Motherhood

The process of becoming a mother has been referred to as ‘matrescence’.  It is a process that has taken place since the human race began.

The first mother mentioned in the Bible is, of course, Eve. Genesis 3:20 says, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” “Eve” means life or living.” The word mother comes from the Hebrew ’em.    I think most of us know the rest of the story and how Eve then ate the apple from the forbidden tree, giving it to her husband too.   God was angry and cursed both of them for disobeying him saying that there would always be enmity between them.  Childbirth and labour would be painful for the woman, the earth would not yield good crops and that all men and women would die.

I often reflect on all the women that I have cared for over the years during my life as a midwife and now recently as a counsellor offering therapy for depression and anxiety during the childbirth process.  One thing that is very obvious is that women undergo an enormous change to become mothers and this involves physical as well as emotional and psychological changes.

What is motherhood? The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as:

The State of being a mother” but what is a mother and why is it a very much revered status? But also, one that can as well as bring much joy, fulfilment and laughter can also bring a great deal of pain, sadness, frustration and exhaustion.

The role of the mother is multi-factoral and she is usually perceived as being the nurturer, teacher, nurse, and source of comfort. The list is endless.

A good mother is expected to be supportive, patient and consistent. Along with these qualities, a mother should love her child unconditionally.  But what is the mother having her own issues to deal with? What happens then?

A mother’s job is no easy task. There are no days off, and they must be able to remain calm under any circumstances. Especially with smaller children, patience is a trait that a mother must have.

Mothers also have many other perceived roles to fulfil. Cleaner, bread winner, have a successful career, laundry specialist, chef, lover, friend, daughter, sister and so on.   No wonder it is a hard job and why so many women feel sad following a birth.   Not only do they have to adapt to a new and demanding role, but they also often have to lose a bit of their old lives and selves and lose sight of who they once were.

The other phenomenon that I have observed not only for myself but other women and mothers I have cared for, is how raw their feelings can be following birth and how much emotional pain can be felt for other people.  I want to quote Annie Lennox who sums Motherhood up beautifully and succinctly.

Motherhood was the great equaliser for me; I started to identify with everybody….as a mother, you have that impulse to wish that no child should ever be hurt, or abused, or go hungry, or not have opportunities in life”.

Perhaps this is also the kind of pain that ‘God’ refers to in Genesis in the bible, who knows.

I think what I am trying to say is that it is OK to feel different after giving birth and it’s OK to feel sad for a while.   It’s only when that sadness goes on and on and there is no joy that counselling and therapy or just talking to someone is necessary.

J.D. Salinger in the Catcher in the Rye suggests that “Mothers are all slightly insane”.  Some women and mothers possibly are, and losing their minds, but at the same time finding them.

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