, but I can always understand when he walks into the room and commands my attention with the following words: "Mama Elizabet." And he always says it with a smile on his face. He can go from jovial to serious in the blink of an eye. I know this well because it happened with my last two labors when he realized how quickly things were progressing during the pushing stage.
Here's some postpartum wisdom from this man who has taken care of me during my last three pregnancies, and who probably just delivered the last of my babies that he ever will. He came into my room on the evening before I was discharged with a very conversational attitude, asking me questions about how I would care for myself and who would be taking care of me when I got home. Almost like a friend might. He knows I've got lots of little ones at home, and his job is to make sure I'm taken care of, too.
"Accept help from everyone, even your enemies."
This strikes me as a very African thing to say. I hope that doesn't sound culturally ignorant or awkward, because I only mean it in the sense that it seems to come from another culture...a culture where people might actually have formal enemies...a culture where people might actually have enemies who somehow offer to bring them food after they deliver a baby...
But then I realize that I have people that bother me, too. I probably wouldn't label them as "enemies," but I might avoid them on most other occasions. Perhaps the tension between us is unnamed, unknown, uneven. The point is that you should not be so proud as to turn down help from someone who offers it to you in your time of need. Thank them, and lay your irritations aside for a while!
"It's OK to eat off a paper plate."
This, on the other hand, is clearly an American thing to say. And true. Paper plates, or napkins, or right out of the serving bowl, or on the same plate for dinner as you used for lunch...it's all fair game when you've just had a baby.
"No one knows half of what a woman does. And she does it all with a smile!"
By "woman," he of course meant a mother. But there is something sweet about being referred to as a woman at the time when I am most likely to consider myself "mother" before anything else. I am, first of all, a woman, and only a mother second. I like being reminded of that. It's dignifying.
Now, I don't always have a smile on my face when I'm washing dishes, faces, and clothes around our house. In fact, I'm probably frowning most of the time. But his comment reminded me that when I do smile while I'm engaged in these mundane, tiring activities, it's amazing. At least, he thinks it is. I'm glad someone can appreciate that.
"And she is so forgiving. A vengeful woman...this is worse than war."
Again, I'm not always so forgiving. See the above comment regarding frowning. I'm trying, but it's hard, and I fail often. And you know what I've noticed? He's right. When I'm bitter and snapping at children and my husband and finding fault with everyone, we are ALL more miserable. And when I'm able to lay those critical thoughts aside, find reasons to be pleased with them, see the best in their actions, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and at the very least just stay quiet when someone annoys me, the children actually do scream less. It's kind of amazing.
In any case, his comment was a good reminder that my attitude affects my whole family, and I have the ability to foster either a peaceful environment or a very unpleasant, hostile, bitter one. That's a weighty responsibility, but in some ways, empowering to know that I do have the ability to create a climate of love and mercy in my home.
I'm not sure where my OB learned these things, but I would suspect he loves his mother and his wife very much. It seems that in order to have such a profound wisdom about the state of motherhood, one would have to observe a woman and mother very carefully and with great reverence. It makes me wonder what his mother was like, what his wife is like, what their relationships were like. So my OB and I, we don't always see eye-to-eye on everything. But I have to hand it to the man: his respect for women and mothers goes deep. Way deep.