Dedicated to Damaris Pfeiffer-Böhme and all those that mother mothers.
It’s Mother’s Day in Germany, and for the first time in 17 years I get to spend it with my mum. Not because I’m a wonderful daughter who has just jetted over to Germany to surprise her with a visit and whisk her off on a pampering weekend (much as she deserves that!) but because she’s here with us in the UK doing what she does best – mother me while I get to know my newborn.
She’s arrived like the three wise men rolled into one, with a car full of goodies for us, but while she’s with us does way more. By the time she leaves in two weeks’ time, my larder and freezer will be full to the bursting with meals, ensuring our family of six will be well fed for weeks on end.
It’s one of her passions – ensuring that my sisters and I are able to have a proper babymoon, a lying-in period, or “Wochenbett”, as it is known in German, after the birth of each of our children. And not just a few days, but a full four to six weeks of recovery where we are relieved from much of our housework and other tasks.
Sound like heaven? It is truly amazing, and I am so grateful to have a mum who insists on my taking the time to fully recover post-birth, on taking the time to properly get to know the rhythms of my little one in those critical first few weeks. Big shout-out to my husband, too, who always takes the first couple of weeks off work after my giving birth and shoulders the bulk of the housework and childcare, then passes the baton on to my mum when going back to work. Between them, I’ve always had at least four weeks of continuous support, and I feel incredibly blessed by it. This time, too, my church, which I joined between the birth of my third and fourth child, have turned out to be an amazing support, helping us with meals and looking after the kids. You know who you are – thank you!
In our time-poor, doing-obsessed society, this smacks of slacking, of taking a holiday, of not pulling my weight. After all, I’ve had straightforward deliveries (don’t ever call birth easy, especially when it involves a 9lb8oz baby!), all four of my babies have fed well and been mostly happy and settled. So I’ve had it as “easy” as it gets.
And yet… It’s so easy to forget that birth is not the end, it’s a halfway point at best. After all, if you breastfeed a baby, you are their sole source of calories and other nutrients for at least six months, during which time they will roughly double their birth weight! And this while dealing with huge hormonal changes and sleep deprivation that leaves you as groggy as someone at the legal drink-driving limit (if not beyond, if you’re less lucky than I have been).
So I’m hugely grateful to my mum who yet again has taken over two weeks out of her own busy life to stay with us and support me, to take the load off and help us all get into a new rhythm. It’s making a huge difference. This time round I am really prioritising sleep and what a difference it is making!
With each of my older children, I hit times when I was in tears for no apparent reason. Looking back of course there were plenty of reasons; a cocktail of changing hormones, post-birth exhaustion and sleep deprivation won’t let itself be ignored. This time round, I am much more aware of my mental health, of how much sleep I’ve had and of how it affects my moods. It’s an exercise in humility and learning my limits, if ever there was one. And I have my mum to thank for that – for both instilling the attitude that rest is crucial, and for pitching in and making it possible.
That doesn’t mean that everything is always hunky-dory between my mum and me. Strong people have their differences, and we are no exception. But I am beyond grateful to have her, just as she is. I am grateful that I have a mum who is still alive. Many of my friends haven’t. I am grateful that I have a mum with whom I have a good relationship. Many of my friends haven’t. And she drops everything to help me when I need her. Which is worth more than can be weighed up in gold!
I am beyond blessed to have a mum who mothers me, and grateful for all the people, women mostly, who mother the mothers!