Ism was the youngest child of a family of six. The night he was born, it is rumoured a storm like never before was deeply raging outdoors. Blistering thunder was being heard thousands of miles away and as for lightening, zinging bolts were giving the illusion of dividing the skies into two separate blinded fighting camps. It was a frightening night indeed.
In labour for many moons already, Ism’s mama had zero patience for the night sky, the blistering thunder, or the zinging lightening. All she wanted was for her baby to be born, perfect in all his ways. Imagine her surprise when the midwife, an old woman missing her two front teeth, presented her with a newborn child who, like many others, was howling his way into our world.
For some unknown reason at the time, the baby’s cries seemed to echo the mood outside, raging, blistering, and zinging. Exhausted after having worked so hard pushing this baby into our world, Ism’s mama was at a loss for words as to why her newborn son just kept crying, refusing to take deep breaths, seemingly unable to quiet still, go numb, or plainly sleep.
“Do something!” she pestered the midwife. “Isn’t it what I pay you for, to bring me some relief?”
The midwife smiled her toothless grin and softly said, “This is a sign from the heavens, the storm raging and this howling child. What may you have done to unsettle the Gods this way?”
Ism’s mama refused to process in her heart what the midwife had just asked her. ‘How dare she criticize me!’ she secretly thought, ‘Haven’t I done enough just by pushing this child out into our world?’
Ism’s mama turned her hard eyes to the midwife who was patiently standing within the soft glow of a lantern light by the bed. “What are you accusing me of, mad woman? Haven’t you looked at the state of my condition? I am exhausted, don’t you see?”
The midwife gently patted Ism’s mama’s hand. Having been a midwife for decades, she knew how some mothers refused to take responsibility for what they pass on to their children, like negative behaviours and characteristics, instead relying on a system of some sort, perhaps a school even, to teach their sons and daughters how to become proper men and women. “Rest mama, perhaps daybreak shall bring you a comforting answer as to why your son seems inconsolable in his crying.”
Ism’s mama jerked at the thought of being alone with this strange creature who kept howling at the clouds covered moon. “Please don’t leave, stay. I can’t bear being with him. What is wrong with him? Won’t he ever stop howling?”
The midwife asked the same question all over, “What may you have done to unsettle the Gods this way?”
At being questioned again in her doctrines, principles, and practices, Ism’s mama lost whatever little self-control she had mustered over her forty years of existence and started howling at the midwife in the same fashion the raging storm was howling at our world. “What do you know about me? You come in here like you know it all, but you know nothing! You are just a midwife! It is you the one with prejudices.”
Their ‘conversation’ got interrupted by the baby’s suddenly increased tempo, a mixture of sharp notes and deafening shrieks. “Stop him from crying!” finally sobbed Ism’s mama, “I am willing to listen to any advice you might want to share.”
The midwife took at solid look at this woman laying on her bed, her hair disheveled, no life partner in sight. She noticed the other three children, Ism’s oldest siblings, were nowhere in sight. “Where are your other children?” The midwife asked instead.
“With a relative, the house is too crowded right now. We can’t afford so many children all at once!” Ism’s mama turned her face to the wall in order to hide her shame.
“If this is true, what made you have more than you could handle with love and compassion?”
Ism’s mama shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, it just sort of happened. Isn’t life like that, just sort of happens?”
The midwife smiled a small smile. “Maybe for you, but not for me. I have understood long ago that we are each responsible for every child who enters our world. This is the reason why I have become a midwife, to welcome every son and daughter in a warm embrace.”
Ism’s mama scoffed, “If you are so good, then why is he still howling? This is all your fault, I’m not paying you a dime, do you hear?”
“Suit yourself. In times of perhaps greater pain, maybe remember my question, What may you have done to unsettle the Gods this way?” On these ominous words, the midwife took her leave.
Weeks passed, the sun giving way to the moon, the moon yielding to the sun, and no matter how many days went by, Ism was still howling just like the night he was born. Ism’s mama was at her wits’ end since nothing seemed to appease this newborn child. Ism’s mama thought more and more about the midwife had said and started inquiring in her mind as to what she could possibly have done to upset the Gods within.
Over time, she realized she had been less than kind to herself. She was full of self-loathing, often telling herself negative things, like she was a ‘bad’ mother or her children were ‘bad’. She spent a lot of time alone too, refusing to interact with her other children by being emotionally present. ‘I find them draining,’ is what she used to say behind their back, and she realized saying things like this showed just how little compassion she had for others and others around her.
One day, she vowed to change her ways, whatever it took, so the baby would stop howling.
She shared these few tips that she started applying in her daily routine:
1. Stop stereotyping. Ism’s mama realized her newborn son came with his own personality, his own wants, needs, and preferences that needed to be respected by all, including herself. By stereotyping – applying a blanket judgment to fit ‘all’ – she realized she was forgetting how she also was a unique individual with a pulsing heart as well.
2. Stop discriminating. Ism’s mama realized making her son wrong just made him howl louder. Instead, she started looking for positive traits in him, things she could praise him on and talk positively about to others. By discriminating – comparing, making one thing ‘better’ than the other – she realized she was blocking herself from experiencing every person’s diversity in their own special ways as well.
3. Stop devaluing. Ism’s mama realized ignoring her son’s needs was the fastest way to make him howl non-stop, day in and day out, to the moon and sun and back. So she vowed to see his beauty within beyond his howling, which was just as we all know a behaviour showing discomfort. By devaluing – trying to make someone or something less than – she realized she was refusing to acknowledge her own intrinsic value as well.
4. Stop prejudicing. Ism’s mama realized both boys and girls have the ability to howl in pain and it was time she stopped seeing ‘him’ as the cause of all her sleepless nights. By prejudicing – projecting expected behaviours onto unknown others – she realized she was dismissing her own greatness as well.
Little did Ism’s mama know that by going deeper inside herself, she started applying these newfound tips to herself as well. As a result, she was smiling more, she was more patient with her children too. When Ism hit a new howling tone, instead of laughing at him or even worse yelling, she hummed him a tender song, a love song she had heard long long ago, but to which she had forgotten the words.
Lord behold, the humming seemed to soothe Ism. Every time he heard his love song, he closed his mouth, perked up his ears, and looked at his mother with two curious pebbles in his face. Encouraged by their progress, Ism’s mama started humming to each of her other children their own love song as well. A profound peace and harmony descended upon their home.
At the six months’ mark, the midwife knocked at the door of Ism’s mama’s house. She wanted to check on the baby, the mother, and the rest of the family. She took her responsibility seriously; she never left a child behind.
“What a pleasant surprise!” Ism’s mama said warmly. “Come in, come in. Let me make you a splendid cup of tea.”
The midwife was shocked at seeing the heart transformation within Ism’s mama. She was deeply curious to find out what exactly had taken place to change this person to such an extent.
Ism’s mama said, “I kept thinking about your question, ‘What may you have done to unsettle the Gods this way?’ At first, I was deeply angry with you for asking it, then I became really sad as I started to realize the Gods were never angry with me, I was the one being angry with myself, and I took all my anger onto my children. In light of this revelation, I decided to cure myself of my anger problem.”
The midwife smiled a bright smile. “Excellent news! Now may I ask, what is your son’s name?”
Ism’s mama smiled shyly. “I named him Ism because he is the last child of my tribe, you know, like a suffix to a word, and since ‘ism’ often points to the possibility of stereotyping, discriminating, devaluing, and prejudicing… I have decided to name him Ism to remind myself to never treat him or anyone else negatively.” Laughing heartily, she added, “It’s amazing what self-love can do for a family; it indeed stops the howling.”
With love & compassion,
About the Author: Anne BEAULIEU is one of Your Monthly Mentors, an international speaker, empowering coach, and thought leader in the field of Emotional Intelligence and the Founder of Walking Inside Resources Inc. based in Vancouver, British Columbia. As an accomplished author and community builder, Anne is a powerful catalyst for positive change and embodies successful life strategies that keep empowering men and women across the globe. Read More…