I have been thinking about how often in motherhood, we become conflicted by our wishes and the decisions we make. You want your baby to sleep through the night but crave those cuddles of him falling asleep in your arms. You can’t wait for your toddler to give you 5 minutes to go to the toilet alone but feel anxious when you leave him with your nanny to pop out to run an errand. How can it feel so conflicted?
Your baby begins his life as part of you, an egg that you have carried for your entire life. In the moment of conception, a new person, an independent soul begins to form. And with that begins the paradox of motherhood.
A part of you that has been 100% dependent and within you has to become independent, separate and exist apart from you. And it is your role to facilitate this transition from dependence to independence. It is a “push-pull dance of connection and separation, independence and dependence” (Ann Pleshette Murphy – The Seven Stages of Motherhood).
This dance will preoccupy every day of motherhood – the overwhelming feeling to hold and contain and protect your baby will be challenged by the knowledge that each day you will and must facilitate his independence and separation from you.
That first separation, the first enormous transition from dependence to independence happens with birth. For nine months there is no separation – there is full dependence and in the moment of the umbilical cord cutting you enter a journey towards being separate. You will be overcome and bereft in the same moment as you feel elated and filled with joy. This is birth.
The next major separation is sleep – no wonder it is so fraught with turmoil and conflict – you feel anxious when he sleeps apart from you and when he eventually sleeps through the night, you will probably feel an overwhelming need to check in on him and yet when he cries and wakes at night, you will feel conflicted and resentful that he is disturbing your sleep – another paradox of motherhood.
And so it goes through life – a dance of nurturing and loving while facilitating independence, a balance that is the turmoil of any loving mother.