By Leslie Lindsay
“Mom. You know…the woman who gave Earth to you!” This was “stolen” from 5-year old Ruby, a friend of my daughter’s who was talking to her little brother about just how great us moms are.
In fact, the Italian phrase, “dare alla luce”— “to give birth” literally means to “show light to,” or to “give to the light,” which would mean that young Ruby was on to something. Yes, our mothers do a lot for us, among them, giving us Earth (or birth). Yep, leave it to the Italians to bestow such poetic language to something as messy and troublesome as giving birth.
However, I am not of that persuation. In fact, I found that my experiences “birthing” my two daughters was not nearly as messy and troublesome as I had envisioned or seen depicted in the movies. It wasn’t glamourous, no but it was an experience I am glad to have….well, under my belt (sorry, couldn’t resist).
In doing some reading–mostly out of curiousity–but also because I want to explore the underpinnings of motherhood in light of Mother’s Day–I came across this book, “Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection” by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (Pantheon Books, 1999). I love this book! Sure, it’s densly packed and full of all kinds of big words and even bigger concepts, but seriously I could sit and read this tomb of 600+ pages for the whole weekend. Dr. Hrdy is an emeritus professor of anthroplogy at the University of California–Davis and has studied woman and infants, their connections, natural selection, and the psychological aspects of motherhood since 1970.
Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (Sep 21, 1999)
Here are some of the preliminary questions she asks in the prologue. I find them fascinating, too. Perhaps this will bring some lively discussion to your mother’s day celebrations this weekend, too:
1. What do we mean by “maternal instincts?” And have women today “lost” them?
2. If women instinctively love their babies, why do they directly or indirectly contribute to their deaths? For example, some women may starve a son and overfeed a daughter…some Asian cultures value sons over daughters…
3. Humans are the only mammals to give birth to such dependent and helpless offspring–who remain that way for quite some time compared to other animals. Yet, for a woman (or female animal) to raise offspring/rear a family alone is nearly impossible…is it not?
4. Even though a baby has the same proportion of genes between mom and dad, how is it that some fathers are very attentive and others are not? Could it be that there are some latent instincts at play?
5. For the newborn baby, fathers may be either 1) caring or 2) indifferent, but why are nearly all men interested in the reproductive affairs of women when in fact, babies themselves “come from” reproduction?
6. Finally, the question remains, “Why are babies so cute, plump, and engaging?”
Stay tuned for this topic to appear on “Mother Nature”–Fridays throughout the rest of May concluding just before Father’s Day.