Research tells us that this support from others makes a difference to women as they navigate the early days of motherhood and find themselves adjusting to a new identity. Christiane Northrup lists a lack of physical, emotional and psychological support as a key risk factor to women developing postnatal depression. The Black Dog Institute also places social isolation as a significant risk factor for the onset of post natal adjustment difficulties.
Ideally, a close relationship with a mother figure in the early days provides the new mother not only with physical rest, but also with guidance, wisdom and encouragement as she adjusts to caring for a baby. Yet for many women, the reality may be that their own relationship with their mother is distant or difficult. The absence of a loving, supportive mother can be felt at any time in our life but is perhaps most poignant when we ourselves go on to become mothers for the first time.
'There is an often quoted saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I wonder too if it takes a village to raise a mother, to nurture her fragile confidence as she comes to know her baby and help her transform into the loving , confident mother she longs to be. The challenge for many new mothers in modern, western society is how do we create this village? How do we mother the mother so that she can find her feet and create a powerful, healthy bond with her baby that will last a lifetime? And in the absence of any close mothering relationship, how do we create a sense of being mothered?
A close friend who herself has a troubled relationship with her mother and whom has had to navigate the early days of parenting with very little support offered me her wisdom and it has stayed with me for some time. 'You need to create an intentional family'. We may not have close family who can meet our needs for emotional and practical support, but with intention we can create friendships and connections with others who can meet these needs within us. This may be with friends, an online community, mother's groups, or a wisened professional such as a child health nurse or counsellor. As we all struggle to become the best mothers we can be , it seems more important than ever that we share the journey with others, that we build our intentional families and create our own villages. We need community. The load might just be a little bit lighter because of it.