Maternal Instincts

There’s a lot to be said for maternal instincts. I recently experienced them first-hand on two occasions.

Incidents that could change your course for the day, or for your life, can happen when you least expect them.

Being pregnant during the winter sets one up for many warnings from friends and family. “Be careful; it’s slick out there.” “Can you park closer to the door so there’s less of a chance you will slip and fall on the ice?” “Can you have someone drop you off?” “Should you be driving in this snow?” Questions of concern such as these were a part of my day. I didn’t mind. I did need to be careful.

Little did I know, though, that it would be on one of the warmest days of the spring that I’d end up falling in the street while carrying the car seat, baby and all.

It happened so quickly. Before I knew it I was on the ground. Hayden landed safely in his car seat beside me, although the fall did jostle him some. He cried for just a bit. It must have been in my attempt to protect him that I hurt myself. Banged up knees, a cut hand, and the worst part – a sprained foot – resulted. At least that’s the non-technical term my athletic trainer sister-in-law used to describe it. My foot swelled up to twice its normal size, and it was difficult to walk for several weeks.

But that’s only part of the story. My mother drove up to our house the next day, picked up Nathaniel from preschool and was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. I had already picked up Hayden from day care. She was ready to help carry him in the house. We unlatched him, leaving the bulky seat in the car so she wouldn’t have to carry it too. She headed to the house as I retrieved the rest of our daily luggage – a backpack, my work bag, purse and lunch box.

She was ahead of me. I didn’t see it happen.

I looked up to see her, lying on the stairs of my porch. She was quiet, most likely in shock. The baby was crying and lying underneath her from what I could tell. I paused for a split second, also in shock at what I was seeing. Then I dropped everything in my hands, ran up our front walk and threw myself onto the porch.

She had fallen forward, onto the concrete porch landing, on her knees and elbows.

Many things could have been different. She could have been holding him face forward. She could have dropped him and caught herself with her hands (a reflexive survival instinct), but something more powerful was at work: her motherly instinct and the hands of God.

She was sick to her stomach, in disbelief. But the baby was safe, not one scratch or bruise on his little body. And it was because of her. She knew how to hold him to protect him. Within an instant she held him into her chest, cupping his head with her hands, and fell, her weight on her arms. He didn’t touch the concrete.

I’m sure she was thinking she shouldn’t be trusted to hold him again, that she could have really injured her grandson. But in my mind, I’m glad it was her arms he was in. He landed safely because of her love for him over herself, because of her maternal instinct. She, without pause, did what was necessary to keep him safe. Someone else might have let go. Someone else might have been holding him away from their chest. Someone else might have caught themselves first.

Miracles do happen. I had just witnessed a second one in two days. Not only was the baby uninjured, my mother escaped with just a bruised elbow. Maybe part of it is in the relief of knowing my child is safe, and my mother is okay. But it takes incidents like these to make me think of how blessed I am, and how I shouldn’t take anything for granted.

I had imagined the worst. He could have been lying on the concrete, bleeding from his head. He could have had broken bones. We could have been rushing to the hospital, riding in an ambulance. But we weren’t. Because of her.

Later on someone told me my mother was lucky to have a daughter who was calm enough not to panic and who would never blame her for what had happened. The thought had not crossed my mind. Maybe it’s true. But if so, it’s because of her. It’s because I’ve watched her be a mother to my brother and me for 30-some odd years. It’s in watching her that I know how to react in situations of stress, to be mindful of the feelings of others.

And it’s in my maternal instinct – as it was in hers – to protect my child before protecting myself.

My mom and Hayden at his open house/shower in April.

My mom and Hayden at his open house/shower in April.

Want to share your story?
What experiences can you recall that maternal instincts play/or have played a large part? Do you agree there is such an instinct? Please leave your comments and help me start a conversation. Thanks :)

3 thoughts on “Maternal Instincts

  1. Darby

    I think for me, something just clicked. I feel like when I became a Mom, life is all about my son. I think of him before I think of myself. Luckily, I haven’t had anything happen yet, but hopefully when it does, I will be able to handle it well!


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