Mother’s Day has long been a tricky time of year for me. As it is for lots of people I think, because it’s infused with so much emotion. But the one hugely positive thing about mothers, and about celebrating them, is the sisterhood that exists once you become one. That shared bond that means you jump up to help anther mother on an aeroplane who’s struggling to carry her baby, her toddler and her baby bag. How you end up chatting to complete strangers in the checkout queue at the supermarket, about who’s having a special on nappies. The way you give another complete stranger a kind look as her 3-year-old has a tantrum in the shops because you’ve been there and you know it’s hard and lord knows she is not alone.
That’s what motherhood has meant to me. In fact, it’s other mothers who have carried me through some very dark times. I remember bringing home my tiny daughter from the hospital and feeling completely overwhelmed by the responsibility I’d been given. My beautiful mother had been determined to come up to Joburg after the birth to help me, but by then her cancer had set in and she was far too ill. I remember talking to her on the phone and she was trying to tell me that they’d put blankets on the back seat so she could lie flat. And that my father would then drive the 11 hour journey non-stop and that she was coming because she was my mother and she wanted to take care of me during this life-changing time.
But my father called me straight back after that conversation. He’d gone somewhere quiet, away from her, and he spoke with a little quiver in his voice and he said No, they wouldn’t be coming. They simply couldn’t. And I understood, even while my heart broke.
So who did I call as I struggled to change a nappy while a squawking infant wriggled and screamed and knocked the baby cream off the table, because she was freezing and it was winter and I hadn’t got her new change of clothes ready? I called my friend Nadine, a recent mother herself, and she didn’t even hesitate when she heard my tears.
She hopped in the car and came over with her 5-month-old and she held my hand while I cried, and made me something to eat and she told me how to change that nappy and then I knew that I was going to be okay. Because as long as you realise that you are not alone in this motherhood journey, that there is support, then you know deep down that you will manage, and you will get through it all.
But lots of new mothers don’t have that support. They don’t have loving husbands or partners. They don’t have parents or siblings who are willing to help. They don’t even have friends with the time or capacity to give them the support they desperately need. They give birth alone and then they head off into those first terrifying days of motherhood without another person to lean on or ask for advice or to tell them that really, they are doing okay.
Which is where the #MotherDayConnect project comes in. Started by Julie Mentor, this initiative on behalf of Embrace is asking people around the country to give up just an hour of their time this Mother’s Day, to spend it with a brand new mother who needs your support. You’ll be visiting new mothers in public hospitals near you, and can nominate which hospital you’d like to visit.
You’ll also be dropping off packs for the nurses, who often work long hours with not nearly enough compensation or acknowledgement for all the hard work that they do (plus they’ll all be working on Mother’s Day and won’t be able to spend the day with their families). To find out how you can get involved, just watch the video where Julie explains it all. You can also join the event page on Facebook to keep up to date.
I feel like becoming a mother opened up a whole new world of sisterhood and connection to me. It’s a sacred space and one we need to nurture, and to embrace, for all mothers, whoever and wherever they may be.