I believe that all Mothers, simply by giving birth, qualify as heroes. I don’t for a moment claim that all Mothers are good people. Some of them are obviously not. We’ve all seen Sybil, whose Mother abused her so horribly that Sybil developed multiple personality disorder to be able to cope with the stress. And Norman Bates’s Mother certainly would not be in the running for Sainthood.
But, what is a hero? I maintain that heroism requires sacrifice and some form of danger, and that it is an act to benefit someone other than oneself. The fireman who runs into the house to save a child is sacrificing his safety and is facing the very real threat of a horrible death. The kids that jumped in front of their friends in the school shootings this week, as well as those who did the same in the Jewish Synagogue, are heroes. They sacrificed their lives to save others. The benefits of their actions were not necessarily their own. (This is not to say there are no benefits to Motherhood. But not all Mothers get those benefits for any number of reasons.)
A hero might also be an artist. This is someone who has accomplished something you admire deeply. Some of my heroes are Shakespeare, Aaron Sorkin, Snuffy Walden, and Gene Roddenberry. None of them, to my knowledge, faced any particular danger, but don’t believe for a moment they accomplished what they did without sacrificing their time, their energy, and their efforts. And their accomplishments benefit me, and millions of others. I’m not sure if these are the same sorts of heroes as firefighters and those who stop shooters. So, perhaps the word has a broader meaning for me.
But, a Mother certainly fits any reasonable definition. She sacrifices her body, her comfort, her well being for the benefit of another. I’m told that even the easiest, least painful birth is excruciating. Having never given birth, myself, I don’t really know. But, I feel sure it’s less fun than lying in bed reading a good book. Giving birth is dangerous; women, even today, die in the process. They do this to benefit another person. They bring life into the world at the expense of, at the very least, physical pain. That, for me, is heroism.
Some Mothers continue to be heroes, in lesser or greater ways, throughout the rest of their lives. Others abandon the status promptly.
Regardless of whether your Mother was as good as mine (and mine is as good as anyone could hope), or she was horrible as Sybil’s, she sacrificed herself for you. You owe her your life. If not for her, you’re not here. I think, sometimes, that’s worth remembering.