“When a baby is born, a mother is born.” Harry Harlow (1959)
Women have often held demanding jobs for a number of years before becoming pregnant and established a clear sense of identity based on that work.
However she can break down rapidly on returning home, and husband returns to work and she is alone with the baby, especially if she has had a ‘roses round the door’ idea of motherhood. The practical realities of day to day chores, hard work and inconvenience comes as a considerable shock and disappointment, and the outlook can indeed be very bleak for her.
At home, caring for a baby calls on a different, possibly unknown, capacity in herself. Mother has to adapt and muster the sheer stamina, physical and emotional input demanded of her in her new role. She is faced with fourteen hour workday, a lot of it spent holding and walking with the infant, then sitting with the infant, having had possibly only six broken hours of sleep.
Breastfeeding requires that she feeds approximately every 2 hours as the infant’s stomach is the size of a marble and holds only about 20mls at a time. Mother needs to be fed wholesome food in order to produce wholesome milk, but probably can’t face getting it herself.
As a first time mother, she is bound to go with what is occurring, rather than directing or controlling it. This, in addition to unbelievable sleep deprivation can cause feelings of grief, (loss of freedom) and utter exhaustion, especially during the first 6 weeks becoming used to radically changed circumstances. Indeed, there is a chapter in a book read recently called “ I am so tired, I could die”.
In the meantime the VIP depends on mother not only for food, but emotional input, which will provide the core of the baby’s experience of being in the world.
Where it is difficult (say if post natal depression is present) for a woman to allow this stage to emerge, there are serious implications for her and her baby, as regards bonding and attachment.