At the moment of birth, there is suddenly stillness and a collective intake of breath. There is recognition by everyone that a momentous and transformative event has taken place – a miracle. A new baby is placed on a mother’s breast and life begins. This is the baby’s first caring relationship and it represents the sacred and pure headwaters of every other caring relationship that will come later on in life. At the moment of birth and the days following, it is the mother who is the producer and director of this delicate and vital dance. She teaches the first and most important lesson in being human: basic trust.
As the baby grows, a mother shares her love and care with others. The family and the network begin. In the earliest days after birth, the father and inner circle of loved ones will ensure that the mother is unburdened by concerns other than those of her baby. Everyone understands that mother-baby bonding, nursing and close physical contact is of central importance to the health and wellbeing of these two principal players who have been through so much together in the gestation and birth process.
As weeks pass, care is shared and others develop their own close, caring relationships with baby. A different family configuration begins to settle into familiarity with a new member in it. Roles shift and change.
The mother retains a central role. She is the vigilant worrier, the multi-tasker – she remembers shoe sizes, food preferences and school assignment due dates. As children grow to teenagers, she might become a confessor and confidante. All of these roles, she assumes on the basis of need and love. Need and love – that is the currency of motherhood.
If a mother is lucky enough to welcome grandchildren into her life, she will join the helpful inner circle of loved ones whose role is to support the new mother and baby. A new life cycle begins.
When a mother gets old and needs help, need and love begin their exchange activity again, but differently. Who is helping whom may have reversed, but new lessons are being taught and learned.
Mothers are the warp and weft of our most important, loving relationships in life. Their work is vital and central to all we know about how to live a life that is rich in the love of friends and family.
Happy Mother’s Day, Everyone!