Warrior Woman

If what I have read is true, and in Aztec culture, a woman who died during childbirth was afforded the same rituals and respect as was a warrior who had died in battle, then what, I wonder, did they consider the mother of a toddler to be–a P.O.W.?

Granted, the mother of a three-year-old doesn’t have to endure quite the same hardships, as, say, someone like John McCain did; they’re not stuck in a hole somewhere in the middle of the jungle being poked at with sticks by people who not only hate them, but make unintelligible demands, but it sure is close. Change “hole” to “minivan” and “jungle” to “suburbs”, and you’ve pretty much summed up the experience of living with a toddler. (Come to think of it, most of the mothers I know would be delighted to be given their very own private–or even semi-private–hole.)

And then, of course, there is the whole brain-washing thing. While it is true that we don’t have to hear such things as “Uncle Sam is the Great Satan,” and watch an unending stream of propaganda films, we do have to hear phrases like: “Elmo loves you” and watch a never-ending loop of Powerpuff Girls DVDs. (Given a choice, I think I prefer the former).

And yet, even with all this overwhelming evidence of a clear link between motherhood and enforced captivity, I would be willing to bet that the Aztecs still didn’t see it as a task on par with the acts of the their bravest warriors; although, neither, for that matter, do most modern types, even the ones who are about to become parents themselves. Of course, this is probably because, like the Aztecs, the scariest thing most parents-to-be can envision is the actual birth itself, which is unfortunate, because the birth is quite possibly the only time in your entire child-rearing career where complete strangers will not only offer to help you, but will try to give you drugs to make the process go smoother. (My advice: ask if you can get your drugs “to go”; trust me: there are things that will come up in the next few years that will require much more medicating to recover from then a little thing like childbirth—the first time you change a diaper in a train bathroom just as the train starts to go around a really sharp turn, for example.)

The other argument in favor of the relative ease of the birth process when compared to the mothering process is that, while they’re in the birth canal, at least you can still be sure of not only where they are, but what they’re up to. At least you can still be sure that they are not, at that very moment, creating a mural of Diego Riviera-like proportions in the bathroom, that, by virtue of its having been constructed entirely of “man-made” materials, will turn out to be so foul that were it to be hung in a public gallery your local senator would immediately set to work slashing federal funding for public art.

Coming back to the POW argument, though: maybe for the Aztecs it was different; maybe since their mothers didn’t have to deal with things like T-ball, juice boxes and car seats, they didn’t suffer from the same stresses that those of today do, and therefore were not really entitled to the respect of a captured combatant. Somehow, I doubt it: after all, it was the Aztecs who practiced both blood sacrifice and ritualized chocolate drinking; you can’t tell me that people like that didn’t know a thing or two about the stresses of living with a three-year-old.

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