The words they gave me.
An ode to the women in my family. 


Our connections to motherhood can be marked with pain and despair or celebrated with joy and delight. For some, it’s a sensitive dance between the two. For others, being child-free is a choice. The nuances and dialogue around motherhood are endless. This year, you’ve joined us in celebrating this special part of our community, so thanks for being here!

In some ways, I feel unqualified to speak on motherhood. In other ways, I feel like the words are already in me. They’ve always been in me.

You see, we all come from words, from stories, from people, from pain, from love, from experiences. When I think about the women in my family, especially the mamas in my family, their softness and strength runs deep. I like to think I’m a sum of all of the women before me, the woman I’m becoming and the legacy I hope to leave. 

I always find comfort in tracing the cursive handwriting of the matriarchs in my lineage. There’s nothing more wholesome than reading and remembering their words, realising we’re living in the middle of their prayers and dreams and understanding the sacrifices they made for us to be here.

Their eyes have seen hard days and nights but still glisten with kindness and empathy. Their backs have carried children and the weight of family, yet their arms and homes are always open. They hold oceans of stories and wellsprings of knowledge yet they selflessly share their water. They have weathered hands and wounded hearts yet they’re generous with their love and their scars. Their laughter reverberates through time, breaks the grip of generational stings, sets the table for women who’ll do more and go further than they ever did.

The women in my family have taught me to stay soft and to keep my spirit sweet. Because it’s actually a treasure to live open-handed and open-hearted. To love hard. To live in the tension of softness and strength. To stay tender and joyful even in the middle. I can still hear the sound of my grandmother’s cheeky, euphonious voice reminding me of who I am – a woman of substance, of faith, of depth and wild, loyal love. 

So when you question your importance here and things get heavy, I hope you take a moment to remember the women before and around you. Draw from their waters. Because there is inherent power, truth, grace and wisdom at their tables and in their memory. 

Here’s to the women in our families – beautiful in all their shapes and forms, nuances and sensitivities. And here’s to us, all of the ones living in the middle of our mama’s prayers. We are soft, strong and everything in-between. 

The words they gave me. The words they gave us.


The Strong and Soft Series

A photographic series by Danni Bishara and Layplan 
Images as seen from top to bottom: Bailey Wiley, Ruda Rhee, Larissa Graham, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, Emilou Cowley, Makereti Edwards, Mila Crawford.


I asked a few mamas I know what their thoughts were about the sentiment — “mamas are soft and strong,” I hope you enjoy the wealth of wisdom shared so generously here:


“I think it’s a beautiful sentiment that really simply sums up motherhood. It requires and brings both extremes out of you - a strength and resilience like no other that enables us to endure what I didn’t think was possible (lol), but holy, the love I have for my boy is a feeling that I’ve never felt before. I never anticipated it would also bring out such a soft and gentle side of me but it has - I have all the time in the world for him. That’s why I have a newfound and v deep appreciation for mums. We do an incredible balancing act everyday, we weather the toughest storms yet we are the safest place for our lil bubs.” - G

“Soft and strong - I like the juxtaposition. I've only been a mama for a month now but when I think of those women in my life, the mamas - both biological and in love, I think of strong first for sure. I think of all the synonyms of that word. Courageous, fearless, tough! Now experiencing a short time of motherhood I've gained insight of what it means to be a mum to someone… it is not for the faint hearted lol. It's a different kind of strength, the strength I've needed to muster up and the strength I see in my mum friends - it's a quiet strength, one that's not obvious but so very obvious at the same time. I think women have an inherent softness… but when my son came into the world it felt like my heart grew larger. When I think of softness it isn't only the cuddles and kisses and the cute times but it's the selflessness you unknowingly develop, every thought that goes toward everything your baby experiences and how you want to make all of those moments special. It's in the quiet in between moments that I think the two words pair nicely. The strength to be all you need to be for your baby and the softness to notice that feeling and sit with it.” - T

“ your child grows and they say their first word, take their first step, learn to read their first word, as a mum, your heart melts with love and pride. When your child cries, you cry with them, when your child is hurt, you feel their pain. This doesn’t change no matter their age. When your children become adults, you rejoice in their happiness and your heart breaks with theirs when they have setbacks in life. Being a Mum is for life and your strength and love for your children continues to grow with every passing year” - M

 “...I straight away think of my tummy and body that went through so much change… it’s softer now, but I went through the strongest time of my life. The intricacies of softness and strength differ from mama to mama but when motherhood happens to you, softness and strength are the perfect balance to help us function. Always comes back to love and faith for me…” - L

 “ you get older, you realise how precious life is. You can spend time looking at how you could’ve done things differently with all your mistakes made, words spoken and insecurities etc. We just always tried to put God first and always tried to start again and put things right when we messed up. Your heart as a mum is that your children feel loved, secure and supported whether that’s through celebrating and rejoicing in the wins and crying through pain and loss…” -J


- Written by Jessanah Betham 






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