I was going to take this evening, the night before school begins again, to write a few anecdotes about college as a single mom, or maybe tell my birth story, or possibly discuss the dangers of spanking & the benefits of peaceful parenting (I promise to touch on all of these topics in the future ) but I just viewed a 5-year “anniversary” special on the horror that was Hurricane Katrina, & I felt I needed to reflect on the sentiments I gathered from what I saw.
I am not writing this solely from the perspective of a single mama, nor even from the point of motherhood necessarily, but rather as a voice for humanity. You may want to skip this post for today if you are looking for happier material. May I direct you here for some lighter fare?
I remember watching the news that surrounded the looming arrival of Hurricane Katrina & the media that flooded viewers with images of the disaster shortly after it struck. I remember it so vividly because of everything it stirred up in me, the terribly ill feeling I was left with, the deep sorrow I felt for all the wandering victims, & the heavy desire to help.
I was 21 at the time & had just signed up for some college courses. I made the choice to attend school rather aimlessly; I didn’t know what to take aside from art classes & I felt somewhat pressured, by family & society in general, to do something with my days aside from working minimum wage jobs. I didn’t have a child then & I didn’t have any clue what the future held. My only vague goal was to find ways to help the World. Witnessing the footage of this disaster from the comfort of my dad’s living room on his large television, sitting safe & cozy in the Midwest, planning to heed the discipline of university learning for purposes unknown suddenly seemed so pointless. I wanted to join the volunteers that were making their way south. I wanted to join in their suffering.
I sat on the floor in my dad’s living room & had to grit my teeth, my mind thrown into a panic, trying to figure out how I could quit the schooling that I had barely begun so I could help– something that seemed worlds more important than getting an education that I didn’t know how I would ever use.
I saw images then, & more images this evening (ones I do not remember seeing before), of thousands of people stuck inside the Superdome for days. I saw elderly people sitting stationary in wheelchairs, being fanned by strangers in hopes of being kept alive. I saw the people on the rooftops who had punched their way out of their attics, waving white sheets & watching desperately as the airplanes & helicopters flew by without stopping. I saw the mobs getting angrier & angrier, chanting “HELP HELP HELP” at the news crews, who somehow were able to enter & exit the city unscathed. I saw bodies floating in the water & bodies piling up on the streets. In the footage presented tonight, I saw mothers carrying overheated babies & children, many of them being fed through a bottle. I felt such sadness at the realization that the formula must have soon run out & there was no water available anyway. I also wondered how much better breastfeeding would be if the mothers had no water to begin with.
It’s hard to believe that this happened in the United States. It’s interesting to see what Mother Nature does in the face of poverty. These people were stuck there for days with no aid. None. When the help finally did come it looked less like friendly faces there for assistance & more like military people with guns ready to herd the disobedient. Not only did they have no clean water, but the water surrounding them was full of dirt, feces, & death. These people were criticized on national television for “looting.” Tell me, who wouldn’t steal to feed their family? Of course there were some people stealing stereos, but much of it was for bartering, & there is likely always going to be the guy who steals stereos amongst the ones looting for food & water. I was so disgusted when I heard the judgement of these people for doing whatever they could to survive. I would steal in a heartbeat if it would help people survive. Humanity comes first.
Some of the footage showed the terrifyingly wild eyes of the mothers, their faces in the cameras, begging for help. I can’t imagine the absolute dread & panic that would be palpable for a mother in such a situation with her child. The urge to protect, from bug bites & bullies & certainly disaster, is so strong I think it would be literally maddening. The adrenaline that rushes through a person who is able to lift a car when another person is trapped beneath it is nothing compared to what a mother can do when her young is in harm’s way.
I tied myself down to school that day 5 years ago. I talked myself out of dropping it all to volunteer for the hurricane victims & instead tried to focus on my education. It didn’t work. Not at all. I failed my classes because I had no destiny there, yet. I was able to reflect on that tonight when I saw how different my view is now, mostly from having been introduced to the motherhood. I have a purpose now that I couldn’t see before. I have my son, who is too young yet to volunteer with me, & I have our household to keep steady. It is a challenge for me, as someone who has had so little tying me down in the past that picking up & leaving with a dime in my pocket was a viable option. But now I have actual goals. I am currently studying to get my Master’s in Art Therapy, which I hope to use with rape victims in war-torn countries. I am especially drawn to Africa. I also hope to gain doula & lactation consultant certification with the aim of supporting women who could not normally afford such assistance, particularily women living in large cities in poverty. These mothers especially need the knowledge that comes with studying peaceful parenting, I feel. I cherish these plans as I know that while I am hitched to this lifestyle right now, one of decent bedtimes, dirty diapers, lots of laundry, & more significantly, a lifestyle of feeling immense sympathy for others while being somewhat helpless in my stationary existance, I know that my schooling will allow me to make a career out of helping others heal.
So I can’t leave when disaster strikes; I can’t run to the nearest location of desperation, but instead I can fight even harder where I am at for justice in whatever ways possible. I can study effortfully so I am able to get an even better education. We are so privileged to be able to acquire an education; there are still many women in the world who are not given such a gift. I can try to be the best mother I can be as I sit back & count my blessings, instead of counting how many times my son has intentionally dumped out his cup of water today. All of us, as mothers, should recognize the incredible power we have in our hands for healing the world. We are shaping & forming the next generation, we are breathing life & love into impressionable creatures who have all the potential to grow into peaceful adults, securing a more harmonious future for the rest of the world.
How do you count your blessings, dear reader? How do you cope when disaster strikes? How do you help? I hope you, wherever you are, are able to be sincerely thankful for the good things in your days. I hope these reflections haven’t brought you down too far, but rather caused you to feel content & gratified for the beautiful things in your life, & given you the strength to change that which is not light. Go hug your babies <3
About Kristen Tea
I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.