The birth of a baby is a joyous event. Everyone wants to hold the baby. Family and friends arrive with gifts, love and that double-edged sword known as "advice". Babies are allowed to be babies. We acknowledge that they are learning new skills and that to meet their potential, an environment infused with love and acceptance is key. We don't judge them for not knowing how to breastfeed perfectly in the days after birth. We don't gossip about their need for nappies and inability to dress themselves. We gently step in, aiming to anticipate their needs based on our growing understanding of their every squirm and squeak.
Well every baby's birthday is also the birth of a new mother. As our babies are born, we too a born into our new role, our new purpose our very new raison d'etre. The psychiatrist and author, Daniel Stern explains it by saying "Giving birth to a new identity can be as demanding as giving birth to a baby."
However all too often women feel underprepared. The structure of our society means that for most women the peccadillos of a new baby are unknown. This can leave women feeling unsure of themselves, lost amongst the clamour of cooing baby-focused relatives. All too often once the novelty of the birth has worn off, and partners are back at work and family and friends have resumed their own busy lives, who is left to mother the mother? Where is her environment of love and acceptance, her cocoon of safety and support while she practises her skills and builds her confidence?
What can we do to help mother the mother? Two researchers, Luthar and Ciciolla say unconditional acceptance by friends, feeling comforted when needed, friendship satisfaction and authenticity in relationships play essential roles in keeping mum happy, and thus grounded in her tasks with child rearing and development. Not surprisingly women need to feel seen and loved for themselves not for the tasks they do or the job title they hold, even if that title for now is predominantly, MOTHER.
It isn't surprising to read that according to their research, Luthar and Ciciolla found that, "just as unconditional acceptance is critical for children, so it is critical for mothers who must provide it. Mothers, like children, benefit greatly when they know they have reliable sources of comfort when in distress." In other words, New-born mothers need exactly what their newborn babies need, love, acceptance and a safe and non-judgemental space to be imperfect.
So in addition to meals, company, help with chores and older children, excitement and a dozen new baby outfits, mothers need warm and loving arms to hold them whilst they grow into their new role as mothers.