Column: Celebrating All Of Bermuda’s Mothers

May 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

[Written by Gwendolyn E Creary]

Happy Mother’s Day! Wow! This year marks 28 years that I have officially celebrated Mother’s Day, but technically I have celebrated for 29 years. My daughter was born late June 1991, so she will be 29 years old this year, 6 weeks after the official Mother’s Day. For the weeks just before her birth, I was nesting. Although it has been years since her birth, I still fondly remember preparing to welcome her into the world.

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I started by looking for her crib, when I found one suitable-I bought it on the spot, I could not take the chance that it would be gone if I came back with my husband. My aunt offered to make a stuffed doll and blanket combo that she found from Butterick patterns. I ordered them in black and white because the baby would only see in contrast initially as I had learned. I planned for a diaper service – remember those? Every week they would bring fresh and clean cloth diapers in exchange for the wet and poopy ones they would collect in the deodorized bin provided. There was a hands-on tutorial instructing how to fold the cloths and diaper the baby once she arrived. Even though we both struggled with the technique, my husband had the most practice as I had to go back to work after only six weeks maternity leave.

I was not alone in my joy as an expectant mother. Everyone around me were excited to welcome the new baby. My two best friends along with our pastor’s wife, planned a church baby shower because I was one of 3 expectant mothers at church. My supervisor and work colleagues planned a double baby shower-another colleague and I were expecting our babies about the same time. After the baby showers, my best friends drove me to a neighbouring town to buy the big items that I did not get as shower gifts. My first Mother’s Day was spent planning for and anticipating the birth of my baby. A lot has happened since then, but God willing, in a few days I will celebrate motherhood for the 29th time.

Unfortunately, even with the pleasant remembrances of my own motherhood experiences, this will be the 32nd Mother’s Day without my mother. The circumstances under which she died can be described as mysterious at best. However, that nebulous explanation only satisfied those who refused to see, turned a blind eye to, her not-so-well-hidden pain and humiliation for many years of her 31-year marriage. Her loosely veiled demise was the culmination of domestic violence, emotional and mental, and at strategic times, physical; all of which she hid behind a stoic, but warm, loyal, and well-respected persona. During my childhood, the domestic violence in the home was an insidious and unpredictable secret that no one dared to admit, much less talk about or report. For years, too many children here in Bermuda, have been unwilling victims of the tragedy of domestic violence in all its forms and particularly as it has resulted in maternal death. As an adult, I still startle easily and find it difficult to trust and feel safe.

Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACEs] is a term coined in 1997 by researchers Doctors’ Vincent Felitti [Kaiser Permanente San Diego] and Robert Anda [Center for Disease Control]. The 10 ACEs they studied fell into three categories

  • 1. abuse,
  • 2. neglect, and
  • 3. family dysfunction which included domestic violence.

The significance of their research is that as high as 67% of the middle-class population they studied had at least 1 ACE and those who experienced 4 or more were at high risk for chronic non-communicable diseases, that are known to be of high incidence here in Bermuda and leading causes of death; for example, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and cardiac-related diseases. More recently, brain development research underscores how experiencing ACEs damages the brain architecture of babies and young children impacting their ability to learn and self-regulate resulting in what is often labelled as academic and behaviour problems. Research also bears out that parents tend to parent as they were parented, thus potentially perpetuating a cycle of ACEs characterized by abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction.

All is not lost. Research also shows that just one healthy, empathetic, and caring adult relationship with a child experiencing or who has experienced ACEs can mitigate the negative effects and improve the well-being and academic outcomes for that young person. Adults who are willing to identify themselves as having experienced ACEs in their childhood can mitigate the risk of being negatively impacted by them with Protective and Compensatory Experiences [PACEs]. These fall into two categories:

  • 1. Relationships and connections: encompass having a best friend, helping in your community, having a mentor and an attachment to a civic, social, or faith-based group.
  • 2. Resources and contexts: include an engaging hobby, regular exercise, safe home environment, paid or unpaid work, and regular routines and habits that promote well-being.

The more PACEs are inserted into our lifestyle, the more resilient we become and by extension we are better able to promote resilience in our children and those we are investing in.

Let us celebrate all of Bermuda’s mothers this weekend being mindful that a significant number more than likely have experienced at least one ACE that could be impacting her well-being and that of her children. As far as possible, encourage the adoption of PACEs in the lives of mothers who have experienced multiple ACEs and help them to break the cycle of repeating those ACEs for their children. If you are a mother, haunted by the ghosts of ACEs past, then do not be afraid to seek mental health help to exorcise those ghosts; your children and grandchildren will benefit in unimaginable ways.

- Gwendolyn E Creary is ParentGuide an Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. She is a licensed mental health professional with 34 years professional experience. Email parentguidebda@gmail.com, call 519-4240 or find her on facebook.com/parentguidebda for more information and assistance.

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