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Gestating Motherhood

Mary Ann Zeh
River Forest, IL, USA
From: Leaven, Vol. 44, No. 4, 2008, p. 18

In January of 2007 I blindly signed up for a session at the La Leche League International Conference titled, "The Mothering Art of Making Relationships." I knew nothing about the speaker until arriving at the session. Call me naïve, but I was somewhat surprised that the talk was about how mothers make relationships with their new babies. I thought to myself, "I know how to do this!" When I have a baby, I give all of myself in mothering him or her. I nurse on demand, take my child into my bed, and respond to every cry from the first moments after birth, quickly cuing into my baby's unique temperament.

What I wanted to know was how to avoid losing myself in the process of making a relationship with my newborn and how to build relationships and a support system with other like-minded mothers. So I mulled over this question in the back of my mind during the last weeks of my pregnancy with my baby, Matthew. I realized that I already had the tools I needed and that La Leche League was a key.

A good friend from college who was an LLL Leader had invited me to attend a Series Meeting before my oldest was born. I remember scanning the local paper after she was born, looking for things I could do with a newborn in tow to connect with others in our community. The only thing that seemed a good fit was a Series Meeting of LLL. As I transitioned from life in the business world to life as a stay-at-home mother, I felt in over my head. My LLL Leader friend and her family opened their door to me. Several months later at an LLL meeting I surprised myself with the discovery that I actually knew something about this breastfeeding and parenting thing, and I felt affirmed as an individual while sharing my experiences.

And so with each child I've found there are new transitions and I develop not only as a mother, but also as a person. For example, I have a hard time accepting help from others. I am also naturally introverted and have trouble reaching out to and making connections with others. So I made a promise to myself that this time around I would accept all offers of help from friends and neighbors and not feel guilty about it, even if my baby was older than two or three months. I also hoped this opportunity would improve my relationships with my co-Leaders and our Group workers and build new connections with my neighbors.

How am I doing with my promise? Better than with my previous children. I took all offers for meals, even when I didn't take advantage of some until Matthew was three months old. I arranged to exchange babysitting with a co-Leader when I was faced with loads of holiday shopping and gift wrapping and had no one to baby-sit my three-year-old during the school day. But I sat on one email from a Group worker and I regret never getting back to her. And I have a standing offer of help from a neighbor that I have yet to accept.

I do feel like I am stretching myself, growing, and making connections. I still have a lot further to go, but the connections I have now will help me take the next step.

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