When I wrote my review of Deliberate Motherhood I was supposed to post this excerpt. I’m glad I can post it now because it is a great reminder for us Moms. -Robyn
The Power of Love – Put Your Heart On
By Saydi Shumway
An Excerpt from Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Powers of Peace, Purpose, Order and Joy (September 2013, Familius)
Love and Affection is Every Child’s Most Basic Need
After graduating from high school, my courageous and crazy parents packed us up—me and my six siblings who were still living at home—and we flew to Romania to volunteer for one month in an orphanage. Following the reign of Ceausescu, who banned birth control in hopes of building a bigger and stronger empire, Romania exploded with children. Mothers who were unable to care for their children were forced to hand them over to institutions with the hope that they would at least get fed. The children did get fed, but because the institutions were so overcrowded and understaffed, they were not held or nurtured.
When we arrived at our little orphanage, we spent the entire day trying to satisfy one desire. The children wanted to be lifted up and held. They screeched, “Sus! Sus!” (Romanian for “Up! Up!”) over and over as they ran up to us. We would pick them up, one by one, squeeze them tight for a second, then put them down, and they’d scramble to the end of the line where they would wait patiently for their turn to be lifted up again.
They were desperate to be held and touched and loved—even for a second. Touch was something most of them had lived their entire lives without—something they were starving for. Many of them had not been born with any physical or mental problems, but they were suffering from developmental and physical delays simply due to a lack of individual attention and love.
Love is critical to child development. Study after study links proper brain function and development to touch, love, and affection. Children adopted from institutions where they have had adequate attention and affection, but severely inadequate physical nourishment and medical attention, often recover quickly with a few months of infant formula and the care of a good pediatrician. In contrast, infants who have spent significant time in institutions where they have been emotionally neglected, but physically cared for, can take years, if not a lifetime, to recover from the trauma.
In the 1920s, New York pediatrician, Dr. Henry Chapin, reported an alarming death rate in children under two who were placed in institutions across the United States that provided adequate food and shelter, but no emotional nurturing. Dr. Chapin concluded that children need to be held, carried and caressed in order to not only develop properly, but to survive.
Neurologists have found that love and affection fosters brain development by releasing hormones essential to building proper neurological connections.
In his book, Biology of Love, neurologist Dr. Arthur Janov states, “Hugs and kisses during critical periods [of child development] make neurons grow and connect properly with other neurons.” Essentially he
says that you can “kiss [a child’s brain] into maturity.” Love can affect brain development and behavior right up through the teenage years. Children and teens who lack proper touch, love, and affection show significantly decreased attention span, decreased self esteem, problems with addiction, and an impaired ability to relate to others and navigate loving relationships into adulthood.
All these studies, statistics, and thoughts about love and its immense power knock around in my head as I think about my job as a mom. I feel the weight of my children’s need to feel love. Not just any love, but my love. How well am I loving my children? How can I more deliberately put to use the powerful force of my unconditional “mother-love”? The kind of love that will give them strong brains and emotional intelligence, and help them feel secure and happy. Love that will enable them to go into the wide world and wield their own powerful love for good.
Saydi Eyre Shumway lives in the Boston area with her husband and four children. She is the fourth of the nine children of best-selling parenting authors, Richard and Linda Eyre. She is a contributing author to Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Powers of Peace, Purpose, Order and Joy (September 2013, Familius), a collection of inspirational stories to help mothers find fulfillment and personal growth in the joyous and challenging work of raising the next generation. Written for moms by moms, the collection of stories featured in Deliberate Motherhood is compiled by PowerofMoms.com, an online community founded by Saren Loosli and April Perry, a “gathering place for deliberate mothers” that serves more than one million moms across 134 countries. For more information, visit www.powerofmoms.com.