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Mothering the Mother – honouring stillness with kindness
A guest post by Charlotte Edun
Birth Coach, The Good Birth Practice
Life before motherhood
Stillness is one of the hardest skills for many new mothers to acquire. We spend so much of our 20s & early 30s in a dash through life. Accruing new experiences, new friendships & new achievements at a breakneck pace. In a blaze of colour, blurry photographs and no less hazy memories, it’s a joyful round of friends, parties & weddings. We learn to plan, and to actively fill our work & personal lives with undertakings & exploits that are fruitful, in one way or another. Promotions, successes and celebrations. It’s hectic. Exhausting. Fantastic.
Which means being still, being responsive & reactive, may not be a mode we are familiar with.
In those days, stillness was a balm. Recovery from the hurly burly. Do you remember those days? Booking spa days with girlfriends, for the simple indulgent pleasure of ‘me-time’. Duvet days, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek and a bacon sandwich were the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday morning wind-down. A yoga class, an exhibition, a gallery, or a quiet walk and lunch in a pub.
Life with a newborn
So when this new thing enters our lives – mothering – when we have to subvert our needs to another, and retreat, it can be hard. With a new baby, the stillness is not quite on our terms. It is a stillness enforced. Despite the proximity of little bodies for so many hours of the day and night. Despite our bodies becoming public property (to be considered, discussed & fed from). The peace can become silence, and the stillness can become stultifying.
The truth is that this wonderful new phase can be so great a passion, and also – simultaneously and not exclusively – so great a trial.
The stillness of mothering can bring a tension that comes not so much from doing, but from not doing. It’s all too easy, from our newly inhabited groove in the sofa, with the babe on the boob (or bottle), to think of all the things we are not doing. To ponder on what our child-free friends & colleagues are doing. Or, worse, the freedom our husbands & partners enjoy. The time, the quiet, the lack of active endeavour; they’re vacuums for previously active minds to wander in.
There are new-mother friends, of course, but they are just that; new. And they too are making sense of this strange new world, where calm and hysteria are seconds apart, and where deepest love and darkest despair co-exist.
Mothering the Mother
What do new mothers need? ‘Mothering the mother’ is a phrase I first heard when I was training as a birth coach, and it’s a precious one to me. It’s a skill I think we’ve lost – as we fetishise pregnancy, birth & infancy, the needs of new mothers can be lost. It’s easy to forget that they need to hear kindness. Acknowledgement that while giving birth can be your proudest achievement, it does not come without cost. Everyone benefits from kind words and support. Sometimes, just knowing you are thought of is enough to boost your spirits. Solidarity from other women, who have experienced the same, and recognise the highs and lows of mothering infants is gold.
So go on, sign up for #MamaMail and spread a little happiness.
Charlotte Edun has run The Good Birth Practice in Sevenoaks since 2014. She has 3 young children – each born after very different labours – and is not so much a birth junkie, as a women’s power junkie. She’s quite convinced that if men had uterus’s or grew placenta’s there’d be monuments to them all over the world. Because of this, she’s committed to helping women find their own, unique good birth experience.