LUKE 1 : 36-45 After the angel had spoken to Mary about her conception, and of Elizabeth’s pregnancy of six months, Mary rushed to the city of Judah to Zechariah’s house to visit Elizabeth.
As soon as Mary called out to Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby leaped up in the womb. Elizabeth ran to greet Mary and told her, “As soon as I heard your voice, my baby leaped for joy. I feel so honoured and humble that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me.”
From there we can only imagine the excitement of conversation between the two women.
I am going to be coming from my own personal perception of “Mothering Sunday.”
Vimala Schneider McClure, a young woman, and visionary from America, was working in an Orphange in India. In the Orphanage, she used to watch the young girls massaging the babies and young children. This seemed to be a daily routine, which the babies loved.
One day when Vimala was out walking the streets, she came across a young mother on the side-walk, singing, and massaging her baby.
Looking around at the obvious poverty surrounding the mother and baby, Vimala realized this mother was giving her baby the richest gift she could give, her loving hands and voice.
Vimala became very ill with Malaria. All the women of the village came one by one to massage and sing to her until her fever broke. She never forgot those loving hands and voices.
When she returned to America, she did a lot of research on massage and the strokes she had witnessed in the Orphanage and tried and tested them on her own children. In 1973 she created the International Association of Infant Massage.
In 1987 I had been reading in our newspapers of family violence as well as several murders of babies and children in our country. I also read an article on Dame Whina Cooper visiting Maori women in the Christchurch prison. She told them they had been naughty, but then followed on to say, “We have to go back to when you were babies, and that’s where the problems began.”
I was in San Francisco in 1988 and was working in the field of AIDS. I had been trained in the San Francisco School of Massage to work with people with life threatening illnesses, and those with mental and physical disabilities.
However, one day I was walking down the street Divisidero and was led to a specific shop window, where I saw the most beautiful card of a new born baby in a pair of hands. It was so beautiful, I went in and bought 12 copies. When I came out, I wondered what on earth I had done that for?
To make a long story short, I ended up taking a training with the International Association of Infant Massage, and some of the Instructors took me into a shelter to work voluntarily with
Crack/AIDS/Cocaine/Alcohol syndrome babies.
I had watched the Trainer modeling the deepest reverence and respect to the group of babies and mothers, and she spoke of the way the loving, nurturing touch of massage, our focused eye contact, and our gentle voices would build the deepest bonds of love and trust between parent/Baby.
In 20sec these were my thoughts. “America is spending trillions on nuclear warheads which could destroy our world, our children are being murdered and trafficked for sex, I remembered what Dame Whina Cooper had to say about the mothers in prison, and again, I though, this simple act of loving, nurturing touch brought back into the family unit could bring peace to our very sick and broken world.
I needed to bring this work back to New Zealand, and with Mike’s help, he could establish the New Zealand Chapter of the International Association of Infant Massage as a Trust. He not only did that but ended up on the International Board as an advisor for eight years.
This work was to teach parents to build the bonds of love and trust between parent/baby. It was to give parents the tools to build their confidence as a parent, and to recognize the various cries of their baby.
To empower the parents to recognize, is this a wet nappy cry? An uncomfortable cry? I miss the womb feeling and want to stay close to mum/dad cry? Is this a hungry cry, and the need to deal with that quickly before it becomes an angry cry? Is it a colicky cry? Or birth trauma cry?
Mothers come home from hospital and usually haven’t a clue what to do with this precious being?
We’re not educated for marriage, let alone parenting. And Academia certainly doesn’t prepare us for birthing.
Giving parents the skills to understand their baby’s cries, the loving, nurturing touch of the massage, our gentle voice and focused eye contact gives baby a feeling of being safe and secure and utterly loved
The feeling of being utterly loved, Barry Brazelton says, ‘ builds self esteem’, and the child will know the difference between good touch and bad touch.
Going into China – 1997
In 1997 I had the opportunity to work in an Orphanage in Kunming, China with 220 babies and children.
An English couple had had gone into this Orphanage and smuggled photographs of children being tied to beds and cots and left to die. When this was exposed to the world, the Chinese tried to do something about it to save face.
Working in this Orphanage, I learned so much about the miracles of loving, nurturing touch with babies and children who have no primary caregiver. Rene Spitz, a Psychiatrist from the 1920’s had realized the necessity of a primary caregiver. If there is no one to mirror love and affection, and to touch with love and care and tenderness, which is so vital in the first two years of life, a child will suffer attachment disorders. This is characterized by a failure to make eye contact, a failure to smile or to vocalize reciprocally for whatever reason. An infant with an attachment disorder does not have his basic needs met, so his confidence in those around him is betrayed. He is unable to develop a sense of trust in his caregivers, which is the most basic foundation for growth and development.
I was taken to a room filled with depressed babies sitting on potties and being fed while on the potty. The caregivers had no idea of nurturing or giving love and care to these 2/3yr olds.
One at a time I took out into the warm sunshine and placed on a foam rubber mattress. Older children sat around to watch. A Missionary also came to watch. I shared with her the fact this child was deeply depressed and I would give him a full body massage. I covered him respectfully and discretely, and massaged one limb at a time. During the half hour of the massage, the child never opened his eyes.
I held him close to me on my lap, and placed my left hand on his stomach, solar plexes and heart area. With my right hand I stroked him gently from head to buttocks for several minutes.
Suddenly I was aware of the child’s grief and pain emerging from within me, and tears fell from my eyes. I realized a healing was taking place for this child. I stayed with the pain and tears as I continued to stroke the child’s back. As the grief emerged, the child suddenly stood up, opened his eyes and clapped his hands with glee and started to laugh and want to play. He jumped on and off the foam rubber mattress, holding his hands out to me, then pull them away. He was so happy and filled with new life. I felt as though I was in another dimension dealing with his grief and tears, but was still also able to function with his game.
The Missionary saw this miracle of change in the child whom she saw at first in unconscious grief, and was now a new child filled with joy.
I had learned first hand of the child who had no primary caregiver, and who had suffered a serious attachment disorder. A baby must have the stimulation of a primary caregiver with loving eye contact, nurturing touch, and to be spoken to in gentle tones in order for the brain to develop.
Psalm 139: 13-16
Oh Lord, it was you who formed my inward parts, and knit be together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret and intricately woven in the depths of the womb. In your book even the days that were allotted to me, when as yet, none of them existed. How wonderful are your works.
In the early stages of this work we had mainly mothers and babies attending classes, but in the last twenty years we have had many Dad’s wanting to come to learn how to massage and to nurture their baby. We also noticed the more feminine, softer side of Dads begin to emerge.
With the high number of divorce rates around the world, many Dads are being left to do the nurturing. In days gone by, Dad doing the nurturing was looked on as a ‘sissy sort of thing to do’ but
Han Suyin says : “There is nothing more powerful in the world than tenderness.”
In ancient religions, the idea of Mother God was very closely related to the idea of Mother Earth or Mother Nature. It seems only natural and obvious that a God who gave birth to the world must have at least something in common with a woman who gives birth.
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, in the scriptures as well as subsequently, there are many examples of feminine imagery used for God, though many of them were conveniently ‘lost’ or deliberately subsumed over the centuries.
One that survived even the darkness of the Middle Ages was Mother Julian of Norwich, the English Mystic, who wrote: “A kind, loving mother, who understands and knows the needs of her child will look after it tenderly because it is the nature of a mother to do so. As the child grows older, she changes her methods, not her love. This way of doing things is our Lord at work in those who do them.”
I know we routinely refer to God as our Father, but today, of all days, I am more than happy to leave the final word to Julian of Norwich, who concluded, “Thus God is our Mother.” Amen.