I want you to think of a golden moment when your child or a child you help care for was very young — a time when you felt you were doing an amazing job as a caregiver, when you were in harmony with your child, when things were just right.
My moment is when my first child, Leon, was almost 2 years old and I was pregnant with Carl, my second child. My husband was working on building our house so we could move in before Carl was born. Sometimes Leon and I would come and visit him and have a little picnic dinner in the unfinished house. But the moment that came to me when preparing for this afternoon was a night I took Leon for a dinner at Mutiny Bay. It was just the two of us on this beautiful stretch of beach. Leon and I shared some food and then he started running down this little sandy hill towards the water. He climbed the hill and then ran down it over and over again. He had such determination and delight on his face. I was there, watching him, giving him my complete attention. I felt so much joy in being his mama.
I’m sure each of you have an equally special moment in parenting. There is often so much laughter, cuddles, wonder and joy as we care for our young children.
But what about the other moments? The moments of struggle, frustration, tears and confusion. The moments we often wish to discard and ignore.
After Leon was born by an unplanned c-section and we were finally all home after a longer than expected stay in the hospital I felt shell shocked and broken and was overwhelmed by the depth of pain, joy, sadness and love I was feeling all at the same time. My days were spent nursing, sleeping, gazing, and holding my baby. I also spent time crying and feeling worried, fear and guilt. It is only now, 10 years later, that I have been able to recognize that I had postpartum depression in that first year as a mama.
I stumbled into motherhood. And I’m not alone.
Even for mothers who do not suffer from PPD, there can be confusing and conflicting emotions as they transition into motherhood. In her article for the New York Times entitled “The Birth of the Mother”, Psychiatrist Andrea Sacks aptly describes the struggles of new moms– the dueling feelings of joy and stress after birth, the ambivalence–pull and push of wanting a child close and craving space, the fantasy versus the reality of parenting and the idea of the “good enough” mother versus the Mother goddess.
Mother Mentors was an important resource to me in those early years with my children. In additional to attending Playscape with my children, I was paired up with a Mother Mentor after the births of my second and third child. Those visits offered me a listening ear, help with a never ending pile of laundry or a much appreciated shower on my own. At a time when I had no extended family on the island, I can not overemphasize how vital these simple acts of kindness were to me during that time.
Becoming a mother is a significant transformation that doesn’t happen overnight. Mother Mentors offers a place for new parents to share the joys and struggles of parenting. It gives a place for families to be witnessed and supported with honor, compassion and respect. Please join me in offering financial support to Mother Mentors. Your contribution will ensure that this work continues for families on Whidbey Island and that it can be an inspiration for similar organizations in other communities. It is not easy to be a parent but Mother Mentors offers an invaluable witness and support network when most needed.