19 Apr 2012

New Mothers. Humans not saints

 Humans. Not Saints. I chose this title because I wanted to give you the gist of this post straight away.
Good enough mothers, not perfect. The number one associate of a new mother’s anxiety is guilt. Am I doing it the right way? Do I give enough? Am I present? Am I spoiling it? Am I? Am I?... Usually the inner guilt is accompanied with the well known outer guilt (your mum, mother-in-law, friend, husband, tv shows and parenting magazines, sometimes the lady on the bus).
The pressure can at times be extreme, the responsibility of a bringing up a child, the house that needs tending to, work, finances, the partner, bills, messy hair, clothes that don’t fit, and the ever elusive personal time or space... I really don’t think I should make this list longer to make one realise that a new mother is like a new driver asked to drive on the highway on the very first lesson.
Things come in pairs and the life as a new mother has its fair share of tension. Tension usually “pairs off” with aggression. And aggression is taboo where motherhood is concerned. A mother should be good, nurturing, sweet and patient. Well, the news is that a new mother feels aggression towards her newborn when she can’t take the crying anymore due to exhaustion, towards her partner who is “baptised” with intricate swear names either internally or externally, towards her own self (well known and ever present guilt), and towards the whole universe if no one else is there to take the blame. 
And yes, she does have the right to feel this way. 
Truth to be told, she doesn’t really help herself feel better if this aggression remains without being understood. But we do need to acknowledge that it is normal for a new mother to feel this way. This is also the first step to do something about it and to free herself from the imprisoning image of sainthood that can only create suffocating relationships with a destructive content.
Now you may ask me, where is all this aggression coming from? Although there are usual suspects ( the relationship with her mother, the way a woman relates to her identity, sexuality, personality), in the end each mother has her own unique story-labyrinth that triggers emotional pain and hence aggression.
She also has her own beliefs, fantasies, desires hidden or overt as to how she wants to bring up her child. Some want to breastfeed briefly or for a long period, some not at all. Some want to provide material goods for their offspring, some, freedom and some their continuous presence at home. Each mother has her own way to give and to exist for her child and this should be respected. Respected in its entirety.
There is however one small but significant detail: children or rather newborns need very specific things in the first year of their life. The first year of life is a vital year, where the mother lays the basic foundations of relating. In other words, the mother is the first person who teaches us relationships and help us or not to achieve our most basic sense of security and the core of our self. Let me stress that it is not solely the mother who does this but the mother-in-relation-to-her-baby, meaning that relating is a two-way process.  So although there are very different pairs of mothers and babies relating, there are a few things that all people involved in the mothering dance share. And these simply (or not so simply) are to listen to your baby’s needs and satisfy them in your best possible and swift way, to be there constistently with your mind, your heart and your instinct as well as your physical presence (as much as is feasibly possible),to put your babies needs first above your own when the two clash, and to always ask yourself, “who am I doing this for?” without hurrying to give an answer and when you do answer be open, honest and brave, even if the answer hurts your feelings or self-image.
Motherhood is not what we call a “no-brainer”. Our children don’t need a dutiful slave or a self-absorbed mother who can’t get over herself and uses her child as a trophy or as her extension. Most importantly, they don’t need a mother who has just stepped out of a tv commercial and has no crinkles on her skirt or her heart. What they do need is a mother with her own personality, daring to make mistakes and being humble enough to learn from them. A mother who has her own unique love to give and who walks her own path to motherhood. So If I had one and only advice to give to new mothers that would be: be truthful to yourselves and listen to your babies, their bodies, their sounds, their eyes, their embrace, their anger or discomfort. Be “good enough” (D.W. Winnicott), and leave perfection for those who don’t get reality. Most importantly, enjoy as much as you can this experience that you have chosen consciously or unconsciously.....

No comments:

Post a Comment