By WMM Contributor: Elizabeth Braatz
According to The Atlantic, when a woman is pregnant, the very structure of her brain modifies. Scientists have uncovered a definitive link between the way a woman acts and what's happening in her prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes and elsewhere while carrying a child AND into motherhood. “Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.” This brain mapping has also uncovered understanding as to why so many mothers experience anxiety and depression in the early months. “An estimated one in six women suffers from postpartum depression, and many more develop behaviors like compulsively washing hands and obsessively checking whether the baby is breathing.” This anxiety and depression does not leave most mothers but may manifest itself from worrying about SIDS or dirty hands on a clean baby to busy kid schedules, grades or having a teen driver behind the wheel.
“Mom brain” does not just affect new parents either. According to Psychology Today, researchers have uncovered increased activity in the amygdala — the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing — in both mothers and fathers who were their babies' primary caregivers. “In fact, the more involved the fathers were in taking care of their infants, the more their amygdala activity looked like the mothers’. This suggests that there isn’t just something special about physically experiencing pregnancy and childbirth that changes how the brain responds to babies (although there are some changes that are mother-specific); the act of parenting itself can cause similar changes in fathers, or perhaps anyone who plays a large role in raising children.”
Further, there is also evidence supporting the theory that having a child affects memory. “Researchers speculate that oxytocin — a hormone present in mothers during labor, pregnancy and nursing — might play a role in keeping women from developing bad memories about the experience…moms will most likely forget the bad parts of pregnancy and parenthood in favor of the good experiences. It’s nature’s way of stacking the deck so that we’ll forget the trials and tribulations of pregnancy and parenthood, making it more likely that we will turn around and do it all over again.”
So, while our noggins help us help our babies as they grow, they are also working tirelessly to attend to life in general. If you’re anything like me, then your deck is stacked with responsibility and your “Mom Brain Calendar”, your “Mom Brain Rolodex” and you “Mom Brain In Case $&#%” catalogues are super full.
The “Mom Brain Calendar” knows when this child is snack person, this child has practice, this child is going on a field trip and you have a doctor’s appointment – all in the same day. The calendar keeps track of this work deadline, when you can work out and that mother-in-law’s birthday is coming up so the kids need to make her cards.
The “Mom Brain Rolodex” keeps track of the fact that Johnny’s mom’s name is Lisa and she’s the room parent for this kid’s class and she’s also a good resource for doctor recommendations, as she’s a pediatric nurse in the area.
Then there’s the “Mom Brain in Case $&#%.” This is the action plan for all calamities; when a disaster hits, you won’t crack and freeze. These are contingency plans: you get the call that your child has lice or breaks an arm at recess…you have a work event that runs late and a sports practice that ends at the same time and your child needs a ride home...this is the immediate game plan for getting a last-minute birthday treat to school while also making a 9am staff meeting. When moms are called super heroes, it’s almost 90% because of this insurance policy that the “mom self” has taken out on the “Mom Brain in Case $&#%.” This part of the mom brain springs into action, solves the problem and no one even knew there was a crisis.
All said, the Mom Brain is magical but it’s also tired; just like the mom who carries that brain inside her beautiful head. She’s gotten up at the wee hours of the morning to squeeze in a workout, then cooks breakfast and packs backpacks, then showers in the nick of time while also making sure her children are ready for school and daycare. This mom gives it her all at work and then rushes home to be a practice shuttle, a homework helper, a dinner prepper and a good night tucker inner. This mom is a middle of the night puke cleaner (Mom Brain in Case $&#%), the middle school trauma therapist and the kickass employee – all wrapped into one package.
Can we celebrate this woman, all women who are stellar moms, stellar employees, stellar wives and just plain stellar human beings?
Can we celebrate this woman, all women who are stellar moms, stellar employees, stellar wives and just plain stellar human beings? They likely feel less than stellar with all of the aforementioned info circling in their brains, causing them stress, anxiety and the feelings that they are less than. Join in to celebrate the hardworking moms in your life on March 12, 2020!