Saturday, February 27, 2010

How amazing is this?

How does an intelligent, active woman who has experienced lots of freedoms and is highly respected for her employed work, change (overnight) into a mother who is satisfied with being just that: a mother?



And why is it that some new mothers don't quite find that place of satisfaction in the role, and long for the day when they can hand the mother role over to someone 'more qualified' in a purpose-built facility?


This amazing phenomenon is a metamorphosis that takes place under natural, physiological cues, and the result is a mother who is so focused on her new baby that she doesn't miss the late nights with friends, or the cafe culture of her previous job, or the mental stimulation of a challenging business meeting.

I assert that:
  • Every baby needs a mother.
  • There is no better mother than the one who gave birth to the baby, in almost every situation.
  • Mothering is a demanding, challenging role, whether the role is filled by the biological mother or a substitute.


The amazing, awe-inspiring truth is that in God's created world both a mother and a child are the beautiful new creatures who emerge out of the coccoon of pregnancy. She takes her child into her arms and into her heart, and she recognises the uniqueness of her place in the life of that little one. Call it attachment, bonding, maternal instinct: it's one of the miracles that happens at birth.

As with birthing, there is no safer way, or more staisfying way, to be a mother than to find and follow the time-tested normal physiological path. As with birthing, our society today offers many alternatives that did not exist, or that existed to a lesser degree, in previous generations. As with birthing, most of us will at some stage fall short of some imagined ideal. That's life! And as with the rest of life, coming to terms with 'good enough', and doing our best with what we have, is a very reasonable goal.


A couple of days ago I was writing about families in communities - the supports and protection within communities that enable new mothers to find their feet, 'put down roots', and become resillient as individuals, and as families.


Today's new mothers have options for connecting with others that their mothers, and previous generations would not have imagined. Easy access to the Internet has opened up chat rooms, blogs, email, VOIP telephone connections, Skype with a webcam, all those *friends* on Facebook, and whatever you call your Twitter crowd. It's a generation of connectedness. How could anyone be lonely? There's a lot of self-analysis, informing the world of how you feel about the minutae - it's old fashioned navel gazing.

The mothers of today's new mothers (I'm one of them) had the radio or the 'box' to keep us company, if we chose. The background in homes included morning chat shows, the soapies, mostly from the USA: in all a recipe for domestic mindlessness. We had most of the other time-saving 'mod cons' that our mothers did not have. But if we wanted to speak to another person we had to be there in person, except for phone calls.  And there were no cordless phones or mobile phones. There was no virtual community.

I was living in Michigan, USA, when our first three children were born. We bought a house in a town called Haslett, which is near East Lansing. We had one car, which Noel usually drove to the university, so I must have had a lot of time at home. I don't recall being lonely, or dissatisfied in any way. The work of being a mother filled my life as long as the babies were small, and the next pregnancy followed once the breastfeeding demands on my body were reduced.

My own mother had been a great model for me to follow, and I am sure that being second of seven children prepared me in special ways for motherhood. But most of mothering is instinctual, going much deeper than the learning either in childhood, or from books or classes.

We know from laboratory animal work that the hormones of birth and breastfeeding set us up for mothering.  Babies and young children require an enormous investment on the part of the mother firstly, and then on the part of the father, family, and community, in order to successfully negotiate the often hazardous terrain of childhood.   Although there is no simple 'one size fits all' to this, the protection and support of a strong mother-baby bond sets up a family in a way that cannot be artificially immitated.

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