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Maternal instinct

Listen to Your Mothers is a space to come together with the ones who understand the maternal struggle and joy best — in the hopes of turning motherhood into one, strong sisterhood. In this installment of Listen to Your Mothers, Geralyn Broder Murray looks to the animal kingdom for maternal inspiration.



This weekend we saw the adorable IMAX movie where rescue workers in Borneo are caring for orphaned baby elephants and orangutans. There’s a nighttime scene where a woman rescue worker is comforting a tiny baby orangutan — she’s singing to him softly, motherly, while they lay on a cot, his eyes falling closed to the rhythm of her voice. In 3D, no less.

I know we’ve discussed this before, but oh, my ovaries.

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It reminded me of that newborn time when you are so very tired and you are getting to know your new baby, this squalling ball of gas and fluid and need and you are wondering how you ever thought this was a good idea, this baby-having, then suddenly you hold him or her just the right way, or hum or coo or put just the right speed in your sway and bam! It works, they are comforted and you taste maternal victory. Your hormones runneth over. You will survive this, you realize. You are unlocking the key to this small person and there is now a string latched from your heart and body straight to theirs.

It’s instinct, really, right? Instinct, intuition and luck. And maybe a deeper kind of communication.

Mother Nature — the best mother?

That’s what the movie reminded me — how when we’re at our very best as parents, our most comforting, our least neurotic, our most lovely, it seems to be when we’re working closest to our gut, to doing what feels true for our child.

Not to get totally hippy-dippy on you, but I notice when I take the time — in between soccer practice and piano lessons and baths and homework — when I stop and simply look my kids in the eye, holding their hands in my own, and pay close attention to what they’re not saying, the frustration melts off us both and the path is clear. When words aren’t enough, just looking into their hearts and opening mine usually is.

I was late to work in Reese’s classroom today and as she ran toward me when I walked in I could see she was upset, but instead of explaining all the reasons I was delayed, I just held her in my arms, pressing our hearts close together and click, I could feel the unlocking, the communication flowing. She pulled back from me and looked up into my eyes smiling.

I’m glad you’re here, her eyes said. I was worried when you were late.

I know. I’m sorry I was late, my heart replied.

That was it. Done. She grabbed my hand and led me off into the elementary school jungle that is the first grade.

Score one for Mother Nature.

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