Gratitude is a concept you hear people talking about a lot these days. For all its miseries and inconveniences, the pandemic has been a reminder that every freedom, from visiting with family to attending a group yoga class, is precious. And not guaranteed.
Similarly, as special occasions and holidays spring up on the calendar, we have reason to reflect on what’s really and truly important in this world and how all of us can be better people simply by focusing on those things your great-great-grandmother would recognize as virtues: kindness to others, offering help where help is needed, focusing on health and baking good bread at home. Beats checking email every three seconds, huh?
Mother’s Day is an occasion where gratitude is always a central theme. It’s a given that being a mom requires every emotional tool in the toolbox. And for all its rewards, motherhood demands sacrifice, whether it’s something as basic as sleep and daily self-care or something as profound as personal dreams and ambitions set aside to make way for junior’s sake.
Human mothers know all too well what the job description of “mother” entails. But what about our planetary sisters? Every species requires mothering; do animal mothers give and give and give the way their human counterparts do? As might be suspected, the answer is yes. Oh yes.
This Mother’s Day, we decided to look outside the walls of our own lives — where we have been cooped up for well over a year — and to the animal kingdom to see how moms everywhere tend to their young.
Mama whales and horses and orangutans might not get treated to a pricey brunch on May 9 as human moms typically are on Mother’s Day, though even that is a big “if” this year with all the COVID-related restrictions in place.
But animal moms are every bit as committed to and focused on their young as we are. It is yet another reminder that we all share one world, and at the end of the day, we all want the same things: safety, freedom, peace, harmony… and a delicious meal at the end of the day.
Many Back on Track fans who work and play in the equine world have had the great good fortune to witness the remarkable bond that exists between mare and foal. But few have captured those special moments better than Karen Briggs. Writing for The Horse website, Briggs describes horse maternal behaviour thusly:
“Anyone who has witnessed a foal’s first few minutes in this world might agree that one of the most miraculous parts of the process is the way a mare greets and bonds with her newborn. With a deep sniff at the baby’s nostrils, that distinctive deep ‘chuckling’ nicker (answered by the foal’s higher-pitched response), and some broad strokes of her tongue on the wet hide, a new mother seems to recognize the foal not only as something she needs to nurture, but as something uniquely hers — even if she has never given birth before.”
In his beautiful new book Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty and Achieve Peace, author and ecologist Carl Safina witnesses and describes the highly detailed social orders observed by sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees.
And whales — those brilliant, mysterious, gargantuan mammals who live and play in our oceans — emerge as arguably the most devoted mothers on Earth, as well as very similar in custom and culture to elephants. Of whales, consider this:
“Most large whales give birth in shallow tropical locations. In those relatively safe areas, mother whales bring their new young into the world and continually stand guard. The catch: in those warm waters, there is no food for the mothers, who do not eat for several months.”
And that is the least of it. Sperm whales, Safina’s focus in the book, go to extraordinary lengths to protect, teach, and guard their offspring and other babies in their extended families. It’s truly mind-blowing. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Like many of their human counterparts, seals typically function as single parents, raising their young alone alongside other mamas. But as BBC Earth points out in its aptly named documentary, 10 Astonishing Animal Parents, “Making this job even tougher, these dedicated parents live around the Antarctic, where conditions are among the most extreme on Earth.
“A Weddell seal mother’s extraordinary investment begins with an 11-month pregnancy. Once her baby is born, she must quickly teach it how to survive the Antarctic’s dangerous waters and landscape. At just two weeks old, seal pups are coaxed by their mothers into the water.
“One essential lesson is learning to navigate the underwater landscape, finding the best air holes to avoid becoming trapped under the ice. And on the ice, mothers teach their babies to use their teeth to open new air holes and to file back existing ones to stop them freezing over.”
An eleven-month pregnancy? Finding underwater airholes with two-week-old pups? Somebody get that Weddell seal a mimosa, stat!
Also from that same BBC series comes this: “These highly intelligent apes, found in rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo, look after their young for eight years; longer than any other animal single parent.
“Female Sumatran orangutans only have a baby once every nine years (they continue to have babies into their 40s), and because they take such a long time to raise each one, mum and baby build exceptionally strong social bonds. There is much to learn during the eight years mothers care for their young. One vital lesson in a deep forest home is where to find edible fruit and when these treats are ripe and good to eat.”
Writing for the fabulously named website Cuteness.com, Tammy Dray notes that “Mother Nature has prepared female dogs to be moms. Maternal instinct is in part due to the hormone oxytocin, which kicks in after a dog gives birth. The hormone causes a mother to accept her babies and makes her want to protect them. Oxytocin is the hormone of love and jealousy, according to Modern Dog Magazine—which could explain why a new mom is not only loving but also ultra-protective of her newborns.”
In whatever way you celebrate Mother’s Day this year, be sure to take a moment to appreciate all that the universe has bestowed upon us. As well as being humbling, such a “gratitude exercise” is guaranteed to make you feel more connected to the world around you.
And if you want to go one step further, consider giving the gift of Back on Track to your human, horse or dog mama, who will surely revel in the comfort and support of our amazing products made with a functional, analgesic mineral textile called Welltex® and Iontex® which work via Infrared Radiation.
This reflected wavelength (via mineral powder melted into threads) has been documented to help ease muscle tension, increase blood circulation, and aid in shortening the recovery process in both people and animals. Back on Track’s exceptional product line of clothing and accessories infused with Welltex® or Iontex® make life feel better. That’s a gift you can feel good about giving.
Back on Track Mothers Day Offer:
Buy any of our Human line for a value of $50 and over and get a FREE scarf valued at $45. Online Only While quantities last or until May 21. *Scarf style may vary, but don’t worry all of our scarfs are really nice, and they have been reported to help with headaches and some neck pain.*