By Nancy R. Cooksey, BSN, RN, 9PLUS3.com
"Mothering the mother," as applied to expectant mothers and mothers of new babies, is a phrase that probably has multiple origins. The words refer to a principle of care that one might say is as powerful as the medical axiom primum non nocere (first, do no harm). The words are as important in 2013 as they were years ago.
What is mothering the mother? This can be described as shepherding, providing anticipatory guidance and education, listening and conveying an understanding of the rewards and stresses of motherhood.
Who does the mothering? The list is long and begins with a woman's husband, partner, relatives, and friends old and new. The list continues and can include, but is not limited to, others who provide supportive guidance and education to women: obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses and nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, clergy, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, doulas, maternity nurses, nutritionists, massage therapists and prenatal/postpartum yoga/exercise instructors. Everyone contributes in unique ways.
What are the hoped for outcomes of mothering the mother? One anticipated outcome is that the mother, as the recipient, feels an increased sense of confidence in developing her own, unique mothering style and skills. Expectant and new mothers are excellent seekers of information, good at problem solving, and marvelously adept at discovering the individual traits of their babies from the day of birth.
However, it is the nature of pregnancy, labor, giving birth and the first 3 months postpartum that fatigue, uncertainty, information overload and pressure of impending return to work cause women to temporarily forget their strengths. It is exactly during this childbearing year that women especially need the aforementioned shepherding, anticipatory guidance, education, and listening.