My great-grandmother, Margaret, gave birth to my grandmother at home into the hands of a short little English immigrant midwife. My grandmother gave birth to all of her children in the hospital, flat on her back, drugged-up to the point of being virtually unconscious (probably twilight sleep), having her babies pulled out of her by the doctor (probably with forceps), and not remembering a bit of it. Which is why I'm sketchy on the details... she didn't know the details herself! She also had a very difficult time nursing her babies and her milk "dried up" after a short time--probably a result of the sugar water they were given in the hospital and afterward. (Magaret is seated in the photo above, with my father on her lap and my grandmother standing.)
I love my grandmother. She was a mother-figure to me when I was a traumatized and motherless toddler, and we've had a special mother-daughter bond ever since. She's one of the most important people in my life. I love, honor, and respect her greatly. But she's also the woman who told me over and over, when my first-born was a baby, that I was going to spoil her by holding her so much, that I should put her down more, and that I should just let her cry (as a tiny newborn baby) at night and eventually she'd give up and sleep. It was extremely difficult to sort through all the advice and figure out what to do. In the end, I felt strongly that I should go against her advice and follow my instincts. So I did.
I can't help but wonder whether my grandmother's views about mothering were somehow ripple effects of the way she gave birth. Did the disconnected birthing process lead to a more disconnected way of responding to her babies? Or was it simply the way her mother had taught her to care for infants?
This morning, I was reading an article by Pam Udy in Midwifery Today called "Emotional Impact of Cesareans." This part really struck me, in light of last night's conversation with my husband:
When a woman gives birth, she has to reach down inside herself and give more than she thought she had. The limits of her existence are stretched. There is a moment when every woman thinks, “I can‘t do this.” If she is lucky, she has a midwife, a doula or her mom to whisper in her ear, “You are doing it.” As she does it, she becomes someone new: a mother. If the birthing process is skipped or occurs in a hostile situation, or if the interventions become overwhelming, she becomes a different mother than she would have been if she had only had a supportive, midwifery model of care.Do you think there's some truth to this? Does the way we give birth have ripple effects in our mothering styles? Would my grandmother have been a different type of mother if she had been conscious during her children's births? Or does it have more to do with how we were parented ourselves or our maternal instincts giving each unique child the style of parenting they need?
Please share your thoughts!