Now the Birth of a Child is an event to celebrate! Your birth was a celebration – if not here on earth, then in heaven… God, the creator, loves His creation! When I say that it makes me wonder if my parents celebrated when I was born. Were they looking at me with great delight and expectation? I’m not sure. I do know that for so some of you through many shared stories I’ve heard over the years that you were not wanted or your father wanted a boy instead of a girl. Not sure there was a lot of celebrating that day. I’m sorry for the pain that this has caused you.
Here are some frightening realities: We are born helpless. The trauma of the birthing experience is violence like no other – creating our emotional need for nurture and embrace most urgently. For those first few moments after we slip from the birth canal into the light, we are in shock, in emotional isolation. We are dependent on attachment for survival… without it we will die.
As babies we were made to bond. Watch a child and how their little hands are always reaching out to hold, grasp, touch people and objects. This is why a mother’s presence and nurture is key during our first three years of life. But what words come to mind when you think about your “mother?” Was your mother nurturing, caring, loving, compassionate, friend, hero, good homemaker or was she controlling, manipulative, smothering, working all the time, over reliant on you, demanding, conditional with her love, distant, absent, depressed, drug addicted, obsessive, moody, hyper critical, abusive or harsh?
One of the major blocks to receiving the love of God and finding our being in God involves a breakdown in the early mother child relationship. In relation with our mothers our sense of being is called forth and blessed. A loving and nurturing mother has the wonderful capacity to make herself a welcoming home for a child’s life. Upon giving birth, mother grants the baby a home in her arms. Her touch, her cooing and caressing, the steadiness of her gaze gives the baby a sense of being.
From the beginning the child is internalizing his mother’s care. This is called attachment bonding. The child is building a storehouse of loving memories within their heart. Through thousands of moments of connection memory traces must be built up to achieve “emotional object constancy.” Basically, object constancy suggests that, at some point in our early development, humans express the capacity to understand that ‘out of sight’ doesn’t mean ‘gone’. This is a very important idea, as it is one of the core elements of interpersonal relationship and informs everything from romantic love to jealousy.
I see this quite often in so many different settings when a mother will get up and leave the room for a minute. The well nurtured child usually is able to play and manage the disappearance of mother. A child that hasn’t bonded usually will start crying and screaming for mother’s presence. God has ordained the mothering process to literally “call the infant to life”. Along each step of our development, good mothers provide love and limits.
A “sense of being” could be described as a core sense of warmth that is connected to the baby’s ability to peacefully exist, without feeling a need to earn his or her acceptability. It is a primary, psychological base of trust; this sense of being assures one that he or she is not in danger of losing love or significance, even though she or he is doing nothing to earn that significance. The sense of being goes far beyond head knowledge, because a pre-verbal child does not think in the same way that we do. As adults, we are able to reason because we have language; our thinking may or may not be full of feeling. A baby cannot be rational. In their primitive state, they experience their environment as synonymous with their internal reality. Thus, as they begin to experience a new environment outside the womb, they begin to learn from it just who they are.
In the first year of life, relationship with mother is the primary experience of the child. Successful bonding causes trust to be formed between mother and baby. She conveys acceptance and love through her eyes, her touch, her breasts, her cooing, talking and singing. The mother, if she has a sense of well-being, is able to intuitively sense the needs of her child, and to discern the meaning of the baby’s various cries.
A sense of being establishes in the child a foundation of security and confidence upon which the growth of their personality develops. When acceptance has been internalized, the child has a sense of self; once they have a sense of themselves, as an “I,” they can enter into relationships with other people as other than themselves. Relationships with others do not revolve around whether or not others accept them. She or he is at peace with who she or he is. One begins life with the immense advantage of objectivity in relationships, of not fearing rejection or abandonment. In other words, one has a basis for trust in relationships. They can therefore bond to others successfully, without anxiety.
Unfortunately for me there was a rupture in the area of bonding and being. I have no memory of that being so in my relationship with my mother. What tells me that there might be a deficit is my bent towards addiction and emotional dependency; these are the red flags within me that tell me there was a breach. Add to that I struggled with a deep internal emptiness, a dread, an abandonment depression and a low-grade anxiety throughout my life. I did not have that objectivity in relationships that the previous paragraph speaks about. I lived with a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. I did not trust so I struggled to bond successfully with others.
In thinking about my mother’s ability to bond with me I realize at my birth my brother was two and a half, and my sister was fourteen months. My father was a drug addict and he wasn’t able or present to help her care for us.
My mother loved me deeply, but, having to care for other children, dealing with a husband who had pretty much abandoned her, and with the financial difficulties of the family which forced her to work outside of the home during those critical stages of development it left her weary and withdrawn. So the three of us received little to no nurture and love. My sibling’s history is similar to mine. They’ve struggled with addiction, severe attachment issues, and a high need for validation, attention and affection.
Consider the question I posed: What comes to mind when you hear the word mother? Then write out what was good and what you wanted but never received. This is a good way of processing the deep longings of your hearts.
Please note that much of the content shared is from Changes that Heal, Henry Cloud, Zondervan. The Mom Factor, John Townsend & Henry Cloud, Zondervan. The Healing Presence, Leanne Payne, Baker Books. Attachments, Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy, Integrity. And, the lovely Myrna Hill, my friend and co-laborer in Christ.