What is to follow is certainly not going to be found on some Hallmark Card nor is it written with Rose Colored Glasses. Rather, it is my attempt to outline what I have come to understand about a mother’s sacrifice and love through my own journey as a son, grandson, father, friend, as well as psychologist, who has worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of mothers over the course of my career.
Motherhood, A Look Back
To really appreciate and celebrate Mother’s Day, it is important we take time to look back at how we all arrived here today as a species. A brief journey through our past will allow all of us to truly understand the magnitude and sanctity of what we are acknowledging today and how important a mother’s sacrifice has been to our species’ evolution and survival.
It all started “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” in what many of today’s leading astrophysicists and cosmologists refer to as the Big Bang. Many modern scientists posit that the universe was created 13.8 billion years ago as the result of a huge explosion, the likes of which have arguably never been duplicated since. Essentially, gravity, electromagnetism and other nuclear forces were bound together out of the sheer power of the explosion. Modern theorists suggest that this was the moment that the universe was born. It stands to reason then that the universe became the cosmic “womb” necessary for the birth of Mother Earth approximately 9.3 billion years later, which in turn, provided the environment necessary for life as we all know it to be today.
Many experts, such as New York Times Best-Selling Author, Ann Duryan, including National Geographic’s edition Cosmos: Possible Worlds suggest that life on earth started from a single origin. As the earth began to form and oceans came to cover most of our planet, yet another “incubator,” was formed from the depths of our oceans to its surface. The cooling and formation of these towers of rock would provide the nurturing environment necessary for organic materials from the universe to begin life – a single cell was created within these vast towers of rock. The single-cell contained nothing more than a self-replicating DNA code. The single cells’ only job was to replicate itself! No other reason…just produce more (a tiny biological clock ticking away perhaps). To what end? Over time, one copy stacked on top of another copy and then another, created a “ladder” out from the bottom of the ocean and into the sun. Eventually (approximately 2.3 billion years ago) these single-celled duplicators made it out of the ocean via their “rock wombs,” hit the beaches to soak up some rays and relax after billions of years of gestation within the ocean’s rock “utero.” Thanks to the impact of the sun on these cells, we can fast forward to 200 million years ago, when the first mammals arrived with a new genetic mutation necessary for our long-term development and survival, known to be the beginning of our neocortex (our ability to plan, perceive, organize, think!).
If the ordeal of being cast into existence resulting from the Big Bang, to single-celled copier DNA climbing into the light from the dark ocean floor, to the evolution of the Flat Worm and early mammals who contained the early code containing instructions for the development of our neocortex was not enough, our history of survival and evolution as human beings is rife with unimaginable sacrifice and hardship. Women have been by far the most repressed and marginalized. Women have collectively endured the worst of what our history has had to offer compared to any other group throughout our history. And for what?
A Mother’s Sacrifice
Why would a woman sacrifice so much? Why would a woman risk death while giving birth on the forest floor many years ago without the potential safety net of modern medicine? Why would a woman risk the unbearable pain of potentially giving birth to a baby who might not make it? Rear a child who might not make it to see adulthood? Spawn a son who one day might be a part of the very government that denies her right to vote? Raise a child who might be called to fight someone else’s war? Give birth to offspring who may in turn be abusive and authoritative in the future? Who runs the risk of being assaulted or abused? Or perhaps becoming the perpetrator and abuser? Raise children who perhaps became part of those who burned “witches” at the stake or drowned in lakes? Not to mention having your daughter be one of those “witches” to be cast into the water to see if she would float as a “witch” or unfortunately drown as a mere mortal. Why would women give birth knowing the harsh realities of our history and continued hardships faced by many today? Why procreate knowing the anxiety that will no doubt ensue trying to balance safety vs individuation as our children age? Why have children knowing you won’t sleep for several years in the beginning, but then again lose copious sleep as they become teens who believe they know it all? Why risk the stress of letting your young child walk to school by themselves for the first time? The stress of letting them drive alone for the first time? Questioning whether they will make the right choices when it comes to sex and intimacy? Knowing the sadness to come when they leave the nest to make their own way in what can be perhaps viewed as an unforgiving adult world? Why would you want to sacrifice what you once knew for all of this stress, only to be told by your teenager to mind your own business or by your 3-year-old that she will not be giving you a hug and a kiss because you are “the worst mom ever!?” Why do mothers do this? Simply, out of sheer and utter love! A love so strong and unwavering that it towers over such potential tragedy, heartbreak and trauma. A desire to copy and improve family genetics and a love for improving the overall human condition, that a mother (biological or otherwise) will stop at nothing to ensure our genetics move forward with the hope of one day becoming perfect beings devoid of hate. A world and one day a universe which lacks any remnants of discrimination, cruel judgment and harsh treatment. A world with no institutional memory of human inflicted trauma, persecution, nor war. A world one day that is filled with all things it means to be a woman and a mother: compassion, strength, patience, understanding, as well as unwavering and unconditional acceptance which we all know to be a mother’s love!
It is important to understand that our journey has been a long one. Walking upright out of the swamp has not been without significant atrocity and trauma. Within our collective DNA, we have memories of such trauma. To a large degree, in relation to our and the universe’s evolution, we are not far removed from the carnage it took to get us here. Humans have endured catastrophic trauma as we continue to transition from primitive beast to enlightened and polished DNA of the universe. As humans, we do share a collective trauma, encoded in our DNA, passed on to us from our ancestors.
Is A Mother’s Love Enough?
For those who cannot feel their mom’s love, who never had the privilege of growing up with a healthy mother, or who perhaps have things that preclude them from being the mom they would have wished to be, know that it is not out of a lack of love. Is love enough? Of course not. Love does not abate the impact of developmental trauma nor its impact on childhood and later adult attachment styles. Trauma can cause havoc on how love is experienced and expressed. Trauma is in all our DNA as humans. However, thanks to women’s sacrifice and holding space for our evolution, we now know the impact of our collective human hardships and the toll trauma continues to take on those who have experienced it throughout their life. One day, evolution will likely “control, alt, delete” the “institutionalized/collective” traumatic memories contained in all our DNA, thus reducing the collective shame, guilt, anger, despair, distrust and overly activated fight, flight and freeze pathways within our more primitive parts of brain and genetics. Although the day will likely come, and we will be free to experience all the universe has to offer without human flaws getting in the way, in the meantime, it is important we acknowledge and reckon with our past, accepting how we got here today as a species, including what some people continue to face today. This takes education about intergenerational trauma and how to treat it. For those people who cannot feel their mother’s love, who perhaps never had a mother to be proud of, or who have difficulty being present in their own children’s lives at times, know that it is not an inherent issue of you or them, rather it’s an issue of individual and intergenerational trauma resulting from our collective ugly past as we evolved. Through continued education and evidence-based therapeutic treatment for individuals, my hope is that one day we all move beyond the impact of trauma so that we ALL have the blessed experience of a mother’s undying love and appreciation for her sacrifice.
Cosmic Love and Energy
Several years ago the esteemed Dr. Daniel J Seigel, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute essentially asked: Where else have you ever heard or witnessed such an explosion of force so powerful to push something from seemingly non-existent into existence? Strength and energy so forceful that it begs both a welcome to the universe and most certainly welcome to earth for anything on the other end of such a force? Patience and endurance so unwavering that single-celled organisms can march out of the ocean eventually leading to multi-celled organisms reaching the age of human adulthood? Well, for those who have had the honour of witnessing a woman give birth you will undoubtedly agree that it is nothing short of cosmic and only paralleled by the force that started it all…the Big Bang. And one day, through collective consciousness and universal collaboration, the evolution of our intelligence (neocortex), elimination of violence and an inborn desire to evolve our DNA (still have that copier DNA from the single-celled days! – sexual attraction and the ol’ “biological ticking clock” if you will), we will make it back “home.” To just before the Big Bang explosion of force that began it all 13.8 billion years ago (counting on you James Webb), to meet our maker, which is no doubt a woman and a mother, still there with the unflinching patience and determination to provide us with the space needed to get our collective and individual “baggage” sorted as we move toward enlightenment and self-actualization for each and every one of us.
To all those women who have influenced my own journey of understanding, I thank you. Thank you to all of the mothers who have welcomed us to the earth and kept it all going, even when at an immense sacrifice to yourselves. And most importantly, I thank my own side of our collective DNA, my late grandma Irene Laing, and my Nanny Winnifred Tallack for the sacrifices they made for their families and thus my parents. Without each of them, I would not have had the most epic mother this universe has yet produced in my own mother, Gerry Laing, and would not have had the profound honour of watching a woman use such courage and strength, to produce such an explosion of force as to welcome my own children onto this earth and into this universe. Hollie Corbiere, I thank you from the bottom of my soul. And to my own daughter Andie, may the universe bless you with the miracle of having your own children should you choose, so that you too someday can experience the magic of a mother’s love for her children and their out-of-this-world love for you as their mother.
It would appear that you all deserve at least a day of celebration for all of your sacrifices…
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO YOU ALL and THANK YOU TO ALL THE WOMEN WHO HELP THE WORLD GO ROUND!
John Laing, Registered Psychologist