The Safety of a Mother’s Arms by Gina Messina-Dysert

Earlier this year in May, I was honored to be a speaker at the American Mothers National Convention.  While attending the conference I heard a young mom speak about her own experience of being held hostage as a child and the feeling of total security she felt when embraced in her mother’s arms for the first time following the terrifying ordeal.  Listening to her led me to recall my own experience of feeling that security with my mother.  When I was a child and needed to be comforted, there was no one else who made me feel safe the way my mom did.  However, the safety of my mom’s arms did not end when I became a teenager or an adult.  Up until the day my mom died, I still cuddled with her like a little girl.  I felt spiritually connected to my mother, it was through her loving arms that I found security and felt truly connected to God.

There has been much exploration of the spiritual and emotional bond between mother and child.  Becoming a mother to an adopted toddler, I wondered if my daughter and I would share the same bond that I shared with my mother.  Baby S did not grow in my womb, we did not bond for nine months while she was in utero, and she had a history of multiple foster families before coming home to me and my husband.  

It was clear from the beginning, Baby S was a Daddy’s girl.  She adores my husband and cannot get enough time with him.  Whenever we are together as a family, if offered the choice, Baby S chooses Daddy.  She wants Daddy to hold her hand, Daddy to carry her, Daddy to sit next to her, Daddy to buckle her in her car seat, and so on.  Early on I found this difficult.  I had waited for a child for so long, and then, finally blessed with a daughter, she did not need me the way I needed her.

Of course, Baby S had been through a lot and there was much work to be done within our family.  As a parent, I needed to be strong and recognize my duty to support our daughter and offer her all that she needed; yet sometimes I couldn’t help but feel sad.  Just once, I wanted Baby S to say “I want Mommy to hold my hand.”  But it seemed the day would never come.

Then one day I realized, although Baby S is a “Daddy’s girl,” it is her mommy that she turns to when she needs to feel safe and comforted.  I had been so focused on our daughter “picking” Daddy in our daily routines that I hadn’t realized that in the moments that veer from the norm, she seeks out me.  When Baby S has a “boo boo” she calls for Mommy; when her feelings are hurt or she feels sad, she calls for Mommy; when she feels scared, she calls for Mommy, and at bed time it is Mommy that soothes Baby S into a sound sleep.  It is in those moments that Baby S needs security, and it is a feeling she finds in the arms of her mother.

Although Baby S did not grow in my womb, she did grow in my heart.  Our bond is no different from that shared between a biological mother and child.  I instinctively know when my daughter needs me, and I instinctively know that wrapping my arms around her and holding her close offers her the security I once experienced with my mother.   And at the same time, “snuggling” with my Baby S is what leaves me feeling safe.  Having lost my own mother, I thought the opportunity for those feelings were gone; however in the arms of my daughter I have found security once again.

Categories: Children, Family, Motherhood

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. I have a very independent dog and when my friends are staying over, she sleeps in front of their doors and she also now only swims with my friends. This hurt my feelings too. One night as I was falling asleep, she spoke to me in Greek. What she said was, “Mama, can’t I have girlfriends too?” Then I realized that the friends she wants are “my” friends and that she still knows who her “mom” is. It can still hurt sometimes.


  2. I love this, Gina! Thanks for sharing. As I’ve been meditating on what it will mean to become a mom sometime in the next few weeks (we’re in the waiting phase now!), I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mother and the relationship that we have. It’s still always my mom that I call, e-mail or run to when things don’t go as planned. This is a beautiful testament to your relationship with your daughter, and also to the ways that daughters minister to and soothe their mothers as well.


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