Grace and a Mother’s Instinct

This short video definitely requires a tissue box. Stories about self-sacrificing love and stories about animals tend to make me weep. When they’re one in the same, the tears are assured. 

It’s a short piece about a dog with a great name—Lily—who adopted several orphan kittens and is raising them as her own. And, if the traditional canine/feline animosity isn’t enough of a challenge to break through, there’s also a goat who raises a baby horse, a cat who adopts a fawn, and, most amazingly, a leopard who adopts a baby baboon after killing its mother. As the reporter asks, why wouldn’t a big cat make a quick meal of a helpless baby baboon? Why would a dog rescue a baby kitten? Why would an animal show such grace? Because the mothering instinct to love, nurture, and tend is so strong it can even overcome a species barrier. Loving is what we mothers (and fathers) do.

As I write this, Lily is asleep on my Boppy pillow, her hand resting on my breast. I’ve noticed that she loves to sleep with at least one body part touching me. I also sleep better with a hand on her so I can feel the gentle rise and fall of her belly as she breathes (babies instinctively breathe like little yogis—into their bellies and not their chests).

I suspect this little video has been around since Mother’s Day last year, but it only just now made its way to my inbox. I’m glad. Although I would have loved it last year too; this year I understand the power of the mothering instinct much more deeply. When I allow myself to trust that instinct, to trust that my body knows how to mother at its very core, then I am a better mother by far.

I told Stephen recently that one of the best benefits to hiring a home birth midwife, even though we ended up meeting Lily via a scheduled “belly birth” because she remained a footling breech despite our best efforts to convince her to turn, was that our midwife brought a profound sense of trust to my pregnancy.

The midwifery model sees pregnancy as a powerful, natural process that a woman’s body knows how to do. And it sees women as the central figure in this process. It’s an incredibly empowering viewpoint. As I journeyed through my pregnancy with my midwife, I felt more and more trust and confidence in myself, my body, and my baby. This trust has carried right over into my parenting—most days, at least.

I’m frequently tempted to doubt and question my instincts—is she eating enough? Is it okay to let her sit this way? Is my milk supply good enough (it’s ridiculous how often I worry about that). This video was a brief affirmation for me to trust. Trust Lily to know what she needs. Trust my body to provide what she needs. Trust my gut to tell me how to mother because the mothering instinct is indeed powerful. And good. If I let it, it will teach me what I need to know.