The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

Perspective March 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 4:12 pm

I fear I’ve been too cynical and too grumpy lately as I’ve complained about our lack of sleep, about not being a big fan of newborn babies, about waiting for these difficult months to pass.  Some friends respond by saying they appreciate my honesty because many moms don’t talk about the hard parts of motherhood.  Maybe I’m honest, and I certainly hope people feel safe to be honest in conversations with me, but I also think I’m just giving into the grump a little too often.  I’ve been following the story of this family from Charleston who are friends of friends.  As I read this mother’s amazing praise and joy in the midst of her son’s brand new fight against cancer, I am humbled.  Maybe I do paint a sometimes honest picture of motherhood that might free some sisters from feeling the pressures of being June Cleaver, but I also think it’s easy (for me) to turn the corner into flat out whining.

So I’ve been thinking about a post on what I do love about a newborn baby.  In no particular order, and rather stream-of-consciousness, here are some positives about this life swaddled next to me.

1.  The smell.  I have said before that newborns come out smelling like doughnuts and heaven.  I love to sniff her head and breathe in that skin as deeply as I can.

2.  The fat rolls.  When else in life can you ever celebrate fat rolls like you can with a newborn.  Especially as a breast-feeding mom (not trying to stir up that discussion or hold myself up as higher or better), there is a real pride and amazement in those fat rolls.  I feel like a partner in creation as my body sustains and nourishes another.  

3.  The soft part of the neck, almost to the shoulder.  Great for kissing and making squirty noises on.

4.  Obvious: smiles.  They’re addictive, and they really are rewarding.  It’s such an encouragement to see the connection she’s making as she figures out who I am and is delighted to see me.  Even with a three-year-old this is already not always the response, and I know it will only continue to get more complicated.  So it’s lovely to have this little warm one who delights in me, if only for a moment.

5.  Finger dimples.  This kind of goes with fat rolls.  The little dimples that appear as those hands fill out.  Yum.

6.  A sleeping baby on my chest.  While I do look forward to putting both children to bed in their own rooms while my husband and I actually get to spend time together once again…it is so sweet and so fleeting to have that little curled up body mold against mine.

7.  Playing dress up.  This part can be a bit tricky as it moves close to the border of presenting a false self, but with the right motives and pure intentions, it is such fun to dress a sweet smelling, smiling little one to share with the world.

Seven is one of those biblical numbers, so I guess it’s okay to just end things there.  Being sleepy all of the time is not fun, and I do look forward to our life settling into a new normal one day.  But I don’t want to wish these days away just to get to the next one.  And I am amazed by the strong mom in Charleston who is daily finding reasons to praise God rather than sink into darkness.  I have thought of her often in the night when I want to punch something because I can’t get more than two hours of sleep.  I have no reason for whining and only reason for gratitude.  These days are fleeting, and the sweet list above is reason enough to settle in and enjoy this.


Guilt March 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 1:59 pm

In sharing The Atlantic‘s recent article on breast-feeding, I’ve stirred up something among moms around the subject of guilt.  A dear friend also shared her thoughts on being a mother with me and got at some of those same things of mothering a certain way, doing the right things, living up to one’s own expectations of motherhood.  Before I think out loud about guilt, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

What is this guilt about?  What prompts the guilt?  It it unique to women?  Specifically unique to mothers?  Is it something we carry on our own or inflict on one another?  Is it a tool of division that comes from a patriarchal culture around us?  My questions go on and on.  While I gather my thoughts for an upcoming post, please share yours.


Breast-Feeding March 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 11:28 am

Oh my, oh my, oh my. I sat down immediately to read this article in April’s Atlantic and wish I could gather a circle of women to discuss its contents. Please read ALL THE WAY to the last word because her final paragraph gets at something important. But her questions about power, feminism, and self-fulfillment are really something to ponder. I’ve done much of my own pondering on this blog, though from an opposite perspective from Ms. Rosin. 

She makes some good points about research, but her final paragraph gets at why breastfeeding is important to me. Like most women, I have asked many of the questions she is asking. However, the asking process has caused me to question the way our culture functions and gives value to time (as evidenced by Ms. Rosin’s statement: [Breastfeeding] is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way.”) 

Read and comment. I’m off to nurse the baby.


Sitting Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 10:39 am

I think I am sitting down by myself for the first time in over seven weeks. My boy is in two-day preschool, and I’ve been using that time to frantically run errands or rush to the coffee shop to chat with some fun women. My husband left early this morning for a work meeting, so I had my second run this week of getting both children and myself ready and out the door for school.  Tuesday we were 25 minutes late, today it was half an hour.  Then I jumped back in the car to rush to the coffee shop when I realized I’d brushed neither my hair nor my teeth.  While the gals certainly wouldn’t care, I knew I needed to slow down.

I went back home to do those things but felt myself hesitating when I grabbed the keys to leave again.  I could hear the Mothering voice saying, “Just stay home and enjoy this.”  It took a few minutes, but I gave in and pulled the baby out of the carseat to just be home for a little while.  Now she’s sleeping peacefully, the boy’s at school, the man’s at work, and I am alone and silent.  While there are easily a dozen things I could do right this minute (weeding and planning for flowers and veggies, long bath, cleaning and reorganizing the house, deep sleep!), it feels good to sit without any demands on my energy.  This may not last very long, but I am savoring the cozy corner of the couch, the deep breaths down to my belly, the sound of the windchimes on the porch, and the rhythmic sound of an infant swing.


Dancing Wildly March 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 2:17 pm

Our family attended a Dan Zanes conert on Saturday morning.  We discovered Dan Zanes when our son was still quite small when I bought his 2006 album at a Starbucks.  My husband and I instantly fell for the music because it was much more of the sound that we enjoyed in “grown-up” music rather than, say, The Wiggles.  So our whole family was delighted to find out last year that Dan Zanes would be in town this year, and we made plans to attend with another family so that our boys could enjoy the show together.  Early into the concert, Dan made it clear that all of the kids were invited to get up, move to the front of the stage, and dance wildly.  My boy was THE first child to run up.  He quickly looked at us to make sure it was okay, then he took off and started dancing.  Others followed, but there was a brief moment when he stood there in front of hundreds of people, stared at Dan, and just danced.

Man, I wish I could do that.  My dearest college friend, a dance and movement therapist, always says that I am not comfortable in my body.  (I even preached on this a few years back.)  It’s really true, I am not the one to hit the dance floor and even dread the simple train lines that (white) people tend to form at certain parties and events.  I am sure it is all about attempting to  control how I am perceived, and I can be so cool and above it all when standing still but shine a light on an awkward, less confident self were I to dance about.  

But my son hasn’t been corrupted by these paranoid, self-conscious thoughts.  It was beautiful to watch him dance and dance and dance until he needed a snack…and then go back and dance some more.  I got a little emotional as all of these thoughts swirled in my head and also as I realized how much time and love and life was around me and in me and in front of me.  Three years have passed since his birth, and there I sat holding his new sister beside the man I have loved for ten years now in front of friends who are so dear to me.  And this little guy just danced out of that love and security and abundance.  It was something to behold.


Other Lessons March 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 9:12 am

My church routine has quickly changed from wearing a sleeping baby in a sling to sitting through about 20 minutes of worship before the waking baby is ready for a fresh diaper and some nursing time.  The first week I sat alone in an empty nursery and quickly returned to the service.  But the past two weeks I have discovered a new joy of visiting in the nursery with a Wise Woman whom I admire greatly.  This Sunday we talked about the tough reality of newborn days no matter how little or how much sleep babies give their parents.  She also shared reflections on her own experience of mothering two boys, now grown.  I particularly connected with one comment regarding outside forces/voices/pressures and her wish that she could have better ignored the pull of those forces/voices/pressures to hurry.  (I was a bit sleep-deprived that morning, but that was the gist.)  Even as a mother who was mindfully, intentionally present with her sons, she wishes now she could have cared even less about those outside elements. 

It seems like a simple statement, and is certainly one I’ve attempted to articulate in many previous posts, but there was a deep wisdom when she said it.  She thoughtfully remembered and reflected before she expressed that wish for the past.  How can I fulfill her wish in my own mothering life?  Isn’t that the gift of wisdom from with wise mothers to the new mothers?  Just as I think I have made my peace with a slower life, a life lived in each moment, I will be reminded of another life that is going on beyond the walls of my house.  Some may invite me to come back out and play, so to speak.  Others may express disbelief at my choices.  But more than just focusing on what feels like a Call to be in this moment, I also want to learn to not even listen to those other pressures.  The voices will remain (and some are spoken in love even if they belie a true knowledge of my life), but maybe I can learn a different way of listening–maybe something of a Holy Ignoring.  

I wonder if there are other lessons you have learned or are learning.  Will you share them with me?  Mothers of the young, the grown, and watchers/witnesses/partners of mothers who mother in community if not in their own homes, what are your lessons?