All Babies Need Love, Support
When I learned the theme of this issue, I immediately envisioned a column highlighting the fact that just about every religion and culture has rituals marking the birth of a child. Universal and unique, these traditions are fascinating and offer an excellent subject for a column.
I raced to one of my favorite books (probably out of print), American Indian Poetry, edited by George W. Cronyn, and found "The Child Is Introduced to the Cosmos at Birth," a long series of chants from the Omaha people welcoming a new child into the world. The chant implores every part of earth, sun, moon, stars, wind, clouds, rain, valley, etc. to welcome the child into its midst and "make its way smooth."
Rereading the song, I couldn't help but feel awe at the preciousness and sacredness of the newborn child. I believe that whenever we participate in our more familiar traditions, we feel as deeply touched.
So why am I not continuing this column as it was originally envisioned?
Reality: Every day, countless babies are born into our vast and wealthy country. For many of these newborns, the world and life welcome them with open arms, hearts, gifts, warm environments, supportive and loving families, opportunities for enriched experiences, constant attention and communication. These fortunate babies will eat nutritious food, grow healthy bodies and enjoy many opportunities for play, discovery and meaningful learning.
There is another reality: Countless babies are born into our vast and wealthy country into unstable households challenged by poverty, family dysfunction, minimal communication and attention. No question about it, love can happen to all babies, but often surrounding stress diminishes affection. Many babies will not have a smooth path.
Babies cannot vote, lobby or testify. Their welfare and well-being depend on the actions of caring adults.
Kira and her baby, Onno, just returned to Germany after visiting their American family. I was told that all new mothers in Germany are given financial assistance for one year so they can stay home with their babies. Fathers have financial support with two months off from work to be with the infants.
We are nowhere close to that system! We are still advocating for six weeks with or without pay for working moms to be with their newborns. Many of our new moms and dads desperately need services that are not offered across the board, such as housing, counseling, nutrition and communication.
Carl Sandburg, the beloved American poet, wrote: "There is only one child in the world and that child's name is All Children."
My dream is to live long enough to see the path of every child (all of our children) made smoother by our awareness, responsibility and love.
-"Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.