The legacy of Mothering
Debbie Deegan is the only person I know who can call you up and ask if you can “pop to Russia” in the way most others talk about popping to Aldi for the shopping. But pop to Russia we did for a jam packed 72 hour (really 24 hours given 2 days were travelling) emotional roller-coaster.
I’ve come home holding many thoughts and feelings about the few days but the thought I am consumed with is one of the value and legacy of mothering. To Children With Love is one of many small Irish charities really struggling to stay open since the recession hit and as such reflecting on the organisations legacy seems appropriate.
Two gorgeous (inside and out) Russian girls who had spent their early childhood in Hortolova orphanage before being adopted to America were making an incredible journey home to hug and be hugged by their grandmother who has held them in her head and heart since she lost them. Debbie and I were there to hold hands and supply tissues, our shoulders to lean on and our ears to listen. We are but a small part of their big story. One of the girls is herself a Mother and wanted to share that part of herself with the grandmother who mothered them both as children. There is no distance in the heart and the moment Granny opened her front door she held her girls like she would never let them go again. It was her dream come true and she said so many times. Tears flowed, smiles beamed, hands held tight as a bridge was built to overcome the pain of distance, language and loss. An incredible privilege to bare witness to a magical moment of the true love between a Mother and her babies.
That concept of how we are always and forever our Mothers babies, regardless of how old we are rang (and even sang!) loudly over dinner that night when the older girls, the first Debbie met, gathered with us for dinner to welcome their old classmates home from America. Photos were produced and memories shared, the perspective time and laughter allows providing healing to many.
One of the girls, now 28 years old and the Mother of her own two children shared a sad story of how one of the other girls who had grown up in Hortolova with them all has gone on to make some less than ideal life choices resulting in chronic alcoholism and her daughter being taking into care. The cycle of addiction and abandonment repeating itself. Not so! This wonderful girl is taking her old friends daughter into her home and family and has become her foster Mother so that she never knows the childhood of abandonment they did. The gift and message Debbie has given her has enabled her to change the cycles and instead pay forward and rescue this little girl.
Another of the girls, 32 years old and also a mother, had stayed in touch with the girls granny after they left the orphanage and pledged to them when saying goodbye that she would ensure their granny would always have groceries and a clean flat so they weren’t to worry about her once they returned to America. The care that has been given over the last 20 years means these young women can give care back to others, this is attachment at work!
Over dinner, speeches were made and glasses raised (it is Russia after all) as each person spoke of the difference To Children with Love has made in their lives…”our lives went from black and white to colour” summed it up for me. And these grown women mothering their own children all shared their fear that the charity would leave Russia and leave them. No matter how old or independent we are, we all crave and need mothering. This charity has built a family and you just don’t abandon your family!
I had coffee with an incredible young mother, parenting alone and doing a tremendous job. It’s been my immense pleasure to see her grow from a beautiful young girl into this wonderful and capable young mother. Though of course she’s not really parenting alone because To Children With Love run a life changing Young Mothers program and Olga Stepanova is teaching and coaching young girls how to mother to ensure they keep their babies and this cycle of inter-generational abandonment can be broken
I know Debbie abhors psychological speak (or “that psycho-babble big word nonsense” as she affectionately refers to my trade) but this is a longitudinal study of repair and recovery of disrupted attachment over a 20 year period and, as a clinician, I have to say this program of care works, it truly works and it changes lives, generations of lives!
This is a charity that will stretch the euro you donate further than you can believe possible. The ripple effect of what you donate is evident and small consistent changes over a prolonged period of time reverberated around that dinner table. I had a lump in my throat as one of the girls spoke of how she has kept a set of bed sheets still in plastic wrapping that came in on an aid convoy almost 20 years ago and she is now keeping those same bed sheets to gift to her own daughter when she gets married. Never underestimate the strength and impact of your generosity and compassion, it matters and your ongoing support for this charity matters!
Debbie Deegan is a powerhouse of a woman, a force to be reckoned with and an impossible woman to say no to. She gets things done, no doubt. But To Children With Love is bigger than any one person, it is a team, a family of incredibly hard working big hearted loving people who give and believe and love. That is a recipe for successful outcomes. Debbie is the lynchpin but she needs help and she needs your money, whatever you can donate.
Elaine Heffner (a psychotherapist and author on what constitutes good enough mothering) said “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children”. You are an artist Debbie Deegant