by Ruth Bell Alexander
In late 1969, a couple of months away from delivering my first baby (my son, who is now 41), I was 25 years old, living out in the country suburbs of Boston 3,000 miles away from my family, with a husband who went off to Cambridge every weekday for work.
It was a pretty lonely existence. I knew almost no one. But when my husband came home one day and told me he had met some people at work who knew about a women’s group that was starting, my life began to change. They were offering a class after hours at MIT about women’s issues. I remember the class being called Women and Their Bodies, but that’s with 42 years hindsight, so I may be wrong about the original title.
I do remember with startling clarity that although I knew only one person there, and even she I knew only barely, the roomful of women I walked into was very welcoming. The “class” was presented in a series of lectures about topics that ranged from women’s “roles,” to women’s work, health, legal issues pertaining to women, etc. — one topic per week for 12 weeks.
Each week had a “presenter,” and everyone in the room was invited to ask questions, offer comments, and discuss the issue at hand. I remember the Pregnancy class most clearly of course, and most specifically I remember raising my hand, with some trepidation, to ask about nightmares. During my pregnancy I had been having troubling nightmares, one of the issues that led me to brave the New England winter nights to drive 20 miles into Cambridge for the class. So I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone experienced nightmares during pregnancy?”
Remembering this brings tears to my eyes even now at age 67, because my question was met with such loving responses that I felt embraced by the warmth and power of the experience and a deep connection to every woman in that room. No one patted me on the head and told me not to worry, as my doctor had done. No one scoffed at me. Instead, they listened and they responded from their hearts. And several of them had nightmares during their pregnancies, and they told me it was a fairly common experience for pregnant women to have strange dreams.
The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life. The course ended after my baby was born, but I remember being at the last class when anyone there who wanted to participate in the writing of the lecture series into a book was invited to come to the next meeting.
I did show up at that next meeting and I have been involved with the OBOS collective since then. Happy 40th Anniversary, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”