Mother-Baby Couples

In my book, Little Black Breastfeeding Book: Maternal Experience of Breastfeeding. 

 I have a small section where I expand on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is the concept of the mother-baby couple. Back in 2012, it began as a letter of support to my daughter who even after successfully nursing two children seemed to be struggling. I also noted that after many years as a lactation consultant and nurse midwife, I saw startling differences in the women who successfully nursed their babies. I also saw startling differences in the type of support and guidance nursing mothers received. Rarely was support and guidance given from the heart from those who had already successfully nursed their own children or even from those who had witnessed such a thing. We had skipped one or even two generations of no cellular memory of being breastfed or having nursed a little one. Not only was it fast becoming a lost art, but few were speaking about the benefits and experience of the mother. Here is a tiny excerpt from my story on the mother-baby couple as a tenet of the five keys for success that most mothers may need.

“The mother and baby are inseparable.  I would like to have you begin to think about how lives intersect along a continuum that begins with conception and one which ends with weaning. We cannot think about the needs of the infant during this period of time without thinking of the needs of the mother. There is no separate life for the mother or for the fetus.  Many midwives think that pregnancy is actually the establishment of a symbiotic relationship between interdependent souls. 

If conception occurs shortly after intercourse between a man and a woman, this act starts another relationship involving a heretofore-unmentioned third party: the mother -baby couple.  The experience that comes from joining two entities is uniquely interdependent on each other.  There is no mother without the baby. The development of who we are as mothers uniquely depends on the awareness and presence of the other.  We can speak of the origin of the mother-baby couple in terms of love, passion, sex, desire, planned or even as an unintended consequence of a momentary act.  However, we don’t always the know the spiritual circumstances of conception. I believe and I would like for you to consider if there is not some part of you that was called to be a mother.  Maternal instinct is an oversimplification of what I am talking about. Is there some part of you that opens to sharing yourself with another human being and for caring for a part of you that will become its own separate being?”

This morning I listened to yet another Story Corp of a woman in search of her biological mother. She spoke about the longing of discovery while also loving her adoptive mother. Her story points to a unique and special connection.  On her journey she met her siblings, folks she shared womb space with under very different circumstances than her own. Earlier in the week, my grandson called to tell his mother that his best friend’s mother called to say sadly his friend had committed suicide the night before. My daughter called to tell me. We cried as mothers, worried for our own sons and the despair we experienced in our own lives. Last night I finally got to speak with him.  In no small way was it a conversation about grief, love, and connection with the mother. It was about both longing and reflection.

In less than a month, four friends of mine noted the passing of their respective mothers.  All acknowledging the wave of memories and conflicting emotions. Last night I listed to Gloria Steinem speak about a pivotal moment when she decided she was unable to continue this relationship and how it impacted her life, her vision of her own mother and childhood and all the life experiences as a woman and a feminist that would yet to come. At a casual lunch, a friend mentioned she had not heard from her daughter for a long while; her daughter telling her just after her wedding that she no longer needed a mother just now.  My friend at 72 lamented missing her so, yet unable to cross the chasm to be where she was not welcome or wanted.  Settling for grief, is a most delicate form of love.  Our experiences as mothers deeply influences our spiritual lives. 

This blog honors what I hope is the maternal experience of the connection if for however brief or tormented or joyous. It is a shared memory that women so rarely give voice to because they are not heard or are shamed at a point of great vulnerability with such high expectations.

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday.  She has been long gone as we noted ten years since her death the day before President’s Obama’s first inauguration. We buried her the day after my birthday.  I shopped today for a headstone that I hadn’t quite gotten to purchase just yet. At 65 I am still a part of that mother-baby couple.

Please tell us your story of your experience as a part of the mother-baby couple?

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