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New Mama: From Princess to Queen

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Before you had kids, did people tell you, "You don't have kids. You can't possibly understand!" I used to think they were crazy. Now I see what they mean.

woman breastfeeding

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Long before I had children, I had a love for all the world's children and actively worked with a local children's charity. During one of our heated planning meetings, I noticed that there were two camps within our board of directors -- women who did not have children of their own, and women who were seasoned moms and grandmas. Sometimes the groups knocked heads about what was best for the disadvantaged children to whom we administered goodwill, and inevitably someone from the latter camp would fire off the hurtful missive, "You girls don't get it. You don't have kids of your own!"

Back then, I disagreed. But now, as I look at all the things my 11-year-old and 6-year-old have taught me, I finally get it. I do know a few things that child-free women can't possibly know. So, what was it that I didn't "get"? And how could I explain to new mothers that they are about to transform into another animal entirely?

Let's start with your body. Hormones rule, here. If you think you're a bit "off" while pregnant and hope that you will return to normal after you give birth, think again. You have been wired to nurture now -- and the explosion of oxytocin in postpartum life changes the way you think and behave. You'll be amazed at how well you can cope without sleep. You'll be confused about how to balance work and motherhood, because your body is programmed by millions of years of evolution to sit under a tree and nurse for a long, long while. You might find giant bursts of creativity that were untapped before. And, you may even have to struggle with your own internalized whore/Madonna syndrome, as you feel the unfair pressure to return to your sexy self when you feel far more like a grumpy dairy cow.

For some, these struggles combine with a biological predisposition and morph into postpartum depression. Each year, more than 800,000 women suffer from postpartum depression. That's close to one in five, ladies. And the symptoms are so varied that they can be missed. Let's see, how many new mothers dismiss symptoms like a change in walking pace, low self-esteem, and bad memory? Seems like normal new mother behavior to me, yet these symptoms can be part of a bigger diagnosis.

Check out the PPD symptom list, and add to it the possibility for anxiety-related symptoms:

• Depressed mood -- tearfulness, hopelessness, and feeling empty inside, with or without severe anxiety.
• Loss of pleasure in either all or almost all of your daily activities.
• Appetite and weight change -- usually a drop in appetite and weight, but sometimes the opposite.
• Trouble sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping.
• Noticeable change in how you walk and talk -- usually restlessness, but sometimes sluggishness.
• Extreme fatigue or loss of energy.
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, with no reasonable cause.
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
• Thoughts about death or suicide. Some women with PPD have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies -- these thoughts tend to be fearful thoughts, rather than urges to harm.

If this list feels a little familiar to you, I urge you to seek professional help. Despite the baby boom that you see portrayed in celebrity magazines, our culture is still anti-motherhood -- and PPD symptoms can be brought on by an unsupportive environment. Your body wants to lay low even though there are bills to pay and a marriage to attend to. Seek a therapist who really understands postpartum depression.

Now, once you have your meds, or your support, or your non-chemical remedy, let's talk about your new place in the world. And let's start with your village. Don't freak out that your circle of friends may change. Your old child-free friends can take only so much baby talk and can offer little in the way of advice, so you'll find yourself gravitating toward the moms you meet in your new baby groups. And, I highly advise that you join some groups, whether it's baby-and-me yoga, a breastfeeding support group, or a baby music class. Getting out of the house and co-mingling with other new moms will reduce your chances of depression and help you gain a whole lot of insight about motherhood. You will find your voice as a parent through comparing and contrasting yourself to other mothers.

Now, onto your political self. New mothers see the world in a kind of technicolor, as they begin to view life through the eyes of their children. You'll notice things that you never noticed before, like bad parenting, highly sexualized advertising, public swearing, expensive healthcare, and streets without stroller-ready sidewalks. And, hopefully also you'll find yourself marching out to right the world. Mothers are a political force to be reckoned with. Welcome to our club. And you don't even have to leave your sleeping baby to make a difference. There are more than 900 mom community websites and countless other online communities that fight for causes. By becoming involved, you will become empowered as you begin to take the throne as the powerhouse of your home.

Speaking of power, I think that's the biggest transformation that a new mother makes -- from your lover's hotty princess to a fully developed queen. Mothers are the queens of their world. There's a saying in the South that sums up the power of motherhood: "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." You are now the emotional lightning rod and the gentle soothing wind to every other person in your nest. And this power can bring feelings of self-esteem unmatched by any paycheck. Mothers are the life force of a household, providing food, a comfortable shelter, and, when necessary, a gentle admonishing or a supportive cheer. Whether you work outside the home, from home, or on your home, you are the most valued member of the team.

You have proven yourself. You have the capacity to create human life within your womb and nurture it to greatness in your nest. And this is the thing child-free women will never know -- the secret confidence that comes from knowing you did something so magical. You created life and forever more, you will nurture life. Mothers are almost God-like in that way. And when you carry that force out into the world, you will be awed by the power you have to effect change everywhere. You are now a mother in the world. All hail before you.





next: Grandparents Driving You Crazy?
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
Leah September 21, 2009, 9:07 AM

As a child myself, I raised my two younger brothers. I was 7, my brother, S. was 2. My father was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and would leave us alone constantly.
2 years later, we moved in with my mother, and her new boyfriend. My mother got pregnant, had a son, and got hooked on pain pills. I ended up raising my youngest brother M., working a full time job, and still trying desperately to graduate High School. M would ask me for help with homework, he would crawl into bed with me if he had a bad dream. I cooked for my brothers, and made sure they were fed, clothed, homework was done, etc.
I was basically the mother. My mother, I guess, got sick of me caring for my brothers, and she kicked me out of the house a week after I graduated High School. From what I hear from S., things haven’t changed too much, except for me not being there.
I hate when friends of mine tell me that I can’t possibly understand what its like to raise kids. I may not understand what its like to phyiscally give birth to a child, and our situations were / are very different, but I do have an inkling of what it was like to raise a child.

Leah September 21, 2009, 9:11 AM

As a child myself, I raised my two younger brothers. I was 7, my brother, S. was 2. My father was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and would leave us alone constantly.
2 years later, we moved in with my mother, and her new boyfriend. My mother got pregnant, had a son, and got hooked on pain pills. I ended up raising my youngest brother M., working a full time job, and still trying desperately to graduate High School. M would ask me for help with homework, he would crawl into bed with me if he had a bad dream. I cooked for my brothers, and made sure they were fed, clothed, homework was done, etc.
I was basically the mother. My mother, I guess, got sick of me caring for my brothers, and she kicked me out of the house a week after I graduated High School. From what I hear from S., things haven’t changed too much, except for me not being there.
I hate when friends of mine tell me that I can’t possibly understand what its like to raise kids. I may not understand what its like to phyiscally give birth to a child, and our situations were / are very different, but I do have an inkling of what it was like to raise a child.

Anonymous September 21, 2009, 10:52 AM

Leah-You are right about not having given birth but you did raise your siblings, and iam sorry to hear how it happend. Hope you are at a strong place and doing better for yourself. My sister also raised us, my mother was to busy for with men and drinking so my sister took care of us the best she could. Eventually CPS came and took us away

Leah September 21, 2009, 8:52 PM

Anonymous- I’m sorry to hear about your situation, and hope that CPS helped you. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to have CPS help, and I like to think I turned out ok on my own.
I paid for college, worked 3 jobs to do so, and met the love of my life, my first week at school.
I unfortunately don’t speak to my mother very often, but my father went to rehab, and has been sober for 3 years. We’re closer now than ever.

Cat B September 21, 2009, 9:45 PM

I agree with this article 110%!! Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, as in Leah’s case, however 99% of the childless women I have met in my life just dont have a clue. For a long time I counted myself among those ignorant ones! Even after years and years of childcare, nothing ever adequately prepared me for becoming a mother… after 4 and a half years and 3 kids later, I’m still coping with my relatively ‘new’ status! Thanks so much for such a wonderful article!

Juliana September 22, 2009, 8:52 AM

So I guess since my children are adopted I don’t know what it really means to be a mom since I didn’t deal with hormones, PPD, and breastfeeding? Another us against them article.

Carrie September 22, 2009, 11:01 AM

This article is ridiculous! How dare you insinuate that I am any less of a woman than you are because I have chosen not to give my body and mind over completely to another person. And God-like?! Honey, ants and worms reproduce just as effectively as you do. I guess we should all be in reverence of them, too. And I don’t know what kind of superhero mom you were, but no mother I have ever met has displayed any new power to change the world. And I haven’t seen any new mothers who cope very well without sleep, either. And mom’s as a soothing wind to the household? Yeah right!

I am proud to be a childfree woman, committed to spending my free time improving this planet in whatever small way I can instead of contributing to the overpopulation of it.

TC September 22, 2009, 11:47 AM

So since I’ve done CPR and brought a child back to life I’m also god like? I am surprised that a Phd could be so full of bias lessening the value of people who choose to not have children. As someone who has been involved in healthcare for almost 30 years I am appalled at this bit of judgemental writing. How can one say that giving a life back isn’t as fulling a feeling as creating one? Has the author ever saved a life? Has the author ever rescued a child from abuse - saving the child from the parents? I have. Just because I chose not to have children does not make my feelings - or choices - less valid. And I will flat out state that saving that life - giving it back is every bit as valuable as starting one. And maybe that is something the author in her ivory tower will never know.

Denise September 23, 2009, 12:49 AM

Wow, what a disheartening article. You would think in 2009 women would be supporting other women, but as Juliana stated above ” Another us against them article”. As a stay at home wife I fall into this authors definition of a mother. She states “Mothers are the life force of a household, providing food, a comfortable shelter, and, when necessary, a gentle admonishing or a supportive cheer.” I provide all these things for my husband I just do not also have a three year old running sround. As a woman with uexplained infertility I am so tired of the “I am better than you” mentality just because “I” have given birth and breastfed, and raised a child. Get over yourself.

Marie September 23, 2009, 8:09 AM

Why are childless-by-choice people reading momlogic.com? Are you looking for a reason to be angry?

I read it more as a love letter to the experience of giving birth to and raising children. It excludes adoptive mothers, which is as natural and beautiful as any incarnation of motherhood. However, the author is writing about the changes she experienced after giving birth to children. She shouldn’t speak about the experience of adopting children, because she doesn’t know what it’s like to adopt. Adoptive parents feel and experience things that only other adoptive parents truly understand. She’s writing about something only fully understood by women who have given birth and are raising those children.

Respectfully she doesn’t presume to know about the experience of an adoptive mother or a birth mother who gives her child up for adoption or a sister who selflessly cares for her siblings or foster parents who take in children for short periods of time or stepparents or same sex parents etc. I’d be offended if she did.

Kat September 27, 2009, 2:43 PM

Many people have RSS feeds that aggregate childfree news stories.
Your “Don’t like it, go away” attitude is precisely what ticks off so many people.

Not to mention the infertile childless, who I surmise will be more saddened than angry. No woman/creature I have ever known has become ANY of these things, nor is pregnancy childbirth “magical” or “godlike”. I have BEEN pregnant, and didn’t feel a nurturing adoration. I felt a deep revulsion. And then I felt an abortion tube. And then I felt RELIEF. SWEET relief.

And funny enough my own mother didn’t morph into an oversensitive no-public-swearing/monster tank stroller battling MOM-BEAST when I was a kid. That’s a purely new invention.

I’m grateful one of the things I will never know is that sense of self-righteous SMUGNESS that the author shares with so many of her pregnoid child-worshipping sisters.

lilikindsli September 30, 2009, 10:25 PM

Qcz3G3 I want to say - thank you for this!

krys October 1, 2009, 7:08 AM

“Speaking of power, I think that’s the biggest transformation that a new mother makes — from your lover’s hotty princess to a fully developed queen.”

How was she a princess before she was a queen, when she, by her own definitions, was not qualified to be royalty until she started squeezing human lives out of her vagina? She was meerly an ingorant peon, like the rest of us childless folks, back in her supposed “hotty princess” days, no? Or, does this mean I’m a “hotty princess”? Mom logic fail.

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