SURVIVING A NEWBORN With Grace
My newest grandson is 17 days old. His dad must work 12 hour days for the next two weeks and his mum, my daughter is recovering from a traumatic birth experience, the kind that happens rarely in the First World, about one in thousand births. So I am helping out during the weekdays. After walking and rocking for hours, I wonder how I managed to mother nine newborns because it is exhausting. Life is indeed reduced to the basics, especially given the fact that we must return to the doctor’s office twice a week to make sure this poor babe is gaining enough weight. No wonder modern mums quit breastfeeding; the pressure and anxiety to produce enough milk to satisfy science is enough to deter anyone, never mind a first time mum, whose iron levels are down, and is exhausted from the demanding schedule of feeding every three hours with barely an hour and a half rest between feeds.Thank goodness my daughter is determined and dedicated.
I AM REMINDED OF HOW DEMANDING LIFE IS WHEN WE ARE YOUNG MOTHERS.
One afternoon before Easter, I was ironing cotton dresses and shirts for church the next day. Six year old Sarah watched for a while and then pointed to the iron and asked,
“What is that mummy?”
I laughed because I realized that this little girl had never seen me iron; I usually used the clothes dryer as my wrinkle smoother when I wasn’t looking for perfection but rather efficiency. My mother and aunt didn’t laugh when they heard this story;they were horrified, thinking that it was terrible I rarely ironed.
Actually it was not just the iron that seldom received attention as I mothered a large family, I eliminated many activities which I formerly thought crucial to my well-being with the birth of every child.
Painting portraits went with Matthew. Other babies gave the boot to crafts, dusting, bread making, interesting meals and laundry folding (each child dressed out of their own personal laundry basket). As every mother knows, a newborn takes at least eight hours a day to nurse, burp, rock and comfort, bath, change clothes and diapers (at least ten times a day), and to wash diapers, clothes, receiving blankets, sheets and baby blankets as well as your clothes which tend to get covered in vomit, and other nasty surprises.
The lack of sleep leads to a rather narrow existence where the best days are when you can sneak in a nap or shower and dress before noon. Oh, those were the days when babies reduced life to the basics.
Those basics were all I required when I relaxed and allowed myself to live in the moment, enjoying my newborn rather than bemoaning all the “important” activities that I couldn’t seem to even start. The very fact that everything my little one required to grow and thrive was inexpensive and near at hand was amazing. My baby didn’t need a lot of money spent on him, he simply needed arms to hold him, mother’s milk to drink and warm clothes and blankets
A friend who had five children, couldn’t quite grasp my peaceful demeanour as I sat nursing a newborn with family life whirling about me. She finally surmised that I was content to enjoy the present experience of mothering a tiny, dependent newborn. Her comments sparked an epiphany in me which kicked out guilt. I think I must have received a gift of understanding that ultimately my failings and lapses would be covered and hidden by Love.
An image of MARY by the Austrian artist Marianne Stokes, depicting MARY ASLEEP WHILE ANGELS ENTERTAIN THE INFANT JESUS. This painting reminds me of her youth and the exhaustion of all new mothers.
As we begin the month of May. traditionally the month of Mary, may we pray for all new mothers and mothers to be that they be strengthened by the intercession of the mother of all
The Joy of Mothering