Sunday, February 10, 2008

Love actually

It is high time that I wrote a post on maternal love, and I worked out at about 4.30am that I have fed Eve 280 times since she was born (that is an average of 60 minutes per feed, so an awful lot of time) so now seems a good time to reflect on what it is that keeps me awake, patient (most of the time) and on this merry go round that is motherhood.

Growing up, with teenage rebellion and leaving home, the unconditional love that exists between families was rather taken for granted. However, there have been a few times in my life when the link I have felt with my family has been so deep, primal even, that it shocked me. My sister and I were not especially close when we were kids, although she may feel differently. With 4 years between us, we weren't quite able to share the same interests at the same time but neither was she the much older and wiser sister.

Boxing Day when the Boy and I were in Sri Lanka and all hell let lose in the tsunami was one of the toughest and most traumatic experiences of my life. I was truly scared, for me, for the Boy, for the people around us and we also saw and did some things I wouldn't wish on anyone. When we finally got to safety to a house in the hills, the first person I called was Mum - but to tell her we were safe, how to contact us, and our plans to try to get home. Then I called my sister, and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed - all the trauma came out. There was simply no other person who I wanted at that moment to perform that role - my family, and my sister in particular, was the only person who was able to give me sufficient comfort of the type I needed at that moment.

Similarly, when my niece was born after a particularly traumatic labour, my sister called me a few hours afterwards. I have never heard my normally stable and sensible sister so upset. My reaction was surprising, I had to get to my sister. Screw work, screw cost and practicality, I had to get on a plane home because my sister needed comfort. I ended up talking to Mum who, sensibly, told me to wait a day or two and see how my sister was then.

The same thing happens with Eve now. When she cries, it cuts to my very core and all I want to do is take away the pain, to comfort her, to make her happy. The worst thing for maternal, or familial, love is to be unable to comfort - it is an instinct so deep that it continues to surprise me.

Although I am sleep deprived, and upset that she is screaming, and the sound is only 5 decibels below the pain threshold, I don't get angry with Eve, I get angry at not being able to take away whatever it is that is upsetting her, to make it better. When Eve is screaming because she has wind and is in pain, or is just being a baby and life is getting too much for her, I need to hold her, stroke her, comfort her. Despite all the books saying this sets bad habits for the future, I think that to go against such a strong instinct can't be right. We are pre-programmed like this for a good reason, and one I am happy and proud that I still have.

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