Who’s Your Mama

By - May 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By Lucky Tomaszek

Here it is, finally. Spring! The warm weather is calling my family outdoors, into the warmth and sunshine. I am particularly fond of the month of May, which brings several family birthdays and my wedding anniversary with it. I feel surrounded by the love of my children and my husband as the days get longer and we celebrate the new life all around us.

Mother’s Day also falls in May. Families nationwide celebrate the love and care mothers give their children. It also happens to be the busiest long distance phone calling and flower delivery day of the year. Most everyone sends mini-love letters tucked into the floral arrangement for Mom. The packages come from all over the country and most arrive on time.

Think about this phenomenon for a moment. While I think it’s wonderful that we are all so appreciative of our mothers, I find it a little sad that we are so far away from them. As a nation, we are separated from our immediate families in a way that has never before been so complete. In the not too distant past, most of us would have said Happy Mother’s Day over coffee in the family kitchen or given Mom a corsage and a warm hug before Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, our society is now structured in such a way that it is highly unlikely we’ll get back to our multigenerational roots anytime in the foreseeable future.

So many women to celebrate in May

So I think it’s no coincidence that in May, with many of us being deprived of the close physical presence of the women in our family, we also pay to tribute to some health care workers who devote themselves to helping women. National Midwives’ Day is May 5th, Nurse’s Day is May 6th, and doulas around the country spend the entire month celebrating Doula Month. Midwives, nurses and doulas are all very dear to me, as each has played a vital role in my life, and in the lives of most of the mothers I know.

The midwife attends the expecting mother through her pregnancy and birth. She is a calming presence, offering reassuring and practical advice. Midwives spend time listening to each question and sharing information. They become emotionally vested in both the physical and emotional well being of their pregnant clients. While the midwife is a highly-trained health care provider specializing in normal birth, a lot of what she does used to be done by the expectant woman’s own mother or auntie.

In the same vein, the doula has surfaced in this country and around the world as a key figure in the early days of motherhood. Some doulas work with pregnant women and attend births as a key support figure. Birth doulas answer questions during pregnancy and help mothers know what to expect during birth. They are a continuous nurturing presence that women find very important. Postpartum doulas come in to the home just after the baby is born to help with meals, laundry, sibling care and newborn advice. Doulas spend a lot of time helping the new mom with breastfeeding, offering tips and advice to ease the first several weeks of motherhood. Once again, this job was done for years by a woman’s family members.

Nurses are a slightly different animal. They are fully trained by the medical system to work smoothly with doctors, in hospitals or clinics. They can administer medications, assess a person’s health condition, and assist families with difficult medical choices, and so much more. These skills are invaluable. And the best nurses really nurture their patients. We mothers lean on nurses for support during difficult times. When our children are sick or injured, we need the calming presence of the nurse who can efficiently take a history while soothing tears. And when Mom is the patient, we so appreciate the warmth of a sympathetic and reassuring hand on our arm.

Moms need moms, too

You see, becoming a mother does not eliminate a person’s need to be mothered. If anything, it enhances it. Mothers need nurturing, just as they need to nurture their own children. While maternal love is truly boundless, the ability to constantly give of one’s self without taking anything back is short lived. Most of us can do it for a while, but eventually we need to be bouyed up by the same kind of love we willingly give away. When we lived in multigenerational homes, we were taken care of during the difficult times like pregnancy, birth, and illness. Our mothers or mothers-in-law, our aunties, and our sisters would circle round, caring for everything so that we could concentrate on caring for ourselves and our children.

I plan to enjoy the entire month of May and I hope you will too. I have the opportunity to eat birthday cake no less than three times and drink champagne with my husband as we celebrate 12 years together. You can start by making May baskets and delivering them on a sunny afternoon. Join me in taking cookies or fresh fruit to the nurses at your local hospital. Send your area midwife an email telling her how much you appreciate the care she gives to the mothers she serves. Hug your doula if you can catch her between births. If there is any way you can visit your mother, you should do it. If not, send her flowers. It will make her day to get back some of the love she gives you everyday, even now. And, she’ll know she raised you right.

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