From the day of birth, a whole new phase of one's life begins. For many women it is the realisation of a long-held dream, to bear a child and to be a mother.
The title "Parenthood Realised", is a bit of a joke, a pun on the surprises a new mother will encounter - both around her, as well as inside herself - since it isn't until sometime after the birth of a baby that you actually realise what you've got yourself into! Now you've got what you wanted - a baby - you gradually start to realise there are many other things which come with that baby, and which come with the quantum jump into that state called motherhood.
A cliché one frequently hears from new mothers is - "Oh, I didn't realise that"! Yep, there's lots of realisations one has along the way, both exoteric and esoteric, practical and philosophical, uplifting and depressing. And along with realisations about the nature of parenting, will come a deeper realisation of one's self. In effect, motherhood holds up to us a mirror - reflecting our weaknesses and strengths, challenging us to change and grow - in short, helping us to realise what actually is.
Unfortunately, for many it is the difficulties of motherhood and the shortcomings they find in themselves which too often become the focus of their lives and which then give rise to feelings of inadequacy and guilt. The inability "to cope" is a growing sentiment in many mothers today. Some of these feelings may be inborn, some a product of upbringing, some the result of "difficult" babies, and some reinforced by the surrounding culture and its presentations of how motherhood "should" be. But in equal or greater measure, a woman will find that motherhood provides her with many of the most wonderful experiences of her life - those which arise out of her growing strengths - such as patience, knowledge, intuition, creativity and unconditional motherly love.
It is very easy, when caught up in the pres-sures of new motherhood, to forget to make time for some self reflection, to bask in the great achievements of your new self. I have a very clear memory of an old friend of mine commenting on how different I had become after the birth of my first son. She remarked I was more calm and focussed. I was somewhat flattered by her perceptions but, more importantly, I used her comments as an
opportunity to check my awareness and realised that, yes, I was indeed changing in positive ways. This particular incident helped inspire me to keep working on my negative aspects as well as giving me renewed confidence about myself as a mother.
A Shift in Focus and Change
In the previous chapters, I've been talking about the changes fertility, conception, pregnancy and childbirth bring to one's womanhood. Prior to the time of your baby's birth, with you and the baby as a team, it was primarily your own body and your own mind which were the focus of the many changes occurring. However, after the birth, your primary maternal focus switches to an external person. Unlike the gradual changes of pregnancy, childbirth causes a very sudden, major shift in your existence You wake up on the day of going into labour consisting of two beings inside one body, and by the end of that day there exists two beings in separate bodies, one of whom doesn't even know they are separate. This can create enormous challenges and adjustments.
For some expecting mothers, one difficult aspect of pregnancy was having to pull away from their previous externalised, individualised, personally-centred life and having to tune into the internalised world of a foetus. Now, in early motherhood, some will find the opposite situation is a challenge - that is, coming out from that pregnant mindset, having to tune into the externalised world of a newborn baby. Whereas before the birth, there was one being inside another, each biologically adapting to the other's needs, now, with those two beings separate, you will be doing most of the adapting! Whereas before, the rate of change was slow and gradual, now the rate of change is accelerated and can at times be sudden and completely unexpected. Whereas in pregnancy, you had to take your baby with you everywhere you went, now there are times when you can and can't, should and shouldn't, take your baby with you. Flexibility and adaptation on your part is imperative.
Whilst pointing out these things may seem banal and obvious, their ramifications are often not so obvious and frequently require mental adjustments which can drive new mothers into emotional and mental turmoil.