Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my living room watching the returns come back from the state elections, focusing so intently on the numbers scrolling across the bottom of the screen that I almost missed the what the second one meant—"No 58 percent." It meant that we were winning.
I screamed across my living room to the other Mamas who were lined up, sipping Pinot, grasping hands and holding out to find out if all the work we'd done over the past two months was going to be enough.
Did we put out enough flyers? Did we wave enough signs? Did we scream loud enough? Were we enough?
Sitting at my desk one day two months previously, I saw this ominous sentence come across my Twitter timeline: "Mississippi Supreme Court states Personhood can remain on the ballot." Then there were the two minutes we all paused and asked, "What do we do now?" We needed someone to say something about this. We needed someone to stand up and talk about how this could hurt us. No one else seemed to be listening—not even the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Turns out there was someone listening—The Mamas. I talked to some other friends of mine—all Mamas like me. We related what this amendment would personally mean for us if it had been applied when we were trying to create our families. There were stories of women being cut open to remove loved potential children from tubes, women who experienced their children dying inside of them knowing they would carry the heartbreak—if not the baby—for the rest of their lives. Remembering that push to deliver our children into the world as being so life giving, each of us understood how close to the precipice of taking life that same push could be.
So The Mamas put on our shoes. Some of us formed political-action committees, some of us made signs, and some of us learned how to get our faces in front of cameras. We knocked on doors, handed out flyers, held rallies. The bravest went to their churches and stood in front of judging congregations and told them that no matter what they called the amount of Christian inside of them, that they were voting no—because of being a Mama.
Mamas who had previously done nothing political—and with no aspirations for such—stood on street corners holding signs. And we did it with 6-week-old babies and strollers and toddlers that tore up the flowers in front of the women's monument on the south capitol lawn—fitting, I think. We met other Mamas—Atlee, Stacey, Cristen, Fran, Samantha and Amy—who were holding signs of their own. Some had in-vitro babies, some had lost babies, and some prayed for babies. Some of them had heaven babies or earth babies who were already grown and trying to have their own babies. Some of them had two generations of babies behind them and wanted those babies to give them more babies.
That was the crux of our fight. That is what makes us The Mamas.
We Mamas started using all those skills we'd learned juggling car pool and practices and cooking and cleaning and our numerous undergrad and graduate degrees, and we applied them to social organization. Mamas are an amazingly complicated bag of tricks, as it turns out.
We used minivans to lug protesters. We packed food and babies in wagons and showed up at rallies with goldfish crackers and bottles of refrigerated breast milk in one hand and a neatly painted sign held in the other. Instead of posting pictures of our kids on Facebook, we posted articles and legal arguments. We transformed our ability to calm a frightened toddler into using the same persuasive speech to change votes. We labored and used that perseverance to cheer each other on. We reminded each other to breathe. But mostly, we kept each other pissed off and focused on the end goal: winning. And by damn, with the entire "NO to 26" movement seeming to happen as organically as the brownies or soccer or Halloween costumes that Mamas seem to make look so easy, we did win.
I know pundits will look at this year's statewide elections for a long time trying to figure out just exactly what happened. We really dumbfounded an entire country. They want to know how much power these "Mamas" will have in the future. They want to know if they should be scared.
The Mamas got together and held up those cradle-rocking hands and said: "No. You will not do this."
We did it because we love our babies and our daughters and all the other Mamas in our lives with whom we've held hands as they lost a baby or birthed a baby or fed a baby. We did it.
With the rest of the world watching on Nov. 8, 2011, we let the entire voting populace of this state know with no uncertain terms (I'm talking about you, Phil Bryant) that we are enough. And when we aren't rocking those cradles, if you test us with any more nonsense, we will take those same hands, and we will rock a vote.
Be careful, guys. The Mamas are watching.
Lori Gregory-Garrott, LMSW, is a social worker and a Mama. Both professions seem to be dovetailing nicely with the current political climate in the state. She is loud, irreverent, and lives in Fondren with two horrifically fat cats, a lovely husband and a smart-mouthed toddler.