Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Power of Touch and How Motherhood Healed Me

I never truly felt like a child. I always felt like adult, a miniature adult with a tiny voice. I think that the odd, serious manner which was my weird personality as a child did not lend itself to being nurtured by others. I was the oldest child of three and one of my nicknames as a child was "Little Mother" because I derived great joy from taking care of my younger siblings. I truly believe that the adults around me thought that I was a child that didn't seem to need a lot of physical affection, that I was a little person who preferred to nurture as opposed to be nurtured. There was generally a lot of verbal affection, but very little hugging, pulling me onto their lap, rubbing my back when I couldn't sleep, etc. I use to crave that so very much, but did not have the confidence to say so. So, even though I had truly wonderful parents, family and friends, I remember a distinct hunger for human touch from a very early age.

When my first child was born, I remember never wanting to put him down. Grandparents, friends and even strangers at the grocery store would warn me about "spoiling" him and gave me firm advice to let him "cry it out". My Mama's heart told me to smile and nod and ignore this advice, as well-intentioned as it was. I held each of my three children as often as a could, enjoying the ever-passing experiences of breast-feeding them, snuggling their little heads into the crook of my neck and rocking them gently to sleep. There was joy in work of motherhood like I had never experienced. There was joy in the bleary-eyed nights, in the crying fits of late evening, in the ever-present bouts of illness that rocked this house as it spread person to person. The joy was in the togetherness, the love, the snuggles amidst the struggles of life that did not always have joy outside of these precious moments. 

When I was in nursing school, an instructor once told me about the importance of non-contigent touch. That is, touch that isn't because of an action you have to follow- taking vital signs, giving medication, etc. She reminded us that not everyone has love in their lives and that love is essential for healing and growth.  The easiest way to show love is often with a simple hand on the shoulder, holding hands with a frightened client, sitting next to them on their bed while chatting with them so they can see that you are not hurried and are present in the moment. 

I believe that non-contingent touch is just as important in parenting. We touch our children when helping them bathe, dress- so many ways during our busy days. We mustn't forget the importance of hugs, snuggles, pats on the backs, the ruffling of hair throughout the day. Touch is one of the most important languages of love. 

One of the most important surprises of parenthood for me was that the physical time spent with my children not only nourished their need for love, but satiated my own clawing hunger for human touch. In loving them, I was loved. In holding them, I was held. In raising them, I rose up. 

We have a simple power to use, literally in our hands. We can use our touch to heal, to move, to love. 

We are powerful being, we humans. May we use our powers wisely, for good. Hug on a loved one today, sit with someone who is sad, hold the hand of someone who is frightened. 

Shine on, Dear Ones. May your light blast away the darkness, may your touch warm a cold soul.

parenthood sleeping

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