There is no doubt that the birth of a child is one of the most traumatic experiences for women, both physically and emotionally. However, for most women, we could barely recount the whole ordeal in the operating room or the delivery room as soon as the midwife had laid our first gorgeous pink newborn bundle of joy onto our chest. The joy, the love and the tears took over and erased every bit of our unwanted and unprepared pain.
While that is true that once we have shifted our focus from the physical pain to the emotional overjoy of embracing this warm body against ours, in our head we believe everything is going to be a smooth ride, how could it NOT be? What else could be more dramatic and unexpected? What could possibly come in between our newborn and us?
I have come across an article sometimes ago where I had learned about Rozsika Parker, a British psychotherapist who was the author of the book, “Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence”. It is about the pull and push of wanting a child close, and also craving space (physically and emotionally), all of which is really the normal wave of motherhood.
From her book, I had learned the word ambivalence in the context of motherhood. Ambivalence is a feeling that self-generates from the roles and relationships a person is most invested in, because there is always a juggling act between giving and taking. Rozsika realized that motherhood is no exception. She believes that is part of why people have a hard time dealing with ambivalence: it’s uncomfortable and disconcerting to feel two opposing things at the same time. On the one hand, we don’t want to lose sight of every little step that our baby makes but on the other hand, the struggle to find time for ourselves or even the need to be alone, away from everyone, yes even from our children does not seem to be an guilt-free option for mothers.
As a mother for 20-something years, I agree that most of the time, the experience of motherhood is not good or bad, it’s both good and bad. It’s important for us to learn how to tolerate, and even get comfortable with the discomfort of ambivalence. It is of course easier said than done. I struggle everyday still after all these years to find that balance between my now adult children and myself. The craving for them to come home contradicts sometimes with the luxury of having my own time, away from it all.
Do you face this ‘silent war’ like I do too? Share your thoughts.
I will continue to write about this topic of ambivalence in motherhood as it is a feeling that we should not deny or be afraid to face it. Motherhood is a lifelong journey.