Womanhood, motherhood, whateverhood

I read a statement recently by a breast cancer survivor about redefining womanhood. She’d decided to go flat after her mastectomy and she’d had a complete hysterectomy that removed all of her lady parts from the cervix to her womb. Her point, and I’m paraphrasing, was that those biological parts of her did not define her as a woman, that womanhood specifically is more than the biological parts that differentiated her from a person not a woman.

This got me thinking. Of all the labels that have resonated with me over the 40+ years I’ve been alive, both womanhood and motherhood are two that have been significant in my life.

Let’s first look at the dictionary definitions:

Womanhood (woo m-uh n-hoo d) (noun) the state of being a women; womanly character or qualities. Women collectively.


Motherhood (muhth – er – hood)

Noun: 1) the state of being a mother; maternity; 2) the qualities or spirit of a mother; 3) Mothers collectively.

Adjective: having or relating to an inherent worthiness, justness, or goodness that is obvious or unarguable; legislation pushed through on a motherhood basis


These dictionary definitions are certainly not restricted to biology or biological parts. We know from adoption that men and women who aren’t biological parents can fulfill the role of parents in an exemplary way, so motherhood or parenthood isn’t biologically based as well. Yet, there is still such an emphasis on biology. I’m reminded of the new categorization questions that distinguish between was biological sex was present at birth versus what category the person identifies with now.

And this got me thinking further — why do we need a label? Other than for government forms or trials or surveys, I don’t get asked which gender I identify with. And why would I be? Do the outside trappings of clothing or accessories define gender? Biology?

I identify with the gender that I was born with biologically, so this blog post isn’t about the struggle when biology versus identity are asynchronous. That’s a whole other struggle in so many ways and my heart goes out to those who are struggling with that, legally, personally or otherwise. Labels for those who don’t have a label that resonates is an entirely different thing and I’m not suggesting that it’s not an issue, not at all.

And maybe that’s the point. When a label doesn’t resonate, like how survivor doesn’t resonate with me as a terminal patient, there then is a lot of energy invested in figuring out what label does resonate. And then when a label is found or created and it’s not “mainstream,” it creates angst and struggle. We humans are social creatures and tend towards categorization. When there is no applicable category, we are simply “other.”

Being an “other” isn’t a comfortable place to be.

Belonging is important. Belonging is safety. Belonging is acceptance. Belonging is comfort. Belonging is necessary, like food or air. Belonging is a longing shared by each human being; albeit often in different ways.

I’ve found those places where I do fit, where I do belong and that’s an amazing feeling. Some of that has to do with labels. Some of that has to do with shared experiences. Some of that has just been kismet, connecting with someone else I never expected; realizing how much I have in common or don’t have anything in common with someone that I just click with. When it happens, it’s magic. When it happens, it’s warmth and peace and hot chocolate all wrapped up in a beautiful package.

Belonging is what every human needs.

Where do you belong?

11 thoughts on “Womanhood, motherhood, whateverhood

  1. Finding that click, as you said, is magic. Since my diagnosis, magic has happened so often that I feel blessed. I belong! thank you for your words, they help in my healing process!

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  2. Labels aren’t people, they’re signposts for places we’ve been or where we may go. Like “woman” or “mother” or “breast cancer” or “lawyer” or “executive” – these tell us something about where a persons been but not who they really are. There’s some hella bad mothers, some women who used to be a different gender altogether, and terribly sociopathic Execs abd bad lawyers. So these are labels just like cancer. I’ve met people who I click with – a gay man, without cancer, who’s had multimillion dollar antiques businesses, who now is flattened by a series of strokes he had about six years ago but he cannot remember. He purchased a house with his mom and he is going to be 60 next year. When we met we immediately began chatting and he’s a night owl and suffers from insomnia,too. We exchanged phone numbers and it turned out the house we bout is literally 4 minutes away from him so should there be an emergency on either end of our friendship 5 minutes separates us physically, and since neither of us are phone callers – if it’s not a text we know it’s a “right away” thing and that’s that. No questions. He’s a perfect example of who you’re talking about, we are both bruised by the effects of nearing death and having life threatening disease. We are as different but as similar as necessary and we are both empaths and over-givers. Bad at getting gifts great at giving til it hurts.

    But I get where you’re coming from. Those labels mean jack shit when you are in the company of someone you just click with, and a great litmus test is silence. Can you just sit silently together in each other’s space and be good with it?

    Last night Craig fell going downstairs to the second floor of our house, he’s tall and trim and has bones made of something heavier than normal human bones, so I am strong as an ox still, but I cannot lift him. He’s very stubborn and suffers from ocd anxiety and depression so not an easy man to help. I called my friend he was literally here before I could get to the door to open it.

    I had him get Craig’s body in the hot tub while I went to the store. I was exhausted I had used all my energy over the accident, the shopping and my disease which is not doing the best lately. I’m looking at another periocentesis to drain my growing belly, my radiation I’ve been putting off which is likely causing the ascites and I’m waiting to see if I’m a genetic fit for an unannounced clinical trial that can potentially put me into NED if I can get over this last hurdle. I’m tired, Craig’s fall means the tiny bit of help I was getting won’t happen and he’s a very demanding patient, so time to call my best friend. I’ve known him forever in the year and a half we’ve known one another and I don’t have to even say more than…

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    1. That’s amazing! I’m so glad you have someone to help you who is just a text away. What a wonderful thing that is! You have been handling more than a full plate for quite a bit, my friend. Holding space for you. Love and hugs to you and your demanding patient. ❤️😘❤️


  3. A post that comes on heels of a friend’s discussion. That friend’s daughter had both breasts removed and reconstruction. She was forced to have one implant removed due to complications. Recently she told her mother she was having the implant put back in. Her mother asked why since it had caused so many medical issues. She said she felt like half a woman. I had so much trouble understanding that. So many things go into making us believe or think about who or what we are. Another described this daughter as someone who cared a lot about appearance. Was that why two breasts were important? I don’t know. Sadly, tests revealed two tumors that were just removed. I asked her mom if I could send a card but she said no. Her daughter has hidden her cancer from most everyone which is an individual choice but also affects family and friends. It’s interesting to ask people to describe themselves and find which labels the person chooses. And they’re always changing. On side note of women, I read an article of questions to Gloria Steinem. She said that if she were to come back in a next life, she can never imagine being anything but a woman. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! We are all so individual. This is why a breast surgery is so much more than modification of a body part. Breasts are irrevocably part of our identity as a woman in some way, which is on a spectrum, I think. Such a complicated and important topic! Thanks for commenting. ❤️


  4. That sense of belonging is so important. We feel like restless wanderers, with an unmet yearning and a sense of emptiness, if we don’t connect with others in a meaningful way. (I also agree with your statements related to the irrelevancy of labels!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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