In Flux

Embracing transitions and change

Becoming a Mother

Extraordinary Ordinary Moments

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. --- Osho

Pregnancy and childbirth are quintessential initiations for women. Far beyond the chronological significance of nine months, the pregnant woman undergoes an archetypal experience equivalent to the hero’s/heroine’s journey. It is an experience that transcends time. Passing through this initiation, women contact The Mother (the primal Feminine archetype) and the realm of women’s mysteries. Every modality of being is engaged: physical changes, a shift in status, a movement to a higher level of consciousness, and a spiritual unfolding. The experience offers women the ability to access and expand their self-knowledge.

Yet no matter how real the risks that women face during birth, no matter how transformative and miraculous the bearing of life truly is, this event often passes without the full honor and acknowledgement that it deserves. In our society, as soon as a woman gives birth, she becomes somebody’s mother, yet her own journey, the dramatic passage made by her and her baby, is typically not celebrated. Giving birth is a dramatic event that instantly separates a woman’s life into before and after. But the day-to-day events that turn a woman into a mother are equally significant, if not ultimately more so.

Nothing can fully prepare a woman for being a mother. No amount of reading or research or observation or discussion with women who are already mothers can adequately convey the power of the experience. The joy, the high, and the gratification combine with the unprecedented level of physical stress and strain, creating an overwhelming environment on all fronts.

Yet the ability to mother is as much an instinctual skill as it is an acquired one. For humans, the mothering instinct seems to kick in automatically the moment a woman gives birth. From the first smell and the first cry, each baby’s uniqueness is imprinted upon its mother—a permanent connection, an extraordinary bond.

For many women, becoming a mother is one of life’s goals. Practicing on kid siblings, baby dolls, and even family pets, young girls seem to have that nurturing instinct. And sometimes, even for those “unlikely mothers”, the women who thought they would remain childless, if the opportunity arises and a loving relationship comes along, the nurturing and instinctive nature that lives somewhere inside comes front and center. Suddenly every baby is beautiful, and the thought of having a child, a truly compelling idea.

From the moment of birth, biology and instinct converge and you fall in love with your baby in the first instant. Yet, you have no real idea who this tiny person is. It takes time to get to know your child’s temperament, to understand what he/she needs, to begin to develop a relationship with each other, and to watch and enjoy your child’s unfolding.

In the months following birth, this instinctive nature becomes the “voice of your mothering”, informing you what your baby needs. When your child seems comfortable and contented, you feel a sense of competency and great accomplishment. The day-to-day extraordinary ordinary moments measure the unfolding of a new being: new skills and milestones achieved.

But some days, things don’t go so well. Worry about doing the right thing, fear about what could go wrong, and doubt about your own abilities can become frequent unwanted visitors. Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and at times, overly sensitive may compound the problem, especially when you’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to help your baby or the situation.

It takes time to find your way through this new role of mother. But rest assured, eventually you will learn patience, learn to deal with uncertainty, learn to keep your cool, learn to ask for help if you need it, and learn to feel secure enough to know that you are doing the best you can. Over time, you and your baby will develop your own “language” together; that intimate way of relating that reflects a growing understanding between the two of you.

Whatever you need that doesn’t come naturally, you’ll pick up along the way. Eventually, you’ll learn to trust your inner knowing, to combine it with knowledge gained from experience, and to utilize these tools in every aspect of your life.

Abigail Brenner, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice. She is the author of Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life and other books.

more...

Subscribe to In Flux

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?