Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mother Issues During Pregnancy

Me and my mom, circa 1980-ish.

My mother's birthday was yesterady. My daughter and I put up her picture, ate some cake and sang Happy Birthday to Grandma in Heaven. With my little girl so happy about the cake and the singing and all, it was impossible to feel anything but fun. Now, a few days later, I am sitting here thinking about her and about how I am about the same age as she was in that picture and my girl is about the age I was then.

It is still sometimes strange to be on the other side of the mother-daughter bond. In a way it is healing. Hope Edelman says in her book Motherless Mothers,

"For many motherless women , the experience of caring for one's child also doubles as a form of self care.... Being an attentive loving mother brings the spirit of an attentive loving mother into the room, one who simultaneously nurtures the childlike self that had to manage without adequate nurturing in the past. " (p. 13)
It's so strange, because many motherless women fear motherhood, because they are afraid that they won't know how to nurture or be a good mother. I was one of these. But when it came down to it, once the morning sickness was over, it was the opposite. There was nothing I seemed better suited for.

I have been surprised to find that many more women than I knew are in the motherless tribe with me (in fact, several of my collaborators also fall into this category), either because of death, abandonment, or mental illness. Their mothers may be alive, but didn't nurture them. This is a heavy thing during pregnancy. Pregnancy brings up all of our stuff:
"Grete Bibring, MD was one of the first medical researchers to call attention to this phenomenon....Pregnancy, Bibring concluded is a 'developmental crisis' that affects all expectant mothers. By 'crisis' she meant a turning point in a woman's life that creates psychological and emotional upheaval, leading to a new stage of maturation. Throughout this process, normal psychological defenses loosen, and unsettles or incompletely settled conflicts from the past bubble up to the conscious level. That's a main reason why mother issues come up during pregnancy, for all women." (Edelman, 37-38)
I have come to believe the viewpoint that pregnancy is 9 1/2 months long to give us time to work through our issues so that we can be more spiritually ready to handle the much more much evolved soul that is coming to us.

So, whether you are motherless or not, know that if stuff is coming up for you, it's a part of the process. I have often said that being pregnant without a husband was no big deal, but being pregnant without a mother was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Yet, though it was a crucible, all the work is worth it. At the end, when I become a mother, both that instant and then slowly, over the first few months of her life, the huge hole that had been in my heart, filled in.

We are now able to make "Grandma in Heaven" part of our lives without the sadness that was there before. The birthday cake is one example. Other times, when we want to invite her to dinner, we light a candle and put it in her spot. I also keep lots of pictures of her and my other ancestors around the house, too. Phoebe sometimes talks about them being her angels.

If you don't have a great relationship with your mother and still want to have that nurturing grandmotherly vibe in your child's life, here are some other ideas that I have come up with. I have recently started talking to my daughter a little bit about the Heavenly Mother. She knows that her symbol is the tree, and so I encourage tree climbing, where appropriate.

At the Los Angeles Temple

Another mother figure that I am teaching Phoebe about is Mother Earth. The term Mother Earth may be derived from some connection with the Heavenly Mother's silent role in the creation, but I don't really know. I keep them separate, because it gives her one more mother figure. Also, if she views the earth as a mother figure, then by teaching earth-consciousness, it's a good parallel to reinforce the duty to honoring parents.

I'd love to hear your ideas or experiences.


  1. what a wonderful post. I too am a motherless mother who feared I wouldn't know what to do when I became a mother myself. Somewhere along the way that all changed. I still don't know what I'm doing half the time, but the "whole" in my heart was filled as well.

  2. As you know, I'm still trying to work through my own issues. I'm still trying to heal that little abandoned toddler, but I think becoming a mother has helped immensely. As I give my children what my own mother couldn't, it slowly brings me closer to peace.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. I lost my mother at 13 and today is her birthday. I just had my first child 2 months ago and love the tradition that you have started with your daughter. I plan to do the same thing with my son so that he can remember and learn about his "Grandma in Heaven"



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