I think each of us would benefit from an experience of being carried. I know I need a lot of support and carrying, and I think many other mothers feel the same. Support given to parenthood is especially valuable because it ends up being support to the welfare of future generations.
Becoming a parent is one of the great turning-points in life, and it may turn out to be surprising and even shocking. It has been said that “pregnancy and birth bring both the mother and the father down to a level of deep, primitive experience”. It may be difficult to verbalize one’s emotions at this point in life. “The birth of a baby is like a deep dive into one’s unknown self, after which the parent usually begins to feel indescribable tenderness toward their tiny baby.” It is sad that many parents are nowadays left alone and insecure amidst this emotional turmoil.
Our parenthood involves our children but also our own past. ”Optimally, parenthood develops into a rich, subtly nuanced process of interaction during infancy, childhood, and adolescence – long before one assumes one’s own role as a biological, foster, or adoptive parent.” When a baby is born into a family, the parents live through a mixture of the past and the present, while simultaneously envisioning the future of their family. Parenthood is a complex network of interrelated emotions.
I once saw a book of photographs of mothers who had very recently given birth. The astonishment at the miracle of birth was palpable in the pictures. The quiet women stared into the distance; they were like little girls in their wide-eyed amazement. This thing had happened, they had the small bundle in their arms, and they were faced by the challenge of managing in a new kind of life. When I had my first baby years ago, I got a greeting card with a lovely text: “May the Creator of the world protect this new life.” I cried when I read those words. All mothers cry easily after giving birth, but I also felt that my lonely arms were far too weak to carry the baby. I needed the strength and protection of the arms of almighty God.
Being at home with the children is a very lonely job. If one is lonely for a long time, fatigue and other negative things begin to seem like a burden – one finds oneself completely inadequate. I think that a mother who spends the days with her children particularly needs another adult to share the emotional burden that has piled up during the day. For me, the hardest part of motherhood is not the laundry, the muddy boots, or the runny noses, but the loneliness of my thoughts and emotional burdens. When I meet other people, my heavy thoughts that have been like high mountains at home diminish into manageable proportions. Some may still remain big, but others may completely disappear when I speak about them. It turns out that many of us share the same experiences.
How can we support others? Friends and family members can support us in many ways, and there is also professional help available from society. I have found that the day care centers of our children have helped me a lot in my motherhood. Family circles are another precious support. The lonely parent can share his or her responsibilities with other adults, who take turns holding the children and sharing thoughts. Actually all life seems better when there is shared support. And this is what especially warms my heart in family circle: someone else rocks my baby in gentle arms, while I have a nice cup of coffee on an ordinary weekday morning. Even coffee tastes better when there are other people to drink it with you.
Let us support and carry each other in simple everyday ways: by helping with child care, listening to each other, discussing, and visiting. Support can also mean professional help and useful information given at a time when one feels anxious and lost. It also means understanding of the fact that we all have our natural ways of responding to things: one easily trembles with fear, while another is stronger and able to carry a heavier burden. Each family has a different story. We have all been shaped by life and the past events into the kind of persons that we are.
The quotes are translations from a Finnish book äidin ja vauvan varhainen vuorovaikutus by Hannele Törrönen and Pirkko Siltala (edited by Pirkko Niemelä, Pirkko Siltala and Tuula Tamminen)
Text: Maria Hyväri
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
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