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Grandmother, Gazing

Gazing is a hard-wired bonding ritual. In part it’s responsible for the connective tissue that grows in, between, and around mother and newborn. Yet it’s barely noticed, except by behaviorists measuring the frequency and intensity of cues between subjects.

As a form of communication, gazing involves far more than the eyes. Eyes are the portal for many layers of other internal and external impulses. Gazing is primitive and powerful; it can install deep bonds that last eternities. A mother gazes at an infant daughter, falls madly and irreversibly in love — and models that love for the infant, who begins practicing reciprocity. The feedback loop elicits other cues, such as calibration of breathing and synchrony of body temperature and heart rate. At the deepest level of bonding, the communication occurs from remote distances. A baby stirs in her basket, and mother senses a filling that presses from armpits to nipples as milk lets down just in time for the baby to call for the breast. The breast knew before the baby — or did the baby call from her slumber to the sensate intelligence buried in her mother’s milk glands?

If bonding and attachment develop according to ancient plan, both infant and mother orchestrate a series of synchronicities, instinctively building one day of life and love upon the next. A mother gazes upon her beloved infant daughter and rarely realizes that she beholds not only the beginning of a new life in this offspring, but the potential lives that the daughter will bring forth during her child-bearing years. Every egg that will be needed in a woman's lifetime is present in her infant body. While I carried my daughter in my belly, she already carried the egg that made my granddaughter.

A grandmother gazes into the eternal depths emanating from the hazy blue eyes of her newborn grandbaby. The bonding and attachment expand exponentially, as she beholds the new life — fresh out of her daughter's belly — and relives the joy of original attachment, now compounded by unspeakable, unknowable affection and wonder personified in her daughter's daughter.

A grandmother reckons with a new form of knowing.

A woman may think she knows most of everything there is to realize after having raised her own daughters. But fresh surprises are waiting when a granddaughter comes. A grandmother may not expect that her feelings could escalate and become more tender, surpassing the awe of birthing her own babies.

A grandmother reckons with a new form of knowing. It is simultaneously a moving closer, feeling deeper, and understanding that the time has come to step back, release and await the daughter's invitation to be up close and personal with the new grandbaby. Izzy Belly (Isabella Sofia), now four weeks old, is my wise teacher and my sweet reward for the perfect gazing that happened when my daughter Alicia was herself an infant. Now Alicia and I gaze at Izzy Belly, knowing she carries a lifetime of eggs, including one for her own granddaughter, the legacy continuing.

Graphics Credits

  • Alicia and Isabella Sofia, © 2009 Olivia Reed Harris. All rights reserved.
Copyright / Terms of Use: Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without the author's or artist's permission. Other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.

MatriFocus Cross-Quarterly
is a seasonal web journal (zine) for Goddess Women and others interested in Goddess Lore and Scholarship, Goddess Religion (ancient and contemporary), Feminist Spirituality, Women's Mysteries, Paganism and Neopaganism, Earth-based Religions, Witchcraft, Dianic Wicca and other Wiccan Traditions, the Priestess Path, Goddess Art, Women's Culture, Women's Health, Natural Healing, Mythology, Female Shamanism, Consciousness, Community, Cosmology, and Women's Creativity.

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