Mothering is certainly a journey. It is a journey of getting to know and love our babies, of trying to understand and meet their changing needs through infancy, childhood, adolescence and beyond. For us as mums, it is a journey of learning; of deepening understanding, communication, connection, compassion. And it is this journey of our learning, change and transformation which I explore in detail in my forthcoming book Milestones of Motherhood ~ how we as mothers learn change and grow as we learn to love and care for our babies and children.
In the beginning we are fledglings, as new to mothering as our babies are to the world. Of course we can read and prepare, informing ourselves about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and baby care. Yet once our babies are here, in our arms, we realise that, like the intensity of the surges of labour, there is actually nothing we can do to prepare, to know what to do; rather we simply have to try things, to do the best we can as we try to figure out what our babies need, what they are trying to communicate to us.
In the beginning, we have no experience to rely upon, little confidence and no benefit of hindsight, and it can feel, at times like we are flailing, like we are failing, when we are struggling, crying and feeling lonely and overwhelmed. When all of our best efforts do not seem to calm our baby, when they seem unsettled, angry even, we can begin to doubt ourselves, to wonder what it is we are doing wrong, what it is we can do better.
Yet all we truly can do is to continue…. to continue learning to love our babies, to continue picking them up, holding them close, seeking support for our feelings, or their health if our intuition says there is something not right, being there for them and responding as best we can when they release their feelings of upset and distress. And with time, we notice that in small ways, things begin to change, with a moment of reflection, we realise that something we struggled with a lot only a week or two before is something we’ve thought about less recently. And these reflections, alongside our growing experience can allow our fledging feelings of confidence to begin to grow.
Through continuing to be there, to continue to pick them up, to hold them, to learn their cues and communications for feeding, holding and settling, we develop as mothers. Through all of the times we respond, even through we may cry, inwardly or outwardly, and wonder what we are doing wrong, if our babies even like us, we are learning and growing as mothers. Through each and every interaction we are weaving more threads into the fabric of our mothering, the fabric of our family.
We may feel guilt that at a time we should, and want, to be really enjoying ourselves, of loving every moment of it, there are lots of times where we are not. Where we are struggling, where we are not enjoying it at all. Where we are feeling trapped and longing for our old life, our familiarity, confidence and sense of competence to return. Mothers talk about such feelings in depth through Milestones of Motherhood. And go on to talk about, with reflection, how, through these challenging times, they come to look back, and realise how new they were to it all, how inexperienced, and just how much they learned.
And what our babies learn from us, even if they are crying in distress in our arms, is that we are there for them, that we try, that we respond. That they can trust us to be there and meet their needs. That they are and will be held in their times of struggle and distress. And this is not just an issue for their infancy, but as we continue to weave the threads of our fabric of family, there will be many times, as our children express different needs, emotions and stages, that we may not, as mothers, enjoy the journey as much as we wish we could. Times where, when faced with challenges from our toddlers and teens, that we may feel we are failing, that we are not enjoying our parenting, that we wonder where the joy and easy connection of days gone by has gone. I have certainly felt this way with my children as we have pass through difficult times.
Yet what we can do is remind ourselves once again that mothering is a journey; that we don’t have to know everything all of the time, that we are learning, as much as our children are, and that we are doing our best; that we will get through these times of challenge together. And that through our presence we are signalling, on a level deeper than the tears and struggles, that we are there for our children through their difficult times as well as the joyful, easy, sunny days. It is through our presence through the difficulties that we convey to them the meaning of unconditional love. Even if we doubt ourselves in this way at times.
It is okay not to be enjoying it all of the time. It is okay to struggle. Sharing our feelings with friends can help immensely, for behind the smiley social media posts, a few minutes chatting with other mums confirms that at times everyone struggles and doubts themselves as mothers. Try to look at what you do well, what you do enjoy, the really simple moments of connection you’ve shared. Stroking baby’s soft forehead, the gurgling gulps of a feed, their wide eyed wonder as they feel warm bath water. When times feel overwhelming, take some time each day to notice and even write down in a journal little lists of moments you have enjoyed. It is these small moments of connection that can get us through hours of difficulties, that become the shining, strong, glittering strands in our sometimes challenging fabric of mothering.
Be gentle with yourself, and remember this is, always, a journey of learning. It’s okay not to know it all, we all feel like this at times. Be kind to yourself and *try* to hold yourself in some of that gentle, powerful love with which you hold your baby.
For more information or to book your place in Clare’s weekly Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Preparation classes in West Cumbria, where we create a safe space to explore these issues of our mothering journeys alongside yoga, breathing and relaxation each week, please get in touch through our Facebook Page Beautiful Beginnings Yoga or 07906 188 345