Article by Alison Burton
When my first child was born I became a mother. It sounds obvious really, but to be honest I remember being surprised by the magnitude of the occasion. Labour was a transition into a whole new dimension. It actually felt like an initiation. Luckily enough the process of giving birth went naturally and relatively quickly for me. What threw me though was that all of a sudden in the time span of a few hours I changed into a mother. I was, all of sudden, a bonafide member of an enormous group of people who were also mothers. I felt honoured and overwhelmed at the same time.
I was honoured to become a member of the group and overwhelmed by the responsibility I now had for another life. I had taken part in the creation of this tiny bundle in my arms and now I had to learn how to take care of her and keep her safe. I fell in love with my newborn baby girl in an instant. That happened all by itself. What I didn’t anticipate was the downside of that love.
Sometime later I heard a comment that after having a baby it was like “The protective coating had been peeled away from my heart and the world could really hurt me now.” That describes how I felt exactly. I suddenly felt connected to every other mother on the planet combined with the unbelievably powerful instinct to keep my baby safe. I remember on Day 5 after the birth I was sitting up in bed having a cup of tea, reading the morning paper. There had been an earthquake in India and hundreds of people had been killed. Suddenly I thought of all the mothers that had lost their children in that earthquake and all the children who had lost their mothers. It was almost as if I felt the anguish of every one of them. I was grief stricken. My heart was wide open to the suffering in the world and I wanted to fix all of it. This was Mother Love. Raw and powerful. The intensity was amazing and the desire to make the world a better, safer place was extraordinary. Gradually I pulled myself together. I put that protective coating back around my heart, making sure I included my own baby girl. I could cope with loving her although it was scary. I shut out others mothers and their children. Surely I couldn’t be expected to take responsibility for them all! I regained my boundaries to keep my sanity and to protect my heart.
Thinking back now on that powerful experience, I actually believe that the world would benefit enormously from a huge dose of mother love. Imagine what might change on the planet if every mother felt love for every child. If every mother realized that she was connected to every other mother. One big club. The Mother of Mothers Clubs! Imagine if each mother re-ignited that protective instinct and was determined to keep every child on the planet safe. Expanding “Mother Love” globally, rather than reducing it to your own little nuclear family, has the potential to create powerful change. What if we really cared about the suffering in the world? Could we do that and still function? Or would we go crazy? The definition of compassion is: the desire to alleviate suffering
Just think how things would change if every mother could safely allow herself to feel compassion for all those African children orphaned by AIDS, or the babies drinking polluted water, or dying of starvation. What if we really let our hearts acknowledge the poverty, inhumanity and violence in the world? What if we stopped turning a blind eye to cope with the horror of it all? Imagine the changes we would create. I say bring on more “Mother Love”. Whether you are a mother or not, whether you are a man or a woman, the world desperately needs you to open your heart and feel what’s going on. Not just at an intellectual level but at a heart and soul level.
For all the talk about bringing love, peace and harmony to the planet, we actually need to feel the downside of love first. Maybe the saying, “No Pain, No Gain,” doesn’t just apply to going to the gym. By becoming a mother I realized that to really love is painful. Until every single human being on the planet is living in love, peace and harmony we need to feel compassion. Maybe that’s exactly what we need to mobilize that energy that’s awakened when something comes between a mother and her child. We need a big dose of that super human energy that can lift a car or move a mountain.
Why not experiment a little. When you see suffering, let yourself feel compassion. Don’t switch off because it’s someone else’s child, or someone who speaks another language, or practices a different religion or culture. Maybe they live on the other side of the globe so it’s easier to disconnect. Maybe they live next door and you think it’s none of your business. Healing suffering in the world needs to be everyone’s business. We may not all be mothers but, we are all someone’s child and every single one of us deserves a safe and happy life.