There are as many kinds of mother-daughter relationships as there are mothers and daughters, and I for one, can’t do that kind of math. I’m an English major. And when it comes to baby having, things get even more complicated. I’ve had clients who couldn’t imagine giving birth without their mothers,others who didn’t call their mother until the baby was 3 months old, and everything in between. Like most aspects of the client-midwife experience, it is certainly not my job to get in the middle of those sorts of things. No good can come from that.
However, if the pregnant mama has the type of relationship where she does feel comfortable with her mother’s presence, there is magic to be seen at these births. Babies wash out of us, riding a primordial slip and slide of blood, water, and change. A woman becomes a mother in one instant, a man a father. And for the mother of the mother, she is suddenly thrust up the ladder a rung, Whether she is ready or not, she is now a Wise Woman.
So speaking to the grandmothers, even if you consciously reject the Wise Woman title, your soul knows better. You have undergone your own metamorphosis, brought on by your own baby’s labor. Watching a person you love in pain, is incredibly difficult, particularly if that person is your child, The same cellular connection that existed when you nursed your baby, or held her as her teenage heart broke into a million pieces, or swelled with pride as she stood up for right, still exists. That fierce protectiveness that infused your every move when she was an infant? Still there. When she was small, you would have done more than died for her if anything threatened her safety; you would have killed for her. And it might come as a surprise to realize that you still would.
But here, in the labor room, hopefully lit by candles and love, there is nothing to defend against, nothing to fight. Mama Bear has to go into hibernation. Watching your daughter discovering her own strength, to see her feel her own sacredness, is a journey all its own. Just as she must surrender to forces larger than herself, so must you surrender your desires and expectations. She will find her way, and you have to do nothing but get out of her way. And it is so so hard.
For many grandmothers, this is the most they have touched their daughters in many years. But in labor, in some ways, you can almost go back in time. You can embrace your child again, without reservation, hold her physically again as she moans into your breast again, looking to you to make it all okay. And while you can’t take away her physical sensations, you can imbue her with the courage and fortitude that is hers by womanly right. It is as if she grows up all over again, in a compressed amount of time, right before your eyes. She begins small and frightened, moves through uncertainty and doubt, and then in one instant, as her own child eases out of her body, her confidence and self trust shine through again.
Grandmothers then too are ready to take their new place in their family’s world. For your daughter was not the only one who was birthed into another form of self that day. Welcome to the world, Wise Woman!