This is a guest blog post from one of my all time favourite experts, Julia Jones. I’ll be sharing more of Julia’s wisdom with you all as I truly believe her message is so important in our modern day journey of motherhood. Enjoy!
Forgotten where you put your car keys again? Can’t add up the the bill? Your first born child’s name escaped you?
Everything changes when you become a mother, including your brain.
As a girl you were prepared for life in a masculine world. I hope you were taught you could do anything a boy does. You could go to school and get a job. In your old life, you were measured up against masculine indicators of success, like being competitive and independent and logical. Information was power and everything was figure-outable – just ask guru google!
But what happens when you’ve spent your whole life training your brain for certain kinds of tasks, and then suddenly the job description changes?
Welcome, you are being born as a mother. The birth of a mother can be more intense than childbirth, and it takes a lot longer too.
There are a number of BIG changes that occur in your brain when you are born as a mother. One of them is increased plasticity, meaning your brain is more open to learning. Another is the increased production and receptivity to oxytocin, rewiring your brain for bonding. It’s a combination of these factors (and, let’s face it, sleep deprivation) that I call Baby Brain.
Baby brain can sound like an insult, particularly in our task oriented, mathematical and rational society. But baby brain is all part of natures grand plan.
It’s a myth that we only use 10% of our brains, actually our brains are very expensive organs, consuming a huge amount of calories for their size. Evolution isn’t wasteful, your wonderful brain is totally maxed out doing brilliant things!
Imagine your brain is a filing cabinet. Everything organised in alphabetical order and in different categories. It’s safe and comfortable, you’ve probably lived with this filing system for many, many years. It’s packed full of skills and information and all the things you deemed important in your old life.
But when you become a mother the whole filing cabinet is tipped out to make room for the skills and information that are a priority in your new life. If you want to fit in all the stuff you are going to need as a mother you have to figure out what are you going to let go of, which bits no longer serve you.
But whilst you are decluttering (during that stage of high plasticity, hormonal rewiring and rapid learning) the breakneck speed of the changes can be very overwhelming. It can feel messy, disorganised and chaotic. It can go on for weeks and months.
During this time there’s a really big need for security, support and stability, which is why some new mothers can get very controlling. In fact OCD is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed postpartum mood disorders!
Over time your brain will slowly put everything back into the filing cabinet, leaving some stuff out and also adding plenty of new skills and information. This reorganising and rewiring means you’ll come out the other side with an improved brain.
Baby brain will make a mum more relaxed, more contemplative and more companionable. More tolerant of the monotony and boredom. Better at multi tasking. Better at time management. Better at evaluating risk…
But if you have been taught to value more masculine ways of thinking, baby brain can be very confronting.
Transitioning to motherhood can be painful, as there are deep internal shifts in ways of knowing and understanding the world around you. Maybe you are grieving as your old self is gone, superseded.
You are still finding your feet in this new, feminine paradigm.
Julia Jones is a postnatal doula leading a worldwide renaissance in the way we care for Newborn Mothers. She has created a new paradigm for postpartum care by merging traditional medicine and culture with cutting edge research on hormones and neurology.
Julia is the author of Nourishing Newborn Mothers – Ayurvedic Recipes to Heal your Mind, Body and Soul after Childbirth (www.nourishingnewbornmothers) and creator of worldwide leading education resources for postpartum professionals: Newborn Mothers Collective (www.newbornmothers.com/training).
For more nuggets of wisdom from Julia, visit http://www.newbornmothers.com
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