Monday, July 21, 2014

mothering

The mother of a two-and-a-bit year old commented wistfully, "I had no idea of what I was committing to when I became a mummy."


That's so true.

In fact, I don't think it's possible, prior to the experience, to understand something as absolute as the basic, intuitive, hormonally mediated changes that occur in a woman's life when she takes her child into her arms and puts that child to her breast.
Thanks to Miriam and Amelie


This mother who, for whatever reasons, started her family in her mid- to late-thirties has probably experienced a great deal of freedom and responsibility in her personal and professional life.  She has experienced leaving home, and becoming independent of parental influences.  She has possibly experienced promotions and increases in her work earnings.  She may have enjoyed overseas travel or achieved success in the personal pursuits that she has chosen.

...

And now, at about 40 years of age, she has her two-year old constantly in her care, and is preparing for the arrival of a sister or brother.


The day begins with "I very hungry now mummy", and continues as she seeks to meet each of the needs of the child. Multiple meals and snacks, nappy changes, library, play group, walks to the playground, playing hide-and-seek, art work at the kitchen table, music, visits to friends, daytime sleeps, melt downs because the little one didn't get all the sleep she needed, sweeping up crumbs and food scraps under the table for the n-th time, and thinking about upping her dinner menu to something special tonight.  These are just a few of the day's challenges, along with shopping for groceries, mountains of washing, drying, folding and putting away the clothes, getting to appointments on time, and much more.

There is no suggestion of complaint in this mother's musings.  Most of the time she patiently accepts the work of caring for one small person; valuing her own role as mother above all other options at this time of her life.  University education and professional standing cannot compete with the status that is simply and profoundly accessed under the title 'mother'. 


Am I being idealistic?   Am I seeing only what I choose, through the filter of many years; forgetting the reality of sleep-deprivation, and the constant and unrelenting need of the little one for attention? 


I don't think so.  I see a great mystery, something timeless and inexplicable, in the ability of a mother to care for her children.  I accept that many aspects of mothering call for a commitment that goes far beyond our usual limits, and that it's not possible, prior to the experience, to understand something as absolute as the basic, intuitive, hormonally mediated changes that occur in a woman's life when she takes her child into her arms and puts that child to her breast.

The mystery of the mother is our birth-right; contained within the wonderous bodies that God created in his own image, and that God said "is good".  Mothering is part of the natural physiological process that can happen automatically in a woman's person during pregnancy and after the birth of her baby.  It's the same normal physiological process that I as a midwife have sought to protect, promote and support, unless there is a valid reason to take another, more medical, pathway.

Yet the ability of a mother to give, and give again, is not to be taken lightly.  The presence or absence of loving support and encouragement from husband, family, friends and within the community can make a huge difference.


I recognise that mothers today are expected to return to paid employment after their babies have reached one year, or even six months, with children being placed in day care.  I cannot accept this as being in the child's or the family's interests.  In the end Australian families will be paying a high price for this social experiment that interferes with the basic building blocks of love and attachment between mothers and their babies. 

Mothers who are willing and able to nurture their own babies should be supported to do so. 

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