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Mother, the first home and solace

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THE first love is a mother’s love. The bond between baby and mother is the very first relationship and it lays the foundation for healthy relationships later in life.



The mother is a home, source of security and comfort; she is the greatest gift from God to mankind. In Islam, no other person has been attributed a position nobler or more elevated than the mother.

 

(Inset) Dr. Walid Fitaihi



Repeatedly, the mother’s importance is stressed in the Holy Qur’an, as in the verse:



{And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him and the weaning of his is thirty months} (surah 46, verse 15)



Explaining the above verse, Ibn Attiyah points out that the mother is mentioned four times, whereas the father is referred to only once. Both mother and father are jointly mentioned in the command to be kind to parents, whereas the mother is mentioned as carrying the child, birthing, and finally breastfeeding and weaning.



Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) confirmed this emphasis on the role of the mother being greater than that of the father in the care of children.



A person came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and asked, “Who among people is most deserving of my fine treatment?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Who next?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Who next?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) repeated, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Who next?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Then your father.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)



Why has the status of the mother been elevated to such a lofty position in Islam? And how does her role surpass the father’s role in a child’s life? Start from the very beginning. The fetus is nurtured and protected in the mother’s womb; drawing nutrients from the mother’s body. Her physical health and her immediate environment, emotions, and psychological health all influence the growing baby.



The science of fetal programming has emerged, which is based on the theory that the environment in the womb, during certain sensitive periods, can alter the development of the fetus, with a permanent effect on the child. Fetal programming can be altered by subtle changes such as nutrition, maternal stress, or drug abuse. The effects of these changes may not appear until later on as the child grows.



Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain studied 17,000 mothers for over 5 years. The study revealed that the mother’s nutrition and emotional state directly impact the child’s long term health, wellbeing, brain development, mental performance, and behavior.



Researchers detected a significant increase in fetal movements when the mother experiences emotional stress, depression, or anxiety. This is due to the stress hormone, cortisol, which is released by the mother’s body, passes through the placenta, and reaches the fetus. Cortisol can cause changes in the brain development of the fetus that may make the child prone to depression, irritability, anxiety, and behavioral problems later in life.



Researchers found that mothers who underwent a high degree of stress during pregnancy had babies with lower birth weights, and their infants were irritable, hyperactive, and colicky. Studies show that anxiety and extreme stress decreases a pregnant woman’s ability to absorb and retain some of the nutrients that the growing fetus needs.



A new study conducted at the National University of Singapore, published in the Biological Psychiatry Journal, found a direct link between prenatal maternal depression and variations in the fetal development of the brain region called the amygdala, an area associated with memory formation and emotions. Such variations make these children more susceptible to mood and anxiety disorders later in life.  



The first, and the most, person that an infant comes in contact with is, no doubt, the mother. The more nurturing this relationship is at the earliest stages in life, the more successful will be all future relationships.

An infant’s brain is like a sponge; absorbing almost everything around him/her. Each move the mother makes is a message to the infant; the mother’s body language, facial expressions, tone of voice.



A mother who refuses to read a bedtime story to her child at night because she is too busy is an inadvertent message that the child is not the most important part of her life. The child’s self-image is fashioned from the way he sees himself through his mother’s eyes.



An attentive mother who tunes in and understands her infant’s facial expressions, cries, and babbles and is quick to respond and soothe him, is building a healthy relationship that will last for a lifetime. This child will learn to be caring for the needs of others, to give, and to empathize.



Emotional stability is an essential factor in academic success. Studies show that children brought up in a loving and emotionally secure environment perform better on school tests than their peers who lack a nurturing environment at home. As an adult, emotional intelligence is the most important factor in determining the degree of a person’s success in his/her career.



The relationship between the mother and child in the first five years of the child’s life profoundly influences his personality, the way he expresses emotions, and his future social relationships. It paves the way for how this child will handle trials in life, how quickly he will rise after a fall, his self-esteem, his respect for himself and for others, and how he develops friendships, and it prepares him for interacting positively with his society.

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