Describing the love a mother feels for her children is easier said than done. You see those of us who have had the honor of becoming moms/mums never had any idea of the intensity, immensity and unreasonability of the love we would feel for these humans.
Seriously, no one could have explained to us that this love would be so different from any other love we have ever felt or would ever feel.
It would have been nice to know as a young mom that the brain actually changes with pregnancy as well as with caregiving a child. This article in The Atlantic explains some of the brain changes quite well.
Which brings me to helping mental health professionals who are not mothers, understand why when our ‘babies’ are diagnosed with a life threatening eating disorder, we become a titch neurotic seeming. You see, we would fight a tiger or a bear with our bare hands to save our child’s life—and that might seem a bit less than rational. That ‘ol amygdala gets pretty fired up.
And when our child’s life is at stake, moms are hard wired to do ANYTHING to try and save them.
It must be confusing for a clinician, especially those who are not mothers themselves, to see a mom reacting very anxiously when she presents with a child with an eating disorder. As clinicians, this is an everyday occurrence and the protocols are fairly standard.
What is challenging and important to remember is that moms are having a normal reaction to a situation that is abnormal for them. This does not mean they have a diagnosable pathology. They are simply doing what nature has wired them to do.
Yesterday on a walk with a dear friend who has color-blindness and is a mom, I asked her if it was an apt analogy to say that understanding color-blindness when one does not have that condition is about the same as understanding ‘mother-love’ when you’re not a mother. She said, “Yes, it is an apt analogy.” And, what she felt was even more apt is for one who does not have color-blindness to understand the feelings (which can be quite varied I found out) of seeing color through special glasses for the first time and realizing all that they have missed out on combined with the overwhelmingness of seeing the actual colors for the first time.
That’s about the closest analogy I’ve yet come across to attempt to explain this intense, immense and often quite unreasonable mother-love.
My hope is to help mothers of those with eating disorders and clinicians who help to treat their children, to normalize and validate the reactions and behaviors that erupt in the process of trying to save a child’s life from these most deadly of all mental illnesses.
I’ll leave you with this Mother’s Day gift from my friend Jenni Schaefer who made this video several years ago for her mom. It gets me every time. Thank you Jenni! xoxo