Men and Maternal empowerment

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Today, I’d like to share a story with you.

As you may know, the Global Prenatal Initiative is campaigning for “Maternal Empowerment“. Every day, more people understand that mothers have a massive impact on their children’s health, well being and faculties as early as the moment of conception, all through pregnancy, during the birth process, early childhood and well beyond.

It’s been known for centuries that mothers build their baby’s body using their own physical resources, the food they eat, the liquids they drink and the air they breathe. There has been a huge focus on babies health based on nutrition and toxic behaviours to be avoided such as smoking and drinking. But what about the construction of what’s now referred to as mental health: The emotional, intellectual and spiritual well being of the new born and the adult he or she will become…

Well, this is precisely what the story I want to tell you is about:

Many years ago, in 1952, Hélène, a young French woman fell in love with a man from the neighbourhood. Born in a very catholic family, she knew that marriage was serious business. Her parents had very strict ideas on this matter. She also had a loving, yet rather conflictual relationship with her mother who, by the way, was very clear on the fact that her daughter’s beloved didn’t match the social level expected from a potential son in law. There also was an obvious untold rule stating that no man would ever touch this young beauty out of the holy sacrament of marriage…

Well, life had another plan… One day Hélène had yet another passionate fight with her mother. She left the house crying and went to her beloved for consolation, which he provided with all the love he could give. The outcome fell like a bomb on the whole household: A young and pure single catholic student had just got pregnant in the middle of her studies and the father was not considered an acceptable match.

All hell got loose… shame had landed on a proud and “respectable” family. The sinner would never become the brilliant graduate her parents had wanted. Instead, she had to get married in emergency and disappear for a while, far from the eyes of the dreaded public opinion.

The least I could say is that her pregnancy was far from blissful or even peaceful.

The baby was born premature, long before the acceptable 9 months after the wedding. He was quickly sent to his father’s mother so that an appropriate birth date could be announced to the family and friends!

Decades later, a sixty years old baby boomer accustomed to monitoring his emotional state was experiencing once again a very unpleasant feeling which had never really left him since early childhood. Someone close to him had just triggered the dreaded sense of low self esteem and rejection he knew so well and for so long. Years of personal development had allowed him to go through these emotions without drowning completely. Yet the pain was far too strong to be the result of a slightly disharmonious conversation. Something much deeper was happening. It was time to act.

Men and maternal empowerment

“Expecting” (Allan Foster)

All his life he had happily told his birth story as being the result of pure love, unspoilt by conventions and rigid dogma. After all, his parents were deeply in love with each other when they conceived, which should be the recipe for a happy child! This indeed was the truth, but only a part of it. Trying to source his painful emotion to its origin, he went further and further back in time, and found himself reliving the dreadful time of his mother’s pregnancy. After the few romantic moments of his conception, he had been very bad news for virtually everyone involved, especially his mother, whose life was literally put upside down by his early arrival.

Sixty years of unnecessarily painful experiences suddenly found their origin in a pregnant young woman’s environment. Had she lived in a loving society, the news of her pregnancy would have been celebrated by the community. She would have received full attention and care from her parents and family. She would have been so proud of bringing a new human being to life. She would have spent precious time talking to her baby, telling him how much she loved him and how impatient she was to hold him in her arms. Her partner would have assisted her in her magical task and his peaceful, joyful voice would have accompanied their child’s harmonious development.

A completely conscious being whose arrival should have been celebrated found himself growing in a war zone where his presence was less than welcome. His whole life was going to be tinted with a deep feeling of abandonment and rejection the smallest event could trigger, until he was able to address the problem and take the necessary healing steps.

This little story shows once again how much power mothers have on their unborn and young babies, a power most of them are unaware of, which can be used to the detriment or the best advantage of their children. It is their role to use it consciously, knowing that they hold their child’s wellbeing in their hands and it is the responsibility of their partners families, friends as well as the society they live in to provide the best conditions for their tremendous work.

By now, you may have worked out that this story is my own one. As you know, there is so much resilience in the human being that even a difficult start in life can be healed and sometimes transcended. Yet I dream of a world where babies would be born happy, balanced, peaceful, healthy, physically and emotionally safe. A world where it wouldn’t take so long to realise how wonderful life can be. If we want to live in such a world, there is only one way: Maternal Empowerment is the way. Today, not only do I spend a lot of time helping lots of people to heal their prenatal trauma but I actively support the Global Prenatal Initiative.

At this point, you may wonder if men have a role to play in Maternal Empowerment. They surely do, especially the child’s father. He is his wife or partner’s provider and primary care taker. With him, she should feel safe, respected, loved and important.

Women hold the future of society. What they live during pregnancy affects the whole life of everyone of us. It is time to empower them to concretise the safe, peaceful and blossoming world we all want. We must surround them with all we have to give them, this masculine, loving and tender presence they love and need so much especially during pregnancy.

François Gerland, co-Director of the Global Prenatal Initiative

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