Wednesday 21 November 2018

Mommy Diaries: Mama Elephant

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

A number of months ago , my two daughters, aged 12 and 8, were asked to pick an animal that represented me. They searched through a basket of miniature toy animals and within seconds pulled out a mama elephant. They agreed that I had the characteristics of a mama elephant because I was strong and walked with my head held high. They also said that I was very protective of my children and would use my strength to look after them at all costs. They described me as determined and committed just like an elephant. 

This fall, I became a different kind of mama elephant. I underwent emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer at the beginning of September and ended up in the hospital with an NG tube hanging from my nose. I looked like I had an elephant's trunk and this was something that we all laughed about! I earned the nickname Mama Elephant. 

What I learned about being a mama elephant in the hospital and the magic in being part of a herd, has powerfully changed the way I look at life and parenting.

Here's what I read about elephant herds:
"OUT IN THE WILD new-born baby Elephants are very vulnerable creatures and are constantly fussed over, not just by their mothers, but by the entire family.

It starts at the moment of birthing, when the older females of the family form a circle around the mother to protect and assist her delivery of the baby, deposited on the ground and immediately washed by many solicitous trunks. Until mother and baby are imprinted on each other, the “grandmas” and “aunts” are in constant attendance, watching that the infant doesn’t wander off and gently nudging it back to mother when it does start to stray.

Should there be any hint of danger, the family immediately forms a protective layer around the mother and child. The radiated warmth of the collective ring of bodies also helps regulate the calf’s body temperature, which in the first few weeks it can’t do itself." 
- Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy

My kids are no longer babies but they are still young and in my care. When I got sick, they were here with me. Calling the ambulance was scary for them. Thankfully grandma dropped everything to come and support us. Grandpa joined in and the circling of my herd began when my parents made sure that the girls felt safe and had everything they needed for life to feel as normal as possible. 

I reached out to many friends and family after my surgery and their love and support helped me to feel as if a circle of bodies were gathered around my girls and I. Their many acts of kindness enabled me to care for my girls once I was home from the hospital and recovering. From flowers, texts and messages, visits, a hand massage, cleaning, rides, books, meals and even having my hair braided and toe nails painted, my herd came through for me and helped me rise up and walk through the world again with my head held high. Without my herd looking out for me and my babies, we would not have gotten through this time the way we did.

What I learned from this experience is that having a herd and nourishing the relationships with each member of the herd is extremely important. Even in a busy life that is full of work, commitments and obligations, making time to be with my herd is critical. Connection, community and caring for each other teaches my children that they can rely on other mamas and trusted friends when the going gets rough. They see that reaching out for support and receiving care from other people makes us stronger and is not a sign of failure or weakness. Most importantly, they see the joy that passes between members of our herd- they hear the laughter and feel the excitement when people who care for one another come together. I want them to learn from my friends and family and I how to form their own herd. 

I'm thankful for this experience and for the love and support we received.

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