Words by Lauren L. Hill
Watching eyelashes grow. If there’s anything slower than molasses, it’s probably the delicate emergence of budding baby lashes. Somewhere between 150–200 individual cilia sprout from the top lid of the human animal, where they are expertly placed to keep dust, debris or water out of our eyes.
I’ve spent the last seven months watching lashes blossom from the lids of my once-five-pound preemie little lad. Now he’s a chubby, cherubic, wide-eyed baby. It’s not a pastime I would have ever imagined enjoying, but I guess that’s parenthood. It’s a total reboot that offers up a billion fresh opportunities to smile and find joy in the very simple things.
Today, is our boy Minoa’s seven-month birthday, which also happens to be International Women’s Day. I’m still brimming with gratitude that fortune favored us in our most vulnerable state. That we both made it. There’s nothing quite as humbling as a near death experience. That’s what pregnancy ended up being for me.
I went two weeks holed up in a hospital—without stepping foot in fresh air or sunshine—before our boy slid into the world via emergency C-section. Admittedly, not the pranayamic natural birth I’d been preparing for. Nevertheless, we made it.
I’m grateful for so many things: for having access to incredible, free health care via the Australian public health system; for being able to surf and play and frolic in the ocean again after so many months terrestrial; for the exquisite joy of witnessing the growth of eyelashes that frame beautiful little eyes that are so uniquely his.
Only now can I fully appreciate the total, upending, universe-shifting gift of experiencing your body make and nourish a whole other human being. It is equal parts sci-fi and magic. It’s the kind of conundrum that makes you take macroscopic and microscopic perspectives simultaneously. This new life form feels both incredibly fragile and so powerful that your whole life will now revolve around it. A baby can feel both completely helpless and infinitely wise, all at once.
And I’m so grateful for the privilege of being a woman.
Even though the gender wage gap persists. Even though 1 in 4 of my kind will be abused in her lifetime. And even though we still need a “women’s day” in order to both commemorate the great achievements of women and to ask the tough questions about the ways in which our gender still puts us at a tangible disadvantage in too many ways, we are among the most privileged women ever to walk the Earth.
International Women’s Day has its roots in the Suffragette movement in the early 1900s. It’s only thanks to them, as of 1920, that we are able to vote. Women then took to the streets to demand fair and equal treatment as citizens. Today, we’re still taking to the streets—and organizing via social media and beyond—standing on the shoulders of all the brave women who stood up before us to make life brighter and fairer for everybody. It’s our right and our responsibility to honor their sacrifices. And to do right by our sisters, near and far, who don’t have access to these same freedoms.
“With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away—there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress [the theme of 2018’s International Women’s Day]. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more—there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.” –InternationalWomensDay.com
I inherited another reason to be grateful for my womanhood this past year: becoming a mother. I don’t take lightly the incredible gift I was handed by the women that came before me: that I am able to both work and have a family; that I am not predestined to domesticity like my foremothers were; that I’m able to choose my own adventures, near and far, and define womanhood on my own terms.
There’s no two ways about it: we all came from women. And now, with a baby boy to bring up in this beautiful, wild world, I can’t think of many values I want to instill more fully than a sense of equality for everyone he meets—and the belief that equality for everyone is worth standing up for. Activism, or extending the privilege of freedoms, as Alice Walker puts it, “is our rent for living on the planet.”
When you have a baby, your heart both swells and severs. Some of it cleaved away to dwell in this new little body. It moves around the Earth still part of you, but not yours.
And the inevitable realization is that every single person on the planet is someone’s most cherished little creation. My heart feels that so deeply now. And how could we want anything but the best, fairest, brightest, safest and most loving future for all of them?
From our family to yours, Happy International Women’s Day!
Lauren Hill developed a love for the ocean at an early age. She’s dedicated her life to sliding seas and finding creative ways to marry her passions for marine conservation, environmental activism and gender studies as they relate to surfing culture. When she’s not living a life of adventure and helping heal pollution both ecologically and socially, Lauren can be found basking the in the bliss of Byron Bay, Australia.
For more Lauren, follow her journey on Instagram: @theseakin.