October 20, 2019
The joys and agonies of a new mother
The birth of a new child is one of the most joyful moments of life! After nine months of waiting, the arrival of the new-born baby brings happiness which seems to pervade everywhere. What we often forget though is that having a baby changes everything in the life of the parents, particularly in the life of the mother. Nothing is as it was before and this unfamiliarity is often overwhelming and frightening. Together with the joy of childbirth, a new mother may also feel a sense of loss. She has parted with the baby that she held in her womb for nine months. There is loss of personal space; lack of sleep and physical strength; lack of time to do things as in the past; lack of opportunities to be with her spouse; lack of mobility. The feeling of loss is also complexed with fear. There is fear that she may not have the skills to care for her new baby properly and fear for the baby’s health; fear for her own well- being; fear concerning what the future will bring. Today, these fears become more intense because the modern mother is often: 1) isolated and feels alone 2) required to separate from her child earlier than she wants in order to return to work.
There is no doubt that the mother of today needs a great amount of support. The question is what type of support is needed. For sure, there is no single “support package” that meets all women’s needs, being that the support needed varies between women. What is common for all new mothers though is the need to talk about their difficulties, their feelings of loss and the fears that go through their minds.
Health care services must find ways in providing ongoing care to the new parents. Parallel to this, the priest is in a prime position to offer spiritual support to the new mother after childbirth during the different intervals of the child’s first year: when called to read the prayer at childbirth; upon the forty-day reading; at baptism. Being aware of what a new mother is experiencing, he can make himself available as a good listener and to relay that, in times of joy and difficulties, “God is with us” and that the protection and intercession of the Theotokos is always there to safeguard us with comforting grace and help.