I’ve been renewed by mothering lately. This feeling is a shocking surprise, a gift, that arrived in the depths of summer. The dog days of summer- when you are sticky, a touch angry and wondering how to find air con and a quiet room with no kids.
Not a feeling I’ve felt since the naive days of my first home birth with Jonah when I had a perfect sleeping baby on my breast and a triumphant story of the miraculous process of birth, this genuine re-inspiration to truly be the best mother I can be to my kids, has come with some experience.
Mothering is hard. It takes the piss out of you. It makes you tired, ugly, angry and pretty boring at least 1/2 the time and just tired the rest of the time.
Some women figure out how to balance it well, or to accept it with grace. Or that is what I hear. I honestly do not know any of those women. I only know women that have occasional, shining, evolved moments. Moments we agree its an honor and we’d never wish it any other way. More often though, we are bitching. Or drinking. Or both.
But THIS shift is more than an evolved moment. And there is a touch of grief it has taken me so long to arrive. To realize my power, my role and my dharma.
And like most ah-ha’s, the moment of reckoning arrived in stealth.
Jonah was having a rough patch one day. Bugging his sister and her friends, feeling jealous, being super obnoxious and doing other totally normal boy things. It was a bit out of character for him but clearly he was screaming for attention. After a few failed attempts to curtail his behavior, I sat frustrated and frayed by mothering. I sent him off to his room with a snappy and firm ‘go to your room right now.’ Immediately I felt empty and sad. I stared out my kitchen window and pondered a new approach.
How can I influence him, I thought. How can I inspire him to a different behavior? How can I educate him to be a smooth operator instead of obnoxious? How can I approach this differently?
Without much pause, I quickly went to his room and found him face down in his bed.
“Hey Jonah,” I said.
“What.” (said with a snarky, you-are-annoying tone.)
“Do you know you have a super power?” I said.
“No. Does Ivy have one too? And WHAT is it.” Jonah asked. (with that same snarky tone).
“Well, yes. She does. But its different than yours. Now do you want to know what it is?” I said.
“I don’t want Ivy to have one.”
“Do you want to talk about yours?” I persisted.
“Fine. Yes. What is it?”
“You have the super power to influence people.” I said.
Stumped, Jonah paused. His tone changed. “I don’t even know what that means.”
Having not given it any thought before I started, I realized it was difficult to explain to a 7 year old.
“Well, we all have this general super power, but we each use it differently. We all affect and effect one another. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in not so good ways. Its like… you know how much you like (your friend) Hamish?” I began my monologe.
Jonah said “uh-huh,” a few times and mostly stared at the girls running around.
I explained that as a big brother, he has a lot of influence over his little sisters. I told him stories about Uncle Rudy and Willy and how much they shaped me growing up. I mixed in stories about teachers, parents, friends, strangers. Story after story, example after example came.
I doubt any of it landed in his little mind, but it sure did hit home for me. As I’m talking to him, I’m having a dual experience. The words coming out of my mouth and the behind the scenes thoughts and images.
Hello influence. Not only does Jonah have a super power, but I have it too. I suddenly felt like Elastigirl in the movie The Incredibles. Helen Parr appears like a mundane housewife, but really, she is an unstopable superhero. What is more powerful than a mother’s influence on her child? Parents in general, but particularly the mother. Especially in the early years. It’s everything.
“If the child has been deep in love with the mother and the mother has showered her love, that is the beginning of all trust for the future.” Osho
We have always know this, but of course there is evidence too. As UCLA professor and psychiatrist Allan Schore, Ph.D., wrote in his book Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,
“The child’s first relationship, the one with the mother, acts as a template, as it permanently molds the individual’s capacities to enter into all later emotional relationships.”
And if you think about it, what kind of relationship is NOT an emotional relationship. Our emotions play a part in our every move.
Other studies point to a mothers influence on physical development as well. “Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampas volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing. Research has suggested a link between a larger hippocampus, better memory and easier learning. (link to article).
And I don’t know how they do these studies, but thank god there are researchers that have the dilligence to follow people for a lifetime to glean data like this:
“Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no childhood poor enough that a mother’s love can’t overcome, according to a study from the University of British Columbia. Researchers examined 1,215 middle-aged Americans and found that those who had grown up in poverty were at greater risk than their wealthier, more educated peers for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke — unless they had an especially loving mother.
In fact, children who were raised in poor, low-educated families but whose mothers were nurturing fared just as well in terms of metabolic syndrome risk as kids from better socioeconomic backgrounds. The researchers speculate that this is related to stress levels, which can contribute to inflammation and insulin sensitivity.
Bottom line: Love doesn’t cost a thing — but it’s worth a whole lot.” (article here)
And more, mothers influence social mobility.
Prof Ian Walker, from Lancaster University Management School, told the Sunday Times: “It seems the mother-daughter relationship is now the transmission mechanism for social mobility. It used to be said that the father was the breadwinner and that would dictate household education decisions. If the father was richer you could afford to stay on at school rather than go out to earn a living. That is clearly no longer the case.”
I mean, jeez, my mother is a professional ‘Child Development Specialist.’ I’ve heard this stuff for decades and she sends me facts about this daily. And if ever there was a mother who loves with her whole heart and gives herself (still) fully to mothering, its my mother.
In this ah-ha moment of superpower recognition, I had a strong image of myself giving birth. Not the first one, or the second, but the last. I was laying on the floor in a dark room doing my absolute best to breathe calmly and process the freight train of power that were my contractions. It was early on and I thought for sure I could get this under control. But my legs were trembling. Shaking out of control. I had never felt anything like it. Rumbling, INTENSE contractions ripped through my body. One after another, no pause in between. All my best yogi breathing and jedi mind tricks were useless. Sweat beads were popping up right and left as a I was getting hotter and hotter with each surge. My shaking legs were a massive distraction to my zen. So I opened my eyes and talked to them. “Stop shaking, legs.” I said to them. “Stop shaking.”
It all starts with birth. Superpower training that is. It can technically start in the prenatal period, as the influence of the mother on her baby in utero is complete, but as the famous quote by Osho says.
“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.”
When Jonah was born, I knew again that there was god. I had abandoned religion, but never faith. That was always there. Pregnancy, labor, delivery and the child was the physical representation of divine order and omnipresent love. It was so clear that there was an outside force in charge of the process. Birth was god to me. The process was equal parts surrender and action. And he was perfect. Even though I was beat up from the birth and Jonah had a huge hematoma on his head, all I could think in those next few weeks, was who the heck believes in original sin? What a weird concept.
I digress intentionally. Birth sets the stage for a deep relationship. With god and with your baby. Its gives you the tools you need to know you have access to superpowers – some you can harness and the others that arrive when you need them. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, a miracle happens.
My legs never stopped shaking. No matter what I told them. But instead, what I thought was the beginning of labor, was really the end. The shear force of birth had its own agenda and perfect Paloma popped out like a stealth ninja. My jaw dropped open when I felt her head.
And here we are today. Paloma is now 2.5, Ivy 5.5 and Jonah is 7.5. My children influence me every moment. Working their unknown superpower of influence and tugging on my heartstrings at all times, ransacking my home, robbing me of any personal space and time, reminding me to be fun and free and above all, teaching me that I am clearly the one with lessons to learn.
When my monologue to Jonah droned on and he wiggled out of my lap to go harass the passing girls, I was left in a stupefied haze – realizing I was talking to myself – both actually and in content. It is likely I will be the single most important influence on him in his entire life. That what I DO and who I am, not so much what I say, will impact him most. Hello responsibility. Hello tall order. Hello challenge. Was i really just realizing this?
I returned to my post in the kitchen and reflexively checked my email. (Isn’t that what everyone does when they are in a haze?)
And there was my mother. Of course she was there. I was having an epiphany. About mothering. A subject she is most suitably qualified to pontificate about. But today’s email was not a quote, a study or advice on child development today. It was my birthday. And every year I ask my mom to tell me my birth story. This time around, she preempted my request and wrote it down.
38 yrs ago – Jan 27- 5am – Two days after I was told to come to the hospital to be induced- no reason, no way. First rumblings of labor ….. Called hospital to see which dr was on call…. Dr B- nope did not like him, so hold on baby!
Very cold, bright sunny day- about a foot of snow & ice on the ground. Living in third floor apartment of family home. Granny- your great grandmother lived on the first floor. Usual morning routines with your siblings- who were 40 months & 23 months- except that Daddy Ty stayed home-Rudy & Willy played with Grandma Betty while I paced & breathed through the contractions. After lunch, when your brothers were napping…
…contractions were getting closer & longer- breathing through them & walking around the small apartment… feeling heavy & yet strong. About 2pm, Daddy Ty said he was going to go out to see a lawyer… Mama Pat said NO- you need to stay…it was time….
We walked down from the third floor-slowly and I sat on the Hall Tree that was in the first floor hallway. Ty told Granny we were going while he put on my boots. we ventured out the front door walking carefully over the piles of very dirty & frozen snow/ice. Ty helped me into our Chevy truck. We arrived at the hospital about 3:30 or so (best I can recall) and went in the front doors…
The contractions were very close & intense by now. I was hurriedly taken in… I really do not recall the prep except that when I got to the delivery room, my favorite doctor, Dr Gray, who delivered your oldest brother, was there & I was at the very end of transition. I was yelling that I wanted a tubal ligation right after the birth – that afternoon! No more childbirth for me, I exclaimed. Dr. Gray chuckled and said “Mrs Quynn, we did talk about this but we made no definite plans & because it is a Friday afternoon, this would be deemed an emergency surgery which it is not.”
On to the next contraction – when Dr G told me to push and out you came – a barely fuzzy fair haired GIRL😍, Weighing in at 8 lbs 1 oz, 20″ in length- my biggest baby, Arriving at 4:15 pm – about 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. I did not want to labor in the hospital. Looking back, after listening to your birth experiences, I think I could have birthed you & Willy at home.
Sent from my iPhone
Jonah still loses his mind and is reduced to primal level reactions when girls come around, but now I understand. This is just part of the divine order of chasing love. I think i’ll let his dad influence him in the ways of women.