Straight from the Heart Mothering
by Robin Lim
© 1999 Midwifery Today, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
[Editor's note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 49, Spring 1999.]
"A baby is Gods opinion that the world should go on." –
I wish I was sitting with you now, at your kitchen table. I would listen
to your birth story. I would rub your strong shoulders and ask to hold
your baby. I wish this because I admire your courage. Thank you for bringing
a new baby Earth-side. You are a heroine. Some Native American tribes
believe that the mother must journey to the land of the souls to bring
back a child for her people. This is labor. Your own re-birth and the
birth of this baby is the most significant journey, both spiritual and
physical, that a human being can make. You return a mother, having completed
the worlds most dangerous and blessed life event. If you do not
believe that childbirth, in all its manifestations, is a heroic undertaking,
consider the statistics: every day on planet Earth approximately 1,370
women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Today as you
read this, let me celebrate your bravery. Whatever the details of your
birth story, you faced your individual childbirth challenges and worked
to give this world a newborn person.
Perhaps your birth did not go as planned. Many do not, and so you will
cry and with the help of friends, family and the Good Lord, you must heal.
Please do not diminish the wonder of the job you have done only because
it was not perfect in our limited human opinion.
While we are of flesh and bone we cannot hope to fully know what "perfect"
is. Our best made plans will be broken a million times in the years of
parenting ahead. As mothers we must learn to be flexible, for the ridged
tree breaks in the windstorms of life. In birth we are utterly taken apart.
In this way God guarantees that we emerge anew. This is how Mother Nature
builds a new mother, by first burning down our preexisting lives. The
survival of this precious being you hold close today depends upon your
"New parents quickly learn that raising children is a kind of desperate
improvisation." –Bill Cosby
Postpartum is the process of discovering who has been made. What you
will now emerge? Heroic, vulnerable, afraid of being a parent. This
is natural. For centuries "old wives" like me have called this
shattering and regrowing, "the baby blues." Your tears are rain,
your laughter fertilizer, your baby is the noon-day sun, shining on your
"Motherhood means being instantly interruptable, responsive, responsible."
Perhaps if I were sitting with you at your kitchen table today, folding
diapers, you would ask me, "how can I best care for this baby of
mine?" My answer would be, "by taking care of yourself."
Rest. Take naps when your baby sleeps. Let yourself be pampered by family
and friends. A human child is so thoroughly dependent upon his or her
mother that your well being is truly essential to the babys health
and well being.
By all means, breastfeed. My daughter sat at a La Leche League meeting
the night before she went into labor, a mere twenty years of age, facing
motherhood for her first time. When asked why she had an interest in breastfeeding
her baby she said, "Im going to breastfeed because I was breastfed
for five years, and I loved it." Naturally I was so puffed up by
this that I nearly floated away! Looking back on the very difficult, painful
time I experienced learning to breastfeed her, my first baby, I can tell
you it was well worth it. (Not all women experience pain when establishing
breastfeeding. The best advice I can offer is, get good support from La
Leche League and/or a lactation consultant. Dont give up if it is
rough; there are caring people who will help you, and you must reach out
Well, my daughter Déjà had a very challenging birth and her resolve
was further tested by a terribly painful experience of early breastfeeding.
For the first ten days, despite correct positioning and doing all the
right things, her nipples cracked, bled and began to resemble ground meat.
Finally, upon the advice of a midwife/friend/lactation consultant/La Leche
League leader, Déjà stopped wearing a bra and pads, simply letting the
air dry out her wounded nipples. Within twenty-four hours she was healed.
At no time during this ordeal did my young daughter stop breastfeeding.
She did not supplement with bottles. She taught me so much about the power
of a mothers love. "Well," said her auntie, "you
may have written the book on it, but she was your first teacher, and always
Teachers—that is what I feel our children are. If we let them guide
us, our lives will be more gentle. The lesson plan of the Lord is astonishing.
You only gain access to it by becoming a link in the unbroken chain of
humanity, parent to child, each generation guiding the last.
"The souls of pure teachers are arriving like rays of sunlight
from so far up to the ground-huggers." –Rumi
As your life as a mother unfolds you will find that there are many "experts"
out there, people who claim to know what is best for your baby. Remember,
you parents are the only real experts when it comes to your baby. Follow
your heart. If your heart prefers sleeping with your baby rather than
putting him or her in a crib in a separate room, then choose to keep a
family bed. I feel strongly that it is impossible to "spoil"
a new baby with too much love and attention. Yet the "experts"
recommend a more hands-off approach to mothering. I am not an expert,
I am a mother. I do know that many of the "experts" are actually
front men for businesses, trying to make money by capitalizing on babies.
By claiming it is best to make our babies sleep separately from us these
business people stand to sell us cribs, crib mobiles, crib sheets, crib
toys, crib lights, heart-beat simulators (to trick the baby into thinking
you are right beside her), crib monitors, and dont forget . . .
bumper pads to make the crib bars safe. I rest my case.
"But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel
beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes."
May I suggest that your chances of finding peace in your role as mother
will be greatly increased as you "let go." Putting everything
after mothering will instantly prioritize your life, freeing you to be
happy in service to your baby.
If you have chosen to parent without holding back, giving limitless
love and attention to your baby, you will need to be brave. It is a decision
you will necessarily make every day, many times a day. Each time a well
meaning friend advises you to "get a sitter, take a break" (though
you and baby are far from being ready for separation), you will have to
justify your parenting style. Please dont give up. The time you
spend, the attention you give, building a foundation of self-esteem and
love for your child, will reap a harvest of world peace, one family at
Thank You — I love you....
Robin Lim is an author, midwife and educator who lives in Bali with
her husband and children. Click here for a full bio.
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