Thursday, July 19, 2012

MotheringMyth #1: {Unremitting Motherly Love}

It's been a few years since I've had an infant.  I'd forgotten exactly what it is like to handle the weeks (months!) of up-and-down emotions.  A late night Google session on postpartum mood swings, born from a desperation to know I'm not the only one to suddenly find myself possessed of a screaming alter-ego, turned up this link.  I found it incredibly encouraging, especially the first section, which lists 6 'myths', or expectations, our culture has about mothers.  The article states that, "For many women, after the baby is born these expectations are met with feelings of depression or anxiety that can lead to extreme feelings of guilt or shame."  I decided to address the 6 myths here on my blog, starting with:  

MotheringMyth#1:  {Unremitting Motherly Love}
"... the myth of unremitting motherly love for the new child"
 When the midwife put Sophie on my chest, and I first beheld her face, I did not feel the sense of euphoria everybody told me about.  I felt numb.  It was like there was a disconnect between my brain and my heart, and all I could do was stare at this little, red, wrinkled stranger.

Over the next few days, I found myself continuously repressing a growing burden of guilt.  I covered up the fact that I wasn't feeling the over-the-moon, head-over-heels-in-love, joy that everybody seemed to expect from me, by smiling and acting like I had this mothering thing down.  I could change a diaper.  I could nurse.  I could swaddle the baby like a champ.  Yet every time a nurse would wheel my baby in, there was a little, 'who are you?' question mark written over my heart.

The fact that I wasn't feeling anything close to warm, motherly affection, fed a deep feeling of inadequacy inside my heart.  The feeling of inadequacy led to shame and guilt.  What sort of a mother was I?  My daughter would be scarred for life.  She would grow up without feeling a mother's love.  I didn't deserve her.  Someone else would make a better mother than I.  And on the thoughts rolled.

Looking back, I can see how these feelings, brought on by unhealthy pressure and expectations, helped to feed a bout of postpartum depression that plagued my soul long after my body had healed from the birth.  For the first two months after I took Sophie home, I would look at her with surreal wonder and think, "When are the doctors and nurses going to realize that I have some body's baby, and come and take her away to her real family?"

I remember the exact moment when it 'clicked' for me.  I was changing Sophie's diaper for probably the fifth time that day, and she was studying me with the avid interest that is unique to her.  Suddenly, she smiled, looked straight in my eyes, and said, "Ma ma!"

It was as if the flood gates of my heart had been suddenly flung wide open with a great, rusty creak.  A torrent of love, deep, overwhelming, and beautiful, rushed into my heart.  I couldn't breathe for a moment from the joy of it.  I grabbed Sophie up in my arms and told her, "Oh, I love you, you little thing, you!" and kissed her all over her face, and squeezed her soft body tightly to me.

My little Sophie, whose name means, 'wisdom', taught me how to love as a mother.  She amazed me then and continues to amaze me now with her grace, her insight, her ability to empathize, and the way she always has the exact right words to speak to a hurting heart.  That is her gift.

1 comment:

  1. I love your post, Even though my oldest is in her 20s and there are 3 below her, I have always struggled with the thought that while I LOVE having my kids and raising them and all that goes with it.. I have NEVER felt the way apparantly every other mother in the world that is a "good mother" has felt about doing the most important job on the planet and being the most blessed person to be allowed to do this job. I have felt the burden of the expectations listed in your link so much of the time and felt inadaquate for more than 20 years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for helping ME to help MY girls be the mothers that they are and are going to be with out feeling like they are missing something that truthfully doesnt exsist.