The Birth of a Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience.


Comments: 294

  1. A good article that is largely undone by the photograph of the gorgeous, perfectly made up, serene mother and her perfect baby. Talk about unrealistic!

  2. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they were trying to portray the unrealistic "fantasy mommy" with that photo.

  3. Thanks, Stanley for your great point of view.

    as I went back to re-read this excellent article, I thought:

    ha, 'gorgeous, perfect mother .... '

    people say I'm beautiful. still @ 62 & looking back, I see I was a lovely child, beautiful bride, gorgeous mom.

    I'm calm, generous & helpful.

    appearances can be deceiving. one can appear attractive, serene, "perfect."

    I've was abused by parent, dismissed by relatives, ignored by clergy, bullied by teachers.
    teased by classmates, dismissed by doctors, leered @ by men, etc etc.
    raped, beaten, left for trash.
    but I'm still 'pretty'
    & sweet, kind, intelligent, patient & tolerant.

    LHW, Boston & all the *recommendations* agreeing with you: does my pretty face mean I shouldn't struggle, need help, or feel inadequate?

  4. Haha! It was a stock Getty image.

  5. The struggles and successes of motherhood are awesome responsibilities every mother knows, understands, and copes with everyday. Love, support and caring from husbands, partners, and other family members is helpful. However, confidence in oneself and the decisions made to raise and nurture children is paramount to good post birth mental health. Abject criticism by uninformed and insecure males is the prevelant cause for many forms of dysfunction during the entire time of raising children. Post-partum depression just compounds an already difficult situation. Patience, love, and caring should preoccupy every opinionated new father or partner. Unselfish love and genuine concern, goal oriented help and mutual caring for the stronger sex in these difficult time while motherly footing is being secured and learning what motherhood truely is would be helpful. However, untrained and ill informed men just do not understand. It's a shame. I for one have learned this lesson. My beautiful awesome wife and 3-times mother has shown me the light and with each birth and every day of her example, I have been taught what parenting really is. It is only due to her shining example that we are and have become the good parents we strive to be. I thank her for it and am proud of her every day example and patience with me for my deficiencies.

  6. I hear ya, but aren't you still perpetuating the myth of the perfect mother in your praise of your wife? She's human, you're human, let's just try our best without expecting any of us to be perfect. We're not perfect at anything else in our lives, why would be perfect as parents. It's unrealistic. Women/mothers aren't angels and husbands/fathers aren't goofballs. Most of us are just trying to do our best at a tough but rewarding job. Good enough really is good enough.

  7. I find this really touching. Sadly, my ex husband was not prepared to support me as I made the transition into motherhood. It was devastating to me that he wasn't there when I most needed him, and directly contributed to our divorce several years later. Being a mother is difficult, and the more loving support women can get from their partners the better.

  8. Motherhood, nowadays, is a lot harder than it used to be and much harder than it needs to be. It's very demanding and cut-throat competitive, little to no slack is given by the other women whether they have kids or not, and the standards are unrealistically high. Frankly, it's no wonder that so many young women are opting out. And yet, I have no regrets and would not trade my two kids or the time I spent raising them, for anything.

  9. Motherhood (parenthood) doesn't have to be "cut-throat competitive" if you don't buy into that and don't engage in the competition.

  10. Mary, no person is an island. Even if you are not an instigator, it is impossible not to be affected by the culture of parenting as a competition that predominates, at least in higher socioeconomic communities.

  11. Such an odd comment - that being a mother now is harder than it used to be. How can you know that? Were you there? I am 71 and the mother of five. When I had my first child 47 years ago, it was expected that I give up work (that I loved) outside the home. We had cloth diapers, a washing machine no dryer no microwave oven etc etc. Yet I had it easier than my mother had. She had no washing machine, no baby formula to fall back on - she HAD to produce breast milk. Neither of us had nommy & me groups to share our worries and insecurities, or gyms or personal trainers to get our figures back or husbands who would lend a hand or look after baby for a few hours so we could go shopping or just breathe! Most modern men are a little more enlightened! I don't think the emotional/physiological act of developing into a mother is any easier or harder from one generation to the next but I do think each generation has societal differences.

  12. Is this research focused on the immediately after birth period of motherhood? Anything on the later years? I didn't experience too many feelings of guilt and had an all-around fairly positive transition to my working mom identity with my babies ... but now that they're 5 and 7, I feel like I'm doing SUCH a rotten job as a parent. I "should" go on a school field trip, but, even if I could swing the time away from work, I confess I don't actually WANT to b/c they're behaving poorly and not treating me as I'd like them (and I don't think I'm unrealistic - realize it's still mostly about them at this age) to and if I could swing a day off I'd rather go do something for myself! So for me personally such an evolving experience ... regardless I like concept of this research, since it is indeed a new identity (and in general I feel lucky that it's fulfilled me in a way I never imagined).

  13. This is a great point. Our American school system seems predicated on the idea that there is a stay at home parent. The hours that school runs, the expectation for volunteering, etc.

  14. I hated volunteering so much that I got a job at my children's school--as a teacher.
    I felt that if I was going to be at the school that much, I was going to be paid. Plus I felt that much of the volunteering was unnecessary busywork; it drove me crazy.

  15. I was not cut out to be a "committee mom," although at a certain point I did interrupt my career to be a full-time caregiver to my children. Here's what I did:

    I decided I didn't want to be a freeloader, so whenever there was a group effort to do something I would at least contribute some money or some products, even if I didn't want to show up.

    Because I thought it would be special for the kids, I decided to be "class mom" for each child for one year of elementary school. That job involves more time in the classroom and on field trips with the kids and less time with the other moms, engaging in silly power struggles over stupid stuff.

  16. Three months into mom-hood and appreciated this article. The binary blissful or depressed and the ambivalence sections resonated most with me. Because I don't feel guilt about sending my kid to daycare and going back to work, for example, I've wondered if it's postpartum depression. And the back-and-forth is difficult: desperately wanting a break and then missing my baby as soon as he's asleep.

  17. Either your situation will improve, or you will grow used to it and take it more in stride. This stage is definitely not forever. (No, not at all. And if in fact you do become accustomed to it, don't worry, things will change and a new challenge--but also many new joys--will keep you on your toes.)

    Wishing your family all the best!

  18. Maggie--my first child was about 5 1/2 months old when my severe postpartum depression set in. I had feelings of guilt, extreme anxiety, and relief when I handed him off to my mother during her visits. I felt he'd be in much better hands with her.

    I went to my doctor after 2-3 very weird sleepless nights and 2 days with almost no eating and was put on an anti-depressant. I took the baby and went home to my mother. I stopped nursing and started the medication; I felt better within 24 hours. My doctor told me that nursing exacerbates depression and I was advised not to nurse with my second child (I did, but I knew the signs to look for so it wasn't a problem).

    It sounds like depression to me. There is help; go get it. It's brain chemistry, not a character flaw. I remember that feeling of wanting a break--an emotional break--and then not wanting it. I felt in limbo. Please don't suffer and definitely don't fear the medication. My son is now 21, a top student, happy and healthy. That he traded breastmilk for formula in his first year doesn't seem to have affected him at all. When your chemicals are balanced, everything will be different.

  19. What is so hard about having babies and young children (other than sleep deprivation) is the utter devotion we have to give to them after having mainly focused on caring for ourselves for so many years. It really does transform you, and change is hard.

    But I wouldn't trade my new mother self for anything in the world. The bonds that are so heavy and weigh me down by having to do so much for these precious little creatures -- they are the bonds that sustain me. It's like I had been looking for those connections my whole life before kids and didn't know I was missing them.

    I am not trying to gloss over parenting -- it is a dirty, guilty business, and you are constantly messing up and wondering if your kid is going to end up in counseling because you yelled at them too much, weren't strict enough, favored one child, drove them too hard, didn't push them hard enough, didn't see them enough, smothered them -- the list goes on. But it is still utterly wonderful. I think the focus on PPD and what happens immediately after childbirth is interesting and important -- but so much of that is hormonal and temporary. What happens after those early months and years is where motherhood changes you forever.

  20. I agree. Life is a messy business. You can be a wonderful parent, but still have a kid end up in therapy. Why? Cause life is hard and therapy is a means to cope/adjust/improvise in life given that it is hard. As such, therapy isn't necessarily a sign that a parent has failed -- though of course it could be if the parent was cruel, etc. -- just that the person can use help in learning ways/tools in making the best of life. In fact, you could argue that it is often precisely the difficult things that provides the opportunity for growth.

  21. Stanley, your comment brings tears to my eyes. Yes, life is messy, and therapy in no way makes the average parent or child a failure. We have a teen who ended up in therapy because he had trouble coping with anger and his feelings overall. A caring two-parent family, who supported and didn't push, loved but didn't smother, reached out and pulled back as our teen said he needed...and still, therapy. We all learned a good deal, and I highly recommend visiting a professional sooner rather than later. Our teen hasn't needed therapy for a year and is now thriving, and we've all moved on to our next chapter as a family. Motherhood was a life-altering experience, and I'll never be the person I was 17 years ago...and that's okay. I like the "new" me much more.

  22. Thank you Stanley for making a critical point. Even the most well loved and competent among us may need therapy at some point in our lives and it's time to quit the reflexive tendency to joke about people being in therapy because of their parents.

  23. I wish these studies and articles would not equate motherhood with biological motherhood only.
    Adoptive mothers may not have the pregnancy and childbirth physical experiences, but are equally transformed by the motherhood role.
    Please include adoptive parents in your studies!
    And what about the fatherhood role?

  24. Your concerns are of course valid, and those studies should take place too. But too many variables confounds and often weaken a study. So this would be a different model.

  25. No matter how old women get, they will still compare notes on obstetrics.

  26. It's our version of men talking about their war experiences, I think.

  27. I think more postpartum would admit to struggling if they were guaranteed beforehand that asking for help would not cause their babies to be taken away from them.

  28. (Mrs. Neal here.) I was absolutely undone by the fact that I couldn't do what I wanted after I had my first baby. I'm not saying "couldn't do what I wanted WHEN I wanted," I'm saying "couldn't do what I wanted." At all. I was not prepared for that. He was colicky and fussy and didn't sleep much. I called my job and asked to come back part time. Of course I felt bad, but I think this probably saved two lives. (He grew up to be a wonderful adult, for which I take very little credit.)

  29. Your comments bring to mind several stories, one of which was: A co-worker of mine took a week off to spend time with her two young children at home (I forget why). When I asked, upon her return, how her week was (assuming that it was wonderful), she answered very seriously: "I learned something very important. I learned that I do not pay my day care provider nearly enough." I LOVED her answer!

  30. As an ethnographer who spent six years in a rural West African village focusing on fertility work, including conception, birthing and breastfeeding, and as an advocate for better maternal and child health care, I've seen that women in Western cultures often suffer from an intractable loneliness when they enter the "mothering" era of their lives. There are just not enough people in a nuclear household to nurture the new mother as well as the baby.

    The pressure to do things "right," whether by giving birth by C-section or completely drug-free, by water-birth at home or in a birthing center with a doula, often robs women of the profound joy all births can bring when a beautiful healthy baby is born. The commodification of breast milk as the best nutritional product for the newborn ties too many women to a pump for too many hours per day, and fills them with the fear of failure. I say this as a home birth mother who loved nothing more than nursing my babies as long as they wanted.

    Women of all ages need each other tremendously throughout the life course, but the need feels most urgent when a new baby has either worked its way out of your own body or been placed in your arms without much warning. Mothers need mothers. Old mothers, young mothers, grandmothers. They need to tell their stories and to hear the stories that other women have lived. We need each other and until we learn how to give ourselves and to share our help, and our stories, motherhood will be lonely.

  31. I am a new mother. I don't need more help from old mothers, young mothers, or grandmothers. In fact, less "help" in the form of unsolicited advice and judgment would be a great improvement in current cultural standards towards new mothers. In addition, it would be nice if the idea that motherhood and babies=a constant state of bliss could go by the wayside. I find that if someone asks me how I am doing as a new mom, and I say something negative about motherhood, the response is almost unanimously, "Oh! But it's so worth it in the end." These mundane conversations have taught me that most people are not interested in how women experience motherhood; they simply want women to suck it up and raise the next generation while smiling the whole time and pretending everything is always hunky dory, when it's not.

    While I love my baby tremendously, motherhood is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, largely due to the lack of societal structural support, in the form of paid family leave, lack of affordable, high-quality day care, and lack of flextime at most workplaces. From a personal standpoint, motherhood has been hard because I have to work full time and I gave birth to the anti-sleeper (my baby is almost 18 months and I am lucky when she sleeps a four-hour block at a time.) The sleep deprivation has been brutal. I long for the day when our culture has honest conversations about the rewards and pitfalls of motherhood, but I doubt this will happen anytime soon.

  32. This culture--as with all things--makes it a competitive enterprise, literally and figuratively.

  33. I completely agree. I just gave birth (at Mount Sinai) 3 days ago and all the breastfeeding pamphlets felt like misleading propaganda. They said that breastfeeding is easier that formula feeding, it's cheaper (umm... a breast pump and lactation consultant are not free), less time consuming and so on. None of the benefits of formula feeding were mentioned (more rest for the mother, more involvement from the partner, less pressure when returning to work, etc.). It would be great to see less pressure on mothers for drug-free births, exclusive breast feeding at all cost, etc.

  34. That push/pull ambivalence is definitely real. I do find that I'm at my best as a mom when I've (a) had adequate "me" time away from my child, and (b) focused on being present during the time that I am with him. Usually I achieve a pretty decent balance. When I don't, I'm grumpy and desperate to escape, which isn't good for anyone.

    One of the best things I read before giving birth was a book about surviving post-partum depression. It emphasized the importance of having a block of uninterrupted sleep (particularly when depressed). One coping strategy it recommended was for the new mom to go to bed early and for the dad to take the first night feeding (by bottle), so that mom could get some uninterrupted sleep. While we didn't exactly follow that idea, it did cement in my mind the importance of looking after my own mental health.

  35. It took 35 years....but when my younger daughter became a mother and I watched her with my first grandchild - and she was breathtakingly amazing!!! - I wondered how on earth she knew how to be a mother - and then I thought, oh, duh...

  36. My mother was the Ur mother for me and my girl friends. Her mother was not like that for her, but she was to her grand daughters. She set the bench mark for my sister and me. If we came close, we were proud of ourselves. We still miss her; we still miss calling home whenever anything important happened, and my father would answer the phone with: "Betty, it's one of your girls."

  37. So wonderful to hear a mother praising her grown daughter's parenting. So often in these comment sections, it's just the opposite. Enjoy life with your lovely family.

  38. This article makes motherhood sound awful - ambivalence, post partum depression, etc. Seems like most mothers I talk to are a good deal more enthusiastic than the author.

  39. Women are usually franker with other women.

  40. Because most women lie about how they feel about motherhood to avoid societal shaming. Huge stigma attached to being perceived as an uncaring or "bad" mother.

  41. Even women who experience postpartum blues or depression, as I did with two out of my three, tend to put on a brave face with others.

  42. Puzzling author did not mention Postpartum Support International as it has been championing the same issues for over 30 years AND trying to do something about it. The strict medical model is valuable but not the only perspective. However it seems to rule in this article along with the psychiatric practitioners mentioned. http://www.postpartum.net/

  43. I think it's good to present realistic assessments of motherhood so that young women can make a more informed decision. Having a child changes you and your life, often in very undesirable ways. It changes your body, your hormones, the way you view yourself , the way you are viewed by others, your relationship with your significant other and with your family, work and friends. Women should think long and hard if they wish to take this life long path (because it is life long) and they shouldn't fall prey to some nebulous "hope" that it will be different for them or "magically" all work out since there is no going back. I'll add this is why no girl or woman should ever be compelled or coerced into motherhood.

  44. I could not have said it better.it changes so much, in beautiful but also very challenging ways.

  45. My life was transformed when I became a father. Something I still don’t really understand happened when my daughter was born and I started giving her those middle of the night feedings. And I mean this in a very complicated way. That’s when my experiences decades earlier during the war began returning—some strange sort of veil was ripped away. And that’s when I had to confront my legacy from my father, and decide that I couldn't raise my child the way he raised me.
    It would be great if you’d write a companion piece to this one, about the changes fatherhood brings, to at least some of us.

  46. Maybe for Father's Day. This one is clearly linked to Mother's Day.

  47. Mark, no one means to exclude fathers. My own husband happens to be a fantastic father. It's just that one article can't be about everything under the sun. You deserve your own article!

  48. Yes indeed! Surely, the info in this piece is good for all moms to know. However this article is written in a way that suggests there are no important bodily and/or emotional changes associated with becoming a father.

  49. I waited 8 years to have a second child. I was terrified to repeat my postpartum experience, so in an effort to change my own perception of self-worth, I applied to a Ph.D program during the last trimester of my second pregnancy. I was accepted only a few weeks after my daughter was born. The trick I played on myself worked. The overwhelming sense of being "just a mother" never pulled me under as it had the first time. Still, I'm 3 years into my program now and not a day goes by that I don't wonder if there might have been an easier way to slay that particular dragon....

  50. Not all women are cut out to be mothers. The best time to realize you aren't is before having kids.

    Whether you become a mother or not, societal honesty and education help with making wise decisions. Too many people enter into motherhood blind, with unrealistic expectations and without the practical and coping skills they'll need.

    It would also help if powerful organizations like the Catholic church would stop insisting that if you have sex, you must give birth. Over and over. The church also teaches that women and men must conform to traditional gender roles, with women primarily nurturing the children and men being the breadwinners. They call it "complementarity," and they say it's a matter of "natural law." But many people don't fit those stereotypes. They and their families live in misery because they try to force themselves to be what they aren't.

  51. Do an online search and you'll find information on the surprisingly high number of parents who regret having children. I am not one of them even though I experienced a longer than usual bout of post-parted depression and a high risk pregnancy.

    I also don't kid myself. know that without having the financial means to hire part-time help as needed, especially while I fought the depression ( which lasted a few months and was debilitating) I might feel very differently.

    And learning to parent is not always instinctive. Some babies are extraordinarily difficult. So are some children. And some parents never feel fulfilled by raising a child. They have children for the wrong reasons- perhapsbecause they are pressured by their parents or feel alienated as their peers have children.

    Parenthood can be extraordinarily rewarding for those who feel fulfilled by nurturing a baby and raising a child. Question is: how many parents can predict how they'll feel ahead of time?

  52. Thank you for this excellent comment.

    Parenthood is very hard and should not be undertaken because it's "the natural thing to do." Young people would be well advised to consider all aspects of what they want out of life before they decide whether or not to procreate. For not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their future children, should they decide to become parents.

  53. Moms are awesome. Period.

  54. some moms.

  55. I am a gay dad with twin sons, born through a process of IVF and surrogacy. I'm the primary nurturer as well as the primary breadwinner. You know, juggle, juggle, juggle. In my own world, a number of close friends and more distant relatives and acquaintances seem quite interested in my own journey into "matrescence" but I never see anything like it acknowledged in articles like this. While I accept that I belong to a tiny, tiny minority of parents, it still seems weird to me that articles like this equate "motherhood" with conventional biological motherhood, and define out of the equation everyone else: women who adopt, women who use donated eggs, women who use their own eggs but have a surrogate carrier, women who use donated eggs and a surrogate carrier, step-mothers, women with blended families, etc. And not to mention MEN. Who apparently have no emotional or physical involvement with raising children, and who apparently don't suffer from any of the constricted social roles and expectations that the article discusses regarding women. It's fine for scholars and journalists to write endlessly about the normal case (in a statistical sense, not normative in a moral or ethical sense) but it would nice if they were up front about the limitations of their vision.

  56. "but It's MOTHERS' DAY."

    Not for everybody! and who says so? Is this another religion to worship mothers?

  57. As a stepmother to a daughter I find this a little misguided. After years of working with teen moms who pretty much abandoned their kids and now with a child whose mother isn't in the picture much, I have a lot more respect for my husband. I didn't come along and just fully fill the role of mother to his daughter. He is still very much the primary parent and has done an amazing job. Her mother had bipolar disorder and is very unwilling to accept treatment. She was hospitalized shortly after giving birth and my husband had to be breadwinner and single parent for months. Even when mom was back in the picture she was never fully present. My stepdaughter is loved and wanted and well adjusted considering the circumstances and I thank my husband and his extended family for that.

  58. motherhood is not possible without a man, at least for a few moments-
    good article that read more about current research than the author's own perspective...

  59. Wow. This article really makes becoming a mom sound like no fun at all!! Weird. Most of the mums I know feel like they have grown emotionally and spiritually from the experience and are liking their new role, not plagued with the difficulties this article focuses on. I feel this article lacks balance and is overly negative and perhaps sensationalistic.

  60. Sorry Springtime, but the truth is most parents view their colicky infant as a person in need -a family member, no less - and not a burden. Parenthood is thrilling, if tiring, challenge to most - not a big letdown because it's "hard". Sad you would characterize it that way.

    People need to stop co-opting a genuine physical condition -post parting depression - to justify their negative portrayal of children as burdens. Humans have raised children forever: most still understand that the inconveniences come withthe territory. It's the ultimate entitlement to think otherwise.

  61. You are fortunate that for you--so far--motherhood is an experience you embrace with pleasure,and its hardships do not feel overwhelming.
    Are you familiar with the definition of privilege? It is thinking something is not a problem because it is not a problem *for you.*

  62. This comment and the responses below simply testify to the reality that there is an enormous range of responses to new parenthood. We should spend more time listening to each other and less time being offended by the particular focus of a particular article or the particular experience of a particular person.

  63. Thank you, Dr Sacks, for this lovely and nuanced article. Mothers need a lot of support. As someone who had 5 weeks of unpaid maternity leave X 2 with no support other than my husband, I am not surprised many women are opting out of motherhood. There is no village, just a pile of unrealistic expectations and harsh criticism waiting for mothers.

    We as a society have no love for children who require time, patience, and grace. On the whole, the public is far more moved by unfortunate pets than children- children are to be seen and not heard and any wrong they do is the fault of negligent and indulgent parenting. All this despite the fact that mothers nowadays engage in much more paid work outside the home AND spend more hours with children in the home. A mother simply cannot win.

  64. I opted out of motherhood many years ago. It seems to me that mothers must walk a thin line between taming children who are born adorable little savages and gaining their children's lifelong love. It can't be easy to frustrate a child's many selfish desires and behaviors while forming a loving bond with them. Many mothers, I know, are able to do this, but mine wasn't. Neither was my grandmother able to walk this line with my mother, nor was my grandmother's mother before her. I decided not to try because I didn't believe that I could succeed. Now, many years past menopause, I would make the same choice again.

  65. Todays mother, unless they have lots of help via money, they are working full days, come home then cook and clean, and take them to their soccer games, while he sits at home with a beer, or wine. He listens or watches sports most of the day, while claiming he has a lot of work to do. He is working from home, health insurance from his wife, yet does little to help his wife. Todays American women have it a lot harder. Most could not afford to stay at home, or do not want to stay at home, because it is so isolating. It truly is a mixed bag/burden for them in modern times. Kids themselves rather than playing outside with neighborhood kids, sit at home and watch, who knows what, on their iPhone or computer. What happened to the day when they, like us, played all over the neighborhood, inventing and organizing games. This seems even more prevalent in suburbs.

  66. Hey, if children were half as nice as dogs then maybe people would like them more...

  67. "also significant for fathers and partners, but women who go through the hormonal changes of pregnancy may have a specific neurobiological experience."

    Oh. neurobiology. could be interesting.

    Then.

    Psychoanalysis.

    Psychoanalysis.

    Psychoanalysis

    Psychoanalysis. And, don't forget

    Psychoanalysis. Why even bait the trap with neurobiology? I know. To sound S-c-i-e-n-t-i-f-i-c. Freud being so dead and pretty much useless. Jung about the same.

  68. "A woman’s fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood are informed by her observations of the experiences of her own mother and other female relatives and friends and her community and culture."

    the question remains as to why a woman would delude herself about pregnancy and motherhood, and why female relatives, especially, would propagate these myths. (male relatives too.) people should be able to learn from biases and mistakes of others.

    charles darwin might have an answer. instagram, probably not.

  69. The role of mother is one of the most important, if not the most important, role in society. But mothers are a silent majority in this country-too busy to comment here or demand attention because they are doing the work of family, heroically and with an embarrassing lack of public honor and support compared with other industrialized nations. Instead, we get to read ad nauseam about issues such as transgender bathrooms that affect relatively few people in this country. I am glad to see this piece in the Times and look forward to seeing more, especially those that highlight ways in which the government can truly support family values in ways other than dictating when a woman should give birth.

  70. I think we can think and talk about more than one issue at a time. It's not a zero-sum game.

  71. I think you misread my comment-I wasn't suggesting more articles on "motherhood" but on issues affecting families. How about the Times do a piece on Trumpcare and how it would affect prenatal, labor and delivery coverage? The overmedication of labor and deliveries by hospitals to make big bucks on every delivery? A corporate scorecard on maternity and paternity leave friendly companies? A follow up piece on NYC's recent initiative for government sponsored day care? The disturbing trend in pregnant women getting laid off (I believe that would count as a "women's rights" issue)? Vaccines-yay or nay?

    By the way, having left the practice of law to raise my child (and frankly, I feel that being a stay at home mom is far more challenging than law school or the worst days I've had as a litigator), I can sympathize with your comment about us mothers being paid "so much less." But why is that? And isn't that something you, as a mother, would want to know more about? I would imagine that even the staunchest feminist (I count myself as one), would be interested in seeing more support for all mothers-those who undertake the difficult task of juggling two jobs (attorney, mother) and those who devote their days to the job of mothering.

  72. Whoa! Respecting and caring for the needs of a transgendered person in no way draws attention away from motherhood. A transgender child at my son's high school comitted suicide. They had a mother too. Where is your compassion for your fellow human beings?

  73. Every mom I know, including myself, had a rough adjustment. Between the hormones, the sleep deprivation, the isolation from other adults, the challenges of breast feeding, and the fact that many newborns are really difficult (my son had colic for example), motherhood is not all beautiful bonding, sunshine, and roses. And the financial stress from taking 3 months unpaid on top of the changes in your relationship and self-image makes it even harder. It's a wonder more of us don't have postpardum depression. That all said, we do it again. And again. As rough as motherhood is, many of us have more than one child. Somehow, despite everything, kids are absolutely worth it.

  74. "... Kids are abosolutely worth it.

    AMEN!

  75. Being a mother is much more complicated today than it was when I had my first child thirty years ago. One of the biggest sources of support for mothers is community, and when one works full time, community is hard to come by. Identity is definitely shaped by how we ourselves were mothered, but our transformation to this new identity is helped if we believe in a firm and generous love that covers a multitude of problems. Being a good enough mother is a wonderful thing!

  76. I've been home for 5 months and at the library story hour, 90% of the caretakers are NOT mothers! It's hard for me to find community when I'm the only mom there.

  77. Anne, I remember being in your exact position when I was a young first-time mother in Manhattan. Once I made a play date with another mom I met through a program for two-year-olds. When my baby and I showed up, I found that I had been partnered with the non-English-speaking housekeeper -- the mom was out shopping!

    I had to make a real effort to find other moms in my "socioeconomic group" whose primary focus was the child. Once I found some, my loneliness lifted.

  78. As a new parent myself, why don't we all agree that being a parent is hard (period). Splitting the issue between mothers this and fathers that isn't helpful. Let's just decide that, as a society, we want to nurture and encourage the family unity. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also happens to be better for society in the long run.

    Ok great, problem solved.

  79. If you interpret me saying that it is unhelpful to split the issue as dismissing or discounting -- that's on you. Don't bring your insecurities to the party. Read it for what it is.

    Perhaps put another way, every parent, all of us, has our own host of struggles, hurdles, and difficulties to overcome. Some are biologically imposed, others are societal. Some are certainly weighted more than others. This is called life.

    But to distinguish 'our' struggles as more important than 'your' struggles is. not. helpful.

    This isn't a controversial point.

  80. It's really not that simple. There are many nuances to think about. And to discuss. For people who like to think and to discuss.

  81. How about if you just talk about your experience as a father?And your desire to see that families and the needs of mothers and fathers are supported. That would be helpful. Complaining about splitting misses the point all together.
    And maybe, if you want to grow, think about what women are experiencing and how you can support them.

  82. My children are in their mid-40's and when I read articles such as this, I'm astounded by what has changed. What you describe is nothing at all like I experienced, nor what my friends did.

    I can't help but think there are several things going on here. First, women are delaying marriage and children until their 30's - often late 30's. We all had our children in our mid-20's and that makes a huge difference. Most of us followed the old adage of live on one salary and save the other before children - that way we did not have to get used to downward mobility. Young people today have so much discretionary income; we had none.

    We also had huge support systems. If I was bored or tired, all I had to do was walk out my front door and there were other mothers out on the sidewalk or I could walk to their houses and we'd have a cup of tea and a bit of "adult" talk. If one of us was sick, the other took the children for a few hours.

    And finally, all this "perpetual adolescence" can't help but affect the way we approach motherhood. Adolescents make very poor mothers, regardless of their biological age! And motherhood fantasies are adolescent.

    I used to breed purebred dogs. We were very careful in choosing a brood bitch; could she get in whelp without medical intervention, could she give birth naturally, could she care for her own young? If the answer to any of these was "no", we did not breed her. Using this criteria, there would be few women having babies today.

  83. I think the reasons for this change are primarily socioeconomic. My mom had her first child at 25 and neither of my parents went to college. My dad worked blue collar jobs and my mom worked retail jobs, though she mostly stayed home when my siblings and I were young. They were able to live in a suburban home close to SF.
    I always wanted to have kids and I would have loved to have a baby at 25. I did not date one guy in my 20's who expressed even the remotest interest in having kids. Most of them said they were unsure if they wanted kids or they "might consider it" sometime in their 30's. In the SF area, "starter" homes go for 1-2 million. When I was in my 20's, most of my female friends wanted to have kids and most of them also had reluctant partners (or no partner). I didn't know anyone who could afford to have kids before age 30. Everyone had huge student loan debt, they were working entry-level jobs after college and struggling to pay rent. No one could afford childcare and they were lucky if they were in a one bedroom apartment. Many were in studio's or shared housing.

    I think I have more educational and work opportunities compared to my mom. But, I think it was much, much easier for my mom to "become a mother." I wish I could have become a mother at a younger age.

  84. My daughter are in their forties now. I had my first when I was 34 and the last when I was 40. I am now almost 82. My husband was there to help me even though his generation was not known to be helpers like I see my daughters' husbands are. I was blessed. I enjoyed pregnancy. Had little trouble delivering my babies using Lamaze. And had little difficulty after. I went to graduate school when my first daughter was 8 months old; took exams when I was pregnant with my second; and my orals pregnant with my third daughter.
    Took me awhile to write my dissertation though and earned my PhD when I was 44. Having an encouraging husband was the key. I was able to enjoy my daughters and my education which did not require that I had to be on campus except for classes. Are my daughters successful and happy. I think they are having made good marriages and having their own children as well as good careers. Do they now tell me what to do? You betcha! And I love them.

  85. you exaggerate. There are starter homes for half a million. That doesn't mean they're affordable. And the most difficult thing with motherhood in the last 20 years has in fact been the lack of maturity of the young men. There are so few men who want to be a father

  86. One can try to critique the author's lack of consideration for parents not bound to the conventional mother/father model, but let's be real, the biological and physiological changes a woman goes through to become a mother is uniquely that of a woman. The hormonal fluctuations, the engorged breasts, the post partum bleeding all while caring for a a newborn baby makes motherhood a surreal experience at times. Some things can't be compared to and the peripartum period is one of them.

  87. I agree completely.

    Mothers who give birth suffer so much for the first 6 weeks after the baby is born and it's rarely acknowledged.
    The engorged breasts, the bleeding, the excess weight from pregnancy, the stunning exhaustion (because you weren't getting much sleep in the weeks before the baby was born either), the healing from stitches (most women tear), milk pouring out of your breasts without warning or recourse, the awful soreness of beginning to breastfeed, and the hormones...all while caring for a newborn.

    Only women who have given birth experience this tsunami of biology that overtakes them. We don't love our babies more, but we've physically been through the wringer to get those babies.

  88. I am a successful mom. My adult kids talk about me all the time. To their therapists.

  89. That's an old Henny Youngman joke!

  90. How often have I told my three kids when they want to go over the same ground for the fifth or sixth or seventh time, "I've covered that as much as I'm going to. Save the rest of your thoughts for your therapist!")

  91. Thank you!

  92. What's moherhood?

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it
    was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ...

    Oh, wait a minute, I think Dickens already wrote that.

  93. The "preciousness" of motherhood is a recent phenomena and frankly I believe this kind of mother worship is detrimental to women. Please stop putting us on pedestals and telling us how "life changing" and "profound" motherhood is. These kinds of unreasonable expectations are why so many women my age are having these sorts of emotional and psychological breakdowns over the prospects and realities of motherhood.

  94. Finally, a sensible comment. I'm beyond tired of being told that motherhood is a transformative experience. For some, it surely is. For others of us, it really is just having a child. Yes, big life change for sure - but so was leaving home to go off to school, so was getting my first professional job, so was getting married, so was moving to a new city in my 30s, etc., etc.

    My husband frequently laments how motherhood but not fatherhood is seen as transformative. For him, fatherhood has been a major change in who he sees himself as, and he wishes there were more acknowledgement of this. For me, motherhood has not been this way. If only we could switch up the societal expectations for our respective roles!

    Yes, there's a lot of wretched physical awfulness I've had to go through that he didn't, and current medical technology doesn't have great solutions for us there. But if one of us had gone through some other significant physical ordeal (like a debilitating illness or major surgery), that ordeal likewise would not be considered to somehow make one of us meaningfully different from the other *as a person*.

    I'm quite done being put on a pedestal where people can stare at me and try to knock me off. I'll stay down here on solid ground with other boring plain old people, thanks.

  95. As a young mother myself I can absolutely relate to this article. My child just turned one and I am now beginning to feel human again. Our society is focused on prenatal care but little attention goes to the mother after child birth. The peaks and pits of hormones take an in-explainable, however, it is considered absolutely despicable to discuss thoughts of depression/anxiety. There is not enough support system to help a woman through the first one year.
    It's great that there is growing awareness on this subject but we a have long way to go.

  96. There is too much idealization of motherhood. I believe that is a major reason why many women experience postpartum depression or anxiety. Too many women go into pregnancy with ideal fantasies about how much they will love their baby and how wonderful things will be. Who can blame them? Society pushes this ideal onto women from the earliest days of their lives with baby dolls, princess stories focused on marriage and pressure to be caring and nurturing.

    When reality falls short of this fantasy, it's no surprise many women fall into depression and anxiety. Considering how little support most women in contemporary society have, no wonder so many struggle with the transition to motherhood.

    Personally, I was terrified of becoming a mother. I wanted children but would rather have been a 'father' who could offload all the biological cost onto someone else. I had no illusions that I would adore spending hours gazing into my baby's eyes. In the end, motherhood was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed taking care of my two babies more than I expected. It was exhausting and isolating too but I had expected it to be so I just grit my teeth and got through it. Fortunately postnatal hormones happened to work in my favor and I never suffered with my mental health either.

  97. Your comment "blames the victim." Postpartum depression is a physiological condition in response to hormonal and neurochemical alterations in the mother's body. "Idealizations" and "fantasies" have nothing to do with it.

  98. When my only son was born, in the '60s, I was attended by a male physician whom I'd never met (my obstetrician was unavailable). After the birth, I was overwhelmed precisely by my change of identity, and I burst out, "I'm a mother."
    The doctor rather scornfully reprimanded: "Just giving birth doesn't make you a mother." Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to respond to his hurtful comment with "Well, you certainly will never be a mother." I am glad Dr. Sacks is exploring becoming a mother more sensitively.

  99. As someone who has counseled new mothers about breastfeeding, I tell all new moms to expect to never feel like you are doing it right or are good enough. Self doubt is just part of the package and separate from post-partum depression, I wish I knew which hormones were responsible.

  100. "Hormones" is an odd way to spell "cultural baggage."

    Hormones don't create guilt and self-doubt; those emotions require the keenly-felt judgment of other people.

  101. I can speak for a segment of the child-free populous when I say we're tired of hearing about exhausting parenthood. Did you not know babies cry and get colic and bodies hurt during childbirth? And so on and so on and so on. No support? Come to my office on any given afternoon. Gaggles of thirtysomethings discuss the challenges of parenthood all day long. I doubt this is unique to my place of work.
    Talk about special interest groups. Every aspect of society is geared toward families and children. The article claims that matresence is little explored; I find that hard to believe. Maybe its ubiquity makes it seem so.

  102. "Every aspect of society"??

  103. Your comment is offensive. Honestly, only when you actually have a child can you truly know how little of society is actually geared towards supporting mothers and families. People who have children also think, contrary to your insulting statements; if we didn't, the world would collapse under the weight of so many sanctimonious childless single people who think that not having children—with a growing population of seniors and a shrinking one of children—is actually doing some kind of public service.

    Grow up and get over yourself.

  104. Those gaggles of 30 somethings find their support in the workplace, while their child is being cared for for the vast majority of her waking hours by a minimum wage worker who really, truly has no support. If only we had anywhere near the humane support offered in other wealthy countries-paid maternity leave, single payer health plans shortciruiting the obscene corporate healthcare profits.....
    Mothers who are not in the workforce often find themselves a member of a tiny minority, since the financial sacrifices are huge and scary for all but the 1%. Most 20 somethings find their social life at work, so if they take time off to raise their own children, they lose they lose their normal social interactions. Then, to make matters worse, they are sneered at by the career first types and the media. Stuff about living in the 50's, or "I could never take care of my own baby because I am intelligent".

  105. Thank you to the NYT for another important article on the psychological life of mothers. We must give a nod to Dr. Raphael. She coined the term “matrescence” in “Becoming a Mother, a New‑Old Rite de Passage” (1976), and by doing so gave us the word to imagine a new, unexplored territory. Motherhood, like adolescence, is a stage of human physical, psychological, social, and spiritual development. Unfortunately, women’s experiences of this transition remain one of most under-developed areas of scholarship and training. Each year I revive “matrescence” in my classroom to awaken students and enlarge their scope of understanding from a simple focus on the child. Mothers may form the cornerstone of our most precious theories, yet the process of becoming a mother has not been examined sufficiently despite the fact that we all, every living being, is brought forth by one. There also remains a stronghold of maternal psychopathology and crisis as the core area of interest, with fewer formulations mapping out both the costs and benefits of the psychological work that is undergone. Understanding the birth of a mother can hopefully allow a more wholistic view of this adaptation and with it new fields of study can be born. The creation of more research laboratories and coursework such as my own on Maternal Psychology and Reproductive Mental Health and Wellbeing, while at their infancy, can help the next generation of scholars and practitioners to get started.

  106. As a woman who has fostered 3 babies (who all were reunified with family) and is now 7 months pregnant with my first biological child, I think motherhood is what you make it. I felt like a mother when I fostered, and love those children dearly. I consider this new baby to be my 4th child, not my first. Yes, hormones are powerful. But the parental instinct is also powerful. Every parent struggles, but half the battle is making sure you use/build/develop your support network. Whether that's ice cream with a friend who's also in the trenches of parenting or a good therapist (or both).

  107. While this article is well-intentioned, it's misleading to quote psychoanalysts as the primary sources of information about the psychology of motherhood. There are scientists conducting great research on the psychology of pregnancy and early motherhood, and there is a large and useful literature on the experience of postpartum depression. Psychoanalysis is not based in scientific research and shouldn't be relied on for scientific insights. This article should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.

  108. Excellent point about psychoanalysis being more theory than fact, but as long as you are in favor of science, bear in mind that a grain of salt cannot be large or small: a grain is definite measure of weight; a grain of salt was a recommended additional ingredient to questionable concoctions.

  109. Sarah. Do you disagree though with the points the article makes quoting psychoanalysis? Or is it just that you felt you wanted to make a general point about psychoanalysis? She talks about ambivalence, the development of the "good enough mother", the influence of our own experiences with our mothers on how we parent... there is plenty of writing & thinking on these topics, and psychoanalysis has brought wonderful contributions to the field. There is nothing in my view in what you quote as the "scientific research" that has come close (or has even challenged for that matter) the work of, say Winnicott or Daniel Stern.

  110. Keep in mind that many people affiliated with psychoanalytic institutes are very eclectic in approach today. There are very few "Strict Freudians" left.

  111. Right up front: I appreciate and deeply respect the experiences of the many caregivers discussing this topic. There are many ways to be maternal (and parental).
    However, the process of becoming a biological mother is more than a neat package of anatomical and psychological descriptors.

    My daughter (my third child) lived for just three hours after her birth. But for the following 12-18 months, my body wasn't part of that reality. On what felt like a cellular level, my body needed to be next to her, to touch her, to feed her, to nurture her...because the biological process of gestation had made her as much a part of my own physical self as she had been in utero. No amount of talk therapy or 'getting on with life' could change that.

    It is this monumental - and irreducible - fact that sets 'bio-moms' apart from other superbly qualified parents.

  112. Thank you.

  113. I am so sorry for your loss.

  114. I felt the same connection w/ my adopted daughter even though she wasn't in utero. bio moms are no different. we all cry the same and all women experience biological changes with motherhood. I am sorry for your loss, deeply so, but I find your attitude offensive.

  115. Is it possible for an article to be written about mothers without fathers finding it exclusionary? My husband is an awesome father, and we shared many of the same experiences in becoming new parents, but some things I dealt with alone. The change in my body is nothing less than catastrophic. I don't recognize myself and will never feel the same again. He helped me whenever he could through my pregnancy of course, but no matter what, I'm the one who gained 50 lbs, who couldn't breathe, whose skin became unbearably itchy due to a condition related only to pregnancy, whose veins turned purple, who had emergency (and for the second child, planned) c sections, which is major, painful surgery, who spent weeks recovering from that surgery, who cried when she was sad or overwhelmed but also when she was happy, or or hungry, or dropped a tissue, or when her husband said: "I love you" even as he stared helplessly at his weepy wife. We are on this journey together now, but the beginnings of it were very different for each of us and that's that. I don't get upset when I read articles about issues unique to men or fathers; it seems to me women might be allowed an article or even (gasp) a blog or two to discuss what motherhood has been like for them without having to placate male readers.

  116. I don't think you are cold for suggesting people consider adoption; I would say the opposite, actually. I agree more people should do it. Although if you are going to say people should do it, then you should say it should be an easier and less expensive, process. The people I know who have adopted have had to spend many thousands of dollars to do so. I could never have afforded it. You are, however, guilty of making assumptions, since you are unaware of the reasons why or circumstances under which I had that second baby. Suffice it to say we had not planned to have another baby at all, but nature had a different plan, and so I rolled with it.

  117. Thanks for your response and sharing your story.

    However I'm still baffled at the comment (which is not uncommon) about the "expense" of adoption. The children who are most in need of a stable and permanent home are those in foster care. Hardly the expensive undertaking that most people use as a reason not to adopt.

  118. You're right about that.

  119. Immediately upon seeing my first child, I felt "meh." I felt nothing, and I certainly didn't think he was adorable.
    I confessed to the nurse that I was feeling very disengaged. She told me, "It's the drugs. You had a long, rough labor; you've had alot of drugs." She got me up, walked me to the bathroom and told me the walking would clear my head. I felt very glum, like the past 40 weeks had been alot of worry and preparation for nothing. Plus, my body was a gross wreck and I'd had no sleep for 24 hours. I thought, "what have I done?"

    About an hour later, they brought my son back to me; he'd had a bath. I literally gasped because he was so cute. I said, "I don't think this is my baby; my baby wasn't this cute." The staff went into a frenzy checking his and my wrist bands. One nurse said, "He has to be yours. He's the only boy that's been born in the last 12 hours. He's the only boy in the nursery!"

    At that moment, I felt like I had won life's lottery. THIS baby was mine? That's when I became a mother. 21 years later, I still love that little guy and the baby sister who came along a few years later. That feeling is why so many women keep having babies. It's nothing short of miraculous.

  120. I love this. "That can't possible be my baby. My baby isn't this cute." I nearly spit out my coffee laughing. Thank you!

  121. I had a similar feeling. My little dude was NOT cute when he came out -- he looked like a schrivelled old man. But now he's the cutest thing on the planet.

  122. Becoming a mother is a biological process, the union of egg and sperm. Once that happens, there are no further choices. Biologically, you are a mother.

    From there on, everything is biology. As with butterflies, prairie dogs, and female whales, biology proceeds willy-nilly. You carry out your biological role. No choices or sentience are involved. It's a biological process that proceeds as it has for millions and millions of years. It's not worth discussing.

  123. "you carry out your biological role". What about those men who raise their children due to the absence of the child's mother? Your attitude is disturbing!

  124. Fear not, readers. Mr. Ribes is a coroner.

  125. Ha, ha! That's a hilarious comment from a doctor to boot! Sorry for him that he is missing the point, not just of the article, but of the fascinating connections between biology and lived experience that creates meaning for people.

  126. Excellent article.

  127. I moved to Austria from NYC and had babies late after a successful career, at 38 and 40. Since mothers here are paid to stay home for a period of 2 years I had the opportunity to breastfeed for a 2 years and enjoy being a mother. Both of them are in university now and I had many adjustments to make coming to a new country before becoming a mother.
    My husband was totally involved naturally and is a wonderful father. Even now, the fact that these two wonderful women shared my body for 9 months fills me with wonder! I can hardly grasp the intensity of that miracle. When I'm able to observe the joy and love my daughters bring to other people there's a glow inside me like no other.
    I've done many things in life that give me both pride and pleasure, especially my career, and many things I've done here in Austria but none of them can match the ways of enrichment given to me as a mother. My kids were the best teachers I ever had and living their childhood was really the best experience since I had a difficult one. It really helped me heal in being the mother I had always wanted. Having a family wasn't high on my list in NYC, something totally unexpected without having the right partner, so when I did it changed the course of my life. I know now I will never do anything as important as raising two human beings in life and watching them flourish. When I happen to look at their childhood pictures there's a love in me that explodes in every frame. I miss that time! JOY!!!!

  128. Beautifully stated and I agree !

  129. This makes me want to move to Australia almost as much as the presidential election did.

  130. This encapsulates my experience perfectly. My mother died when I was in my early teens and my teenage years were quite awful. But I was fortunate to be able to somehow mother my children well, and now in their forties, they are two excellent human beings. The joy that it gives me to look at their pictures as children also explodes in me as I watch them in vivo as caring citizens of the world and extraordinary parents to my four wonderful grandchildren, who are another source of joy.

  131. When I was first married , all I heard about was how wonderful it was to be pregnant - the glow , the warm feeling inside .,
    Then I got pregnant . I kept waiting for the " glow " but it never came for either of my children . All I felt was nauseous , tired and uncomfortable . That was bad enough but thinking there was something wrong with me because I hated being pregnant , just made me feel worse .
    On the contrary , however , after I went through the childbirth , having my children and caring for them was so tender and sweet .
    I have two grown sons 20 and 24 and I wish I had more . They're my greatest joy and being a divorced single woman you can never have too many kids around when you need help or just company . The more you have , the more the likelihood of at least one choosing to live near you where they grew up .
    I never understood my mother's sadness when I told her we were moving from LI to New Jersey . Now I know . I understand .

  132. This article strikes me as being still oriented toward seeing women as patients who have problems that must be dealt with by professionals. Pregnancy and birth are not universal female experiences, but they are significant and deeply meaningful human experiences.
    I remember saying to my husband as we walked into the hospital for me to deliver my third child that my current experience really made nonsense of the familiar view of human beings as "individuals." I was sharing my body with another being, not quite yet an "individual" itself. The feeling of connection was profound and extended far beyond that moment in my pregnancy. It has affected my life.
    I have read that anthropologists have found very few rituals associated with birth in any society (except the couvade, when the husband pretends to be pregnant!) Maybe we ought to start a few of our own. Birth is a serious and important human event. It deserves respect and attention, as a profound human experience.

  133. but children are individuals.as a mammal you are just the sex that was given the biological makeup as the vessel for carrying life. as a human with emotions, a brain and hormones and your own expectations as to what being a mother is you are putting your own needs onto the individual you birthed. so are you saying that your husband can't be as connected or a person who adopts because they didn't carry the child? I find this a very selfish outlook.

  134. Yes, and it's fun! -something this article totally leaves out. Becoming a new parent is a fun, hilarious, tiring, bonding experience. Sure it's hard not to sleep for a few months but in the big picture, so what?

    This article really exaggerated the negatives without any discussion of the positives this life experience brings. Worst of all, the psychoanalysts bring no insight into the genuine phenomenon of post partum depression; rather they co-opt it to oversell a cultural angst that doesn't represent most families. It's Betty Friedan all over again. Feh.

  135. I find the entire do-over segment disturbing. Children are not better versions of oneself. They are individuals. There is this cult of motherhood today that just did not seem to exist in the previous decades. So much so, that the adult relationships today take a back seat and they just never seem to let their now adult children leave home figuratively and sometimes literally.

  136. My mother hadn't been a "good mother". When my brother and I were still young, She had a terrible temper. We had been punished too much. I cannot count how many times I wished I could have had a "good mother".
    Now, I know my mother also tried to deal with her anxiety, stress, pressure and everything in her parenting. I know there's no perfect mother all over the world. Every mother struggles, and some of them can overcome the challenges successfully, while others (like my mother) cannot. All mothers, all children have to know that.

  137. True. But who will tell the children such as ourselves, of incapable mothers? Our therapists 30 years later? Hmmm...

  138. The subject of "good mothering" is so important, but rarely discussed. It is twisted and needs to be brought to the light of day. Why isn't it discussed?? Because women feel such guilt and society dumps ever more burden and guilt on them. And society, frankly, does not give us much to work with---it is an unfair burden. Mothers are blamed for society's failure to support and protect child rearing. Who pays the bills???

    "Incapable mothers" is a difficult term to process. what does it really mean? Kids giving birth to kids? Women who have been hurt, then hurting their own children---either deliberately or unintentionally? Abused then abusing.

    We are humans and generally we do what we think is best---we are loving beings. But capable and affectionate child rearing is impossible when one is economically/socially injured or abused.

    Forget therapists...think about the real world and tell politicians today that moms need help and get your foot off our face. Profiteering corporations need to have their feet to the fire: Monsanto, McDonalds, Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.

    Frankly, as I think about it, "Mothers Day" is part of the system of overburdening mothers. We are not saints...Do not "celebrate" us 1 day a year, and then crap on us for the remaining century. We are and give birth to..HUMANS. Moms and kids are NOT a burden---we are the most important investment any society can have. Try it without us.

  139. I appreciate that this article is about becoming a mother through pregnancy, but I came into this journey through adoption, and I can assure you that all the feelings of fantasy, ambivalence, guilt, shame, etc. are all very present. I identified with everything that was described in this article except for the pregnancy and birth itself. I am now 32 weeks pregnant with my second child which will be my first birth. If there is some further transition of "matrinesencr" that I am supposed to be feeling, I am certainly not feeling it yet. I am as consumed as ever with my now 2 1/2 year old daughter. If all goes well, I will ecperience childbirth soon. But it was 2 1/2 years ago when my beautiful baby girl first came into my life that I became a mother.

  140. Thank you so much for your comment t. It means the world to me, just as does my daughter. I did not give birth to her, but as you eloquently stated, Went through all of the emotions that seem to be associayef with being pregnant and giving birth. I did love the article though

  141. Thank you. My daughter is pregnant with her second child, first biological, but she became a mother when their foster son entered their life almost a year ago. His adoption will be finalized in a matter of weeks, and then his brother will arrive 2 months later.

  142. This might be a little off-topic, or not. I would like to read more about freaky permanent changes to a woman's body that don't get publicized. For example, I never had seasonal allergies until after giving birth, and then I did. Maybe it's a coincidence, but my child also has seasonal allergies and I am wondering if they got transmitted to me from the child in my womb. Annoying. Also, toward the end of gestation, something happens that loosens your joints (in preparation for the baby to squeeze out of the pelvis). After the birth, I couldn't pop my fingers or my neck anymore. Annoying.

  143. I had permanent joint changes also. Especially larger, looser knuckles in my hands and toes. Also, I developed TMZ in my jaw joint.

    In addition, for some reason I developed an intolerance for raw onions with my first pregnancy that has never gone away. They make my stomach hurt. I had always enjoyed them in burgers and salads previously. Go figure.

  144. KT --

    The body does change, but I can't agree with you that it inevitably goes "southerly." I was pleasantly surprised that my body didn't look worse six months after each baby than it had before. (And I am no gym rat -- The only exercise I get is walking my dogs.) No stretch marks either, even though I gained 80 pounds with my middle child (106 pounds up to 186 pounds on delivery day). Full vaginal recoveries also – – did the episiotomies I insisted on help there? I will never know. This is just to say that there is a wide range of outcomes. Young women approaching a first pregnancy should not assume that their body will be unrecognizable afterward. (Their lives, however, will be!)

  145. Linda, You are blessed with genetics. Good for you!
    The majority of us don't have pert or tight anything after childbirth.

  146. To all the mommies: "Iis with such profound love, humility and honor, that is bestowed onto a human, a woman, now a mother.
    This is one of the most beautiful things,
    But I need to be able to financially, emotionally support each of their dreams.
    If I die, before I can do as I say,
    Let me have made, the best choices today.
    She will carry herself with shedding many tears, yet, now she is filled with the strength, that will make a even a ferocious lion fear.
    Determined, relentless, forgiving, is she,
    that once past tense, timid woman, I am describing is me.
    The sleeping girl who once quivered, yet, stood, has now been gifted the tools to stand, and be the best thing she could."

  147. "Standards for good mothering have been raised so ridiculously high you might as well commit to joining a Buddhist monastery.''-Katha Pollitt in The Nation.

  148. Ditto, Amen and Yay to the comment by Patricia from New York and others who correctly assert that we have explored, dissected, and analyzed the topic of motherhood from one end of the anatomy to the other! Ad nauseum, For ages! This article reads like a treatise from the 1950s, with the requisite "quadrant analysis" of a researcher gunning for a consulting gig. One more article enabling women who have children (2, 3, 5!) and yet still want the high-powered job, corner office, hot body, amazing orgasms, etc. to whine about how motherhood interferes with all of that. You know what? How about don't do it! Maybe you just can't handle the having it all. Those of us who made the hard choice NOT to have children wouldn't have to cover for you when you have to leave work early (or be absent, or be on the phone, or etc.) to be a mom. How many times do we have to attend your meetings, deal with the client crises, and put up with your paranoia that your husband might be having an affair at work since you are SO stressed as Mommy? Give me a break.

  149. If you have a heart somewhere, please read the apt response to you by LAK Verginia below, and take it to your heart. Compassion is a great thing to cultivate for all beings, parents and non - parents alike.

  150. So Hastings: who gets to decide what are the 'unimportant reasons ' ???

  151. LAK, I've never ever heard a breeder advocate for more perks & empathy for we childfree who already disproportionately pay for so many of the entitlements awarded to parents.

    You are reaping what you have sown. We who are concerned about the planet and our own vakues are fed up with supporting your lifestyle dreams. Don't think it's going to get any easier to be a breeder. The backlash is gaining momentum.

  152. Makes me think of a book I read. "Mother Leads Best" by Moe Grzelakowski, ISBN 0-7931-9518-7. Addresses the changes that motherhood brings on in the context of the careers of high achieving women.

  153. 25 1/2 when I had my son. I was thrilled and felt undeserving of this miraculous gift.

    I also was psycho. I only trusted my Mother to touch and hold him. I would feel the sweats start when his Father, who had more experience with babies, held him. I knew enough to keep quiet about these intrusive thoughts.

    Hormones...insecurity...blood loss...who knows. They morphed into me striving to be a super Mom, over-protective but adoring. I was firmly convinced that I would die if anything happened to him. Poor child, what a weight to carry. Not that I'be ever told him or anyone about these psycho feelings...but they bleed through.

    In case you think I cause irreparabe psychological damage to my beloved child...you have to ask him. He says I was over-protective...I say I got him to 34 years of age, college educated with a good job and a wedding 1 month away.

    Yes, I probably could have used a little zantax maybe more than a little but he and his brother know I would die for them and I love them completely.

    2 kids before 29, full time job, who wouldn't be a little anxious...well, that's my excuse.

  154. When you say that you'd have to ask your son if you did psychological damage to him you're leaving out the parent who you said you didn't trust to touch him.

    Did your son's father every step back from care of his son when your intrusive thoughts "bled through"?

    You say "I got him to 34 years of age, college educated with a good job and wedding 1 month away" but did you do this? Did his Dad do this? Did he do this himself with help from BOTH his parents?

    Is your son going into his marriage with the notion that raising children is primarily woman's work because of what you modeled at home as he was growing up?

    If your son's relationship with his dad was impacted by your lack of trust in his care, harm was done

  155. I thought I was prepared for motherhood - I've got 6 nieces and nephews, I read ALL the books, I had friends that were Moms and yet after my son was born I was taken completely by surprise. We can be as intellectual as we want, but a newborn brings it all back to biological basics.

    I'm lucky. I had my baby in Germany. I had a very difficult time with the birth but this was tempered by the fact that I had an amazing suite of doctors, midwifes and nurses, who all worked together and placed just as much importance on the well-being of the mother as they did the baby. In Germany, every woman has the right to a midwife WHO VISITS YOU AT HOME for weeks afterward (fully paid by insurance). With all my reading, I regardless had a million questions and she was there to answer them and check on the progress of my baby. Nobody in Germany expects that mothers are superheroes. Most take a year off, and get supplemental money from the state. I used to snigger a bit at this. Then I had a baby. 12 weeks postpartum came and when I pictured having to leave him in day care, the tears streamed down my face. I was lucky, as I worked part-time from home and hired a nanny for 10 euros/hr to help me. When he was screaming and I knew there was nothing I could do, I did not feel guilty handing him over to her for a much needed mental break. My grandmother said, a good mother is always a little bit selfish. The US needs to support parents far more than they do- children are our collective future.

  156. We need more of this type of nuanced examinations concerning FATHERHOOD.

  157. I get that this is focused on the impact of pregnancy and birth for the woman. Motherhood, as is stated, is a sea-change in personal development. But so, too, is Fatherhood for all males equally vested in the security and development of their progeny. Male, Female, Yin, Yang, both are changed by their creation, the child. And both, together, can provide the best face forward in securing the future of that child.

    John~
    American Net'Zen

  158. Becoming a mother through adoption is transformative, too, and this article ought to have at least mentioned it, because the adjustment "post-partum/ante-bonding" issues are similar, yet greatly compounded by society's view that adoption is "not as good" as "the real thing." Adoptive moms can be deeply depressed because grief over infertility traumas linger and the stresses of the adoption process are intense, because of the repressed guilt of having the privilege to take and love someone else's child, the huge responsibility to give that child "a better life," the feeling that other people--especially biological moms!--are watching you and your children especially closely, waiting to prove that "biological is better" when you or the kids may falter in any public way (tantrums, school problems, troubles with authority, etc., that bio-kids struggle with as well), and because, in the case of transnational/transracial adoptions, people still don't believe loving a child who looks "so different" could possibly ever work. I commend the author for emphasizing that the transition to motherhood is psychologically very difficult for many women, even though they want with all their hearts to be a "good mother." Yet by not mentioning adoptive moms, she perpetuates society's view that they are somehow unreal, unnatural, less fit beings. Adoptive moms are working doubly hard--to become the mother they've always wanted to be, and to be the mother the child's bio-mother could not be.

  159. Adoptive mothering is both the same as and different from biological mothering. Adoptive mothering deserves its own in-depth treatment, don't you think?

  160. Your comments are predominately a projection of how you feel you are perceived.

  161. Two comments. One, this article is about biological birth. Two, no biological mother is watching you and trying to prove anything to you. That is a product of your own insecurity, and your inability to realize you are not the center of the universe. We are too busy with our own kid(s) to worry about yours! Let it go, and your life will be so much less stressful.

  162. Two points; I hope that no-one confuses postpartum depression with postpartum psychosis. Secondly, both conditions appear to be associated with hormonal changes. This article refers often to analytical interpretation. Medications may be most immediately effective. I met Dr Winnicott, by the way. He was a sensible and sensitive person and a realist.

  163. I have a picture of my wife holding our first baby in her arms. My daughter is bright-eyed and beautiful as is my wife. She glows from within as she holds our child. It's this photo that captured for me the final step in the transition of my girlfriend, to my wife, to the doting mother of my children.

    She nailed it. I am truly blessed.

  164. After my experiences of being a mother I have come to think of the service of bearing and raising a child or children as parallel to and as essentially necessary as military service. For some, military service is a rewarding total commitment, well supported by family and society, valed. For others in military service, the role is a poor fit, results in disruption of a more desired life path, leaves life-long difficulties or takes life. Veterans of military service are often honored, provided with benefits and labeled heroes for their sacrifice. I see many parallels with motherhood, but without the parallel supports.

  165. Good grief. Having children is not a necessary service for the greater good. I can't tell you how many times I have wished my parents had opted not to have me.

    We need greater support like paid family and medical leave period so that others suffering from chronic illness can take time off to get better take care of themselves and other sick family members (not just infants). Universal day care and preschool are also needed so that all children can have a fair start.

  166. Yes to all of this. As a family doctor caring for babies and mamas, I have over and over again felt frustrated with the sort of support we provide for this transition into motherhood. So, this past year I have created a new model of care embracing the family and the mother-newborn unit . How we hold and support women during this time is very fundamental and important.

  167. "Of course, this transition is also significant for fathers and partners, but women who go through the hormonal changes of pregnancy may have a specific neurobiological experience."

    "Genders are the same," shout the feminists, unless we are talking about women and special needs," they whisper.

    We would never dare say that men's health needs requires special attention.

    That is why we have this feminist toxicity:

    http://womenshealth.gov vs http://menshealth.gov
    http://girlshealth.gov vs http://boyshealth.gov

    And seven national agencies for the health of wome and NONE for men.

  168. Your pseudo-citation does not aptly encompass all feminists.

  169. It has been vastly documented that much more money and research are devoted to men's health issues. The entire medical field is one giant case of men's health issues getting special attention. Note the ratio of men (13) to women (0) on the Senate committee working on the destruction of access to health insurance.

  170. What happens to create such an obsession?

  171. I regret that the marvelous book by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, THE MOTHER DANCE: How Children Change Your Life, was not cited. With great humor and wisdom, Lerner covers a lot of this territory throughout babyhood to adolescence. http://tinyurl.com/k5rg4ad

    Also, we need to remember that that Trumpcare 2.0 in its present form penalizes motherhood, fatherhood and babies, currently creating lots of extra anxiety for families & complicating an already difficult process. Poverty, unemployment, housing and stress all complicate these challenges.

  172. wonderful article.. thanks

  173. I had the incredibly sad experience of loosing my daughter in a premature birth. Later I adopted two healthy infants. My experience of pregnancy and birth was profound, and completely changed me in complex psychological ways. I believe I understood for the first time that we are mammals, and as such, I felt a connection to other animals in an earthy, organic way. I came to know what it is like to hear a baby cry and have an autonomic physiological response of producing milk. This helped me understand the experience of the birth mothers who gave birth and chose to place their infants with me. Although my experience of the joys and trials of motherhood were similar to what is described in the article, I do think that the physiological experience of pregnancy and birth are specially unique, involving one's own body and self.

  174. Becoming a mother was the most transforming thing in my life. It made me, a party girl, a smoker and drinker, into a person with a mission - raise my son the best way I could. I read all child-rearing books I could find, I breastfed my baby until, close to him being one year-old, he refuse to take my breast anymore. He was too busy to do so. He was an easy baby and an amazing young kid and then a lovely youth.
    My husband and I raised him (who will be 42 years old this month) with immense love. We encouraged him to spread his wings and fly away, and to be absolutely sure that we would always be there for him to turn to.
    He is now a wonderful man.
    The only thing is, we never tried to have another child, fearing that one does not win the lottery twice. And we sometimes regret it.

  175. Thank you for this urgently needed article regarding women's psychology,
    biology, spirituality and pragmatic reality surrounding the adjustment and changes motherhood brings. This topic has not received adequate research, funding, nuance or respect in our technological, competitive society. Yet " the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

    Keep advocating, people, for truth telling and policies which support women in their complex roles as mothers, throughout the life cycle. And work on incorporating reverence for Mother Earth as well.

  176. Breastfeeding was instrumental to my sense of being a mom. I was all my son needed to thrive. For moms who lack support and company La Leche League meetings are a great source of friendship and support.

  177. I loved breast-feeding and succeeded with two out of three of my children. I was not successful beyond a few months with my middle child. I made a reasonable effort through pumping and the League, then I gave up.

    I think women who torture themselves mercilessly if breast-feeding does not go well are making a mistake. Do what is best for you, well-informed, and be sensitive to the uniqueness of your own situation. If you miss a particular goal, forgive yourself and move on.

  178. Yes, it's great as Plan A (and thank heavens we have a Plan B available) but it's not magic.

  179. How long until the "men can be mothers too" crowd chime in?

  180. Men are Fathers, who support mothers and care for babies, but their bodies haven't gone through a tornado.

  181. "he neurobiological uniqueness of the primary parent who physically gives birth to the child. "

    Phew. Good to hear gender isn't a social construct because if you read the NYT more and more these days, you'd think it was.

  182. True, however... Notwithstanding the immeasurable effect of childbirth on a mother, there is no need to make it seem like men necessarily are secondary parents. my social circle involved quite a few couples where the fathers are the primary parents, and they go through many similar hormonal changes, as has been pointed out by other commentators.

  183. I am 67 years old, and would have loved and appreciated an article like this when I had my child at 23. I had horrific post-party depression, but had never even heard of it. My point is - there are never "too many articles" on this subject as a few other people have stated. The agony and self-doubt that comes with post-partum is unhealthy for the entire "new family".
    Godde bless all new mothers and their families. And for the OB/ GYN doctors and nurses out there, please have healthy discussions, either individually or in group sessions, to talk about the changes cited in this article, including post-partum depression.
    We all strive to be perfect mothers, but in reality we are just normal people doing the best we can.

  184. I believe the information in this article applies to fathers, as well as mothers. Having a child is transformation and for both parents comes with a equal measure of joy and of frustration and fear.

  185. As an adoptive mother who along with her male co-parent has experienced transformation, as well, I wonder if this article is too steeped in biological determinism. We are undercutting the experience of fathers here, and perhaps creating a rhetoric around mothering that is too oppressive.

  186. "Adoptive mother..." "male co-parent..." "biological determinism..." "rhetoric around mothering that is too oppressive..."

    Dear LG: You may need to adopt a more "primitive" perspective in the relationship you have with your... child. Try "Mommie, Daddy, Cutie-pie, poo-poo, ca-ca, itsy-bitsy spider," &c. Yes it is very unintellectual, but your kid will prefer it for the first ten or twenty years.

  187. She was writing to an audience of adults, not addressing her child.

  188. Interesting article, especially as my oldest daughter has recently become a new mom - plus thinking back to that period of transition when she herself was a neonate. It's a whirlwind of new experiences, for sure. I have only one concern or caveat.

    I note that virtually all the references are to psychiatrists and psychoanalytic practitioners, perhaps not surprising given the author is in that field. It does make me wonder, though, how much opinions on this important transition might vary depending on the 'school of thought' of the authority.

    The ideas presented all seem reasonable enough, but I wonder if we're being presented here with a narrow slice of thinking on the subject, rather than points of view from lots of different (and differently trained) professionals. I suspect the latter might be more varied and informative.

    Since the author is writing a book on the subject, she'd be well advised to go outside the bubble of her own chosen profession and school of thought to include other professional viewpoints. Perhaps the conclusions wouldn't change so much, but it would read as less selective and therefore more credible.

  189. How dare you question the authority of the author!

    Modern culture really does elevate the importance of the opinions of medicine to religious, i.e., perpetually beyond doubt. (Though I read yesterday that NaCl may not be the devil we all thought.)

  190. "In the April issue of Glamour magazine, the model Chrissy Teigen became the latest in a series of celebrities..."

    How does citing the experience of famous models and actresses illustrate the phenomenon? They are creatures or aspirants of the Kardashian universe, along with our new president. Stick with reality citations.

    Lucky fathers with the desire and ability to share some time with a newborn must address a similar complexity, but surely it's a small fraction of the new mother's.

  191. It's always fun for new mothers to be compared to celebrities who have an army of physical exercise/yoga trainers, chefs, nannies and others to help them get through the newborn process. Then the non-stop attention they receive during their pregnancies (look at her 'baby bump' -ugh). Then there's the non stop photo-ops of their offspring, in which they are highly paid for. We can't normalize these people and try in any way to replicate them. Especially with the post baby cosmetic surgery they very often receive.
    This in itself is depressing to new moms.

  192. "Lucky fathers with the desire and ability to share some time with a newborn must address a similar complexity, but surely its a small fraction of the new mother's"

    If I commented on "Lucky women with the desire and ability to share some time at work ...." I'd be rightfully called sexist.

  193. This glamorization of motherhood is a conservative media backlash strategy. Our children are quarters for the capitalist parking meter. Gotta keep the economy growing.

  194. Several years ago, after accompanying my partner as we birthed our babies, I put my ethnographic skills to work to explore men's transformation to fathers in childbirth (Reed 2005). I note that unlike mothers who often take time to "fall in love" with their babies, fathers usually experience unmitigated joy and excitement, an experience that Martin Greenberg and Norman Morris term "engrossment."

  195. Similarly I can't believe you so easily dismiss the sacrifices made by a father when compared to a mother (even an involved mother). Keep up the good work, please stop dismissing others work, efforts, experiences, and rewards.

  196. Well, yeah, it's quite a bit easier to not have ambivalent feelings when your entire physical contribution was a few minutes of pleasure 9 months ago and you are not the one who just went through nine months of discomfort and either just pushed a watermelon out a tiny hole or got your stomach sliced open, and now have to recover physically from that and potentially feed said interloper from your body exclusively for months on out. I don't discount the male contribution to parenting at all- in fact, after birth, my husband did the vast majority of the non-feeding related childcare- I don't think I changed a diaper or dressed the baby for the first few weeks. He still does 50% of the childcare even now that the kids are older. But this was in recognition of the giant upfront investment I had made in time and energy in growing said child, in the difficulty of my recovery, and the understanding of the strain of being the sole food source at the beginning. It's a lot easier to have uncomplicated feelings of joy when it isn't your own body that has been ravaged, or bodily autonomy which has been compromised.

  197. re-Oliver's observation that mothers take more time to "fall in love" with their babies. The obvious answer is physical trauma and the abusive treatment of laboring women, both in advanced medicalized cultures and in many traditional cultures (forced directed pushing which suppresses natural processes, supported by accusations that if you don't do as you're told you are harming the baby everywhere, and in the U.S.forced epitomizes, denial of food and water, forced c-sections enforced with the same threats, Mothers' who argue that the research doesn't support the intervention are told that they are a special case. You can't fall in love when you lose so much blood you can't talk and can barely stay conscious...it takes time. And later their "friends" tell them it was their fault for not being assertive and"professionals" tell them that anger at the way they were treated is a sign of a mental illness -or "all hormonal"--PPD ya know.

  198. The best days are the days when the extended family is around. It really does take a village and our current system makes that nearly impossible. I think about the weeks I spent crying while hooked up to a pump and trying to connect with my newborn and I want to cry. I had to return to work after 12 weeks of unpaid leave when she was 10 weeks old (I had to stop working early). It feels like betrayal.

  199. This is a wonderful article. Although a father's experience and role with childbirth is a tiny fraction of what a mother bears, men can help in many ways to support her. As a stay at home dad with a newborn and a two year old, I know how beneficial it can be for the family when dad is all in. Now my 27 year old daughter is pregnant and she asked me to be with her during maternity leave and serve as her go to backup with baby care. I am excited about my new role and far less anxious than I was 27 years ago !

  200. How exciting, and how lucky for you!

  201. This article feels like an artifact from 1995. Hey mothers have feelings too! Women change after giving birth and we should talk about it!

    I am a mother with three small children and love nothing more than to get on my soapbox and speak about all the ways my life is different now - in fact, I remember in the early months of new motherhood I would tell people I was in mourning for my old life - but to come out with some sort of supposed "groundbreaking" thought piece about how women should respect their new "normal" feels behind the times. Especially since there was no new spin or interpretation of the research.

  202. What there is is a new generation of mothers who want to read articles in the newspaper, just like you and I did a 1995!

  203. and yet, how I wish I had come across articles like this during my post-partum period 6 years ago.

  204. Interesting ideas, but I'd like too see some evidence to support these claims.

  205. Correct to say "to"

  206. I'd like to see some evidence, too!

  207. I read this gauzy wonderland of a column and thought “Wait! Where are the girls/women who NEVER wanted to be pregnant!”

    50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. While this MD may be seeing moms from Park Slope, my moms are desperately trying to get by in severe poverty! The 16 years old that I see are 7 months pregnant on their first visit. They understand NOTHING about how they got pregnant or what that even means other than their schools kicked them out or they weren’t doing well anyway so dropped out.

    None had access to birth control in these rural Georgia areas. There are NO Planned Parenthood clinics and EVERY family doctor’s office I have been in has signs on the wall “We do NOT prescribe birth control pills to unmarried women” right next to the picture of Jesus and the Ten Commandments.

    I wish I were kidding. Every day I’m seeing women who are pregnant and that is the WORST thing that could be happening to them. They already came from mothers who didn’t want their children, but that’s how life rolls here in the Bible Belt. This girl is being punished for being a sinner. She has no support. No baby showers w/ cute outfits. Twice this week I’ve had to go to Target to buy onesies, dozens of socks, receiving blankets, and packs of Newborn Pampers so the new baby would have SOMETHING to wear!

    The fathers are long gone, so maybe she’ll live with her mom. But another abusive male will come along, more babies, more abuse, then drugs.

    People are BLIND to all this!

  208. Whatever we do let's just keep encouraging poor women to have more kids.

    Get real.

  209. People are blinded by a culture that separates "real" women (mothers) from the rest of us (slackers who never had kids). You see it in the magazine racks in the supermarket--all the beautiful movie stars with their "baby bumps". Honestly, you would think women's so-called liberation never happened in this country. When was that? Forty-some-odd years ago?

    I think motherhood is sacred when it's done with love, honor, commitment and intent. Just like any human endeavor. Conservation biology of protected species. Defense of civil rights. Or as you do, caring for single teen mothers. You name it.

    I wish we could do away with all of these "days" that separate us and exclude us and just have one massive Decent Human Day one day a year. Maybe it would remind all of us to treat ourselves and each other with kindness and respect for our differences.

  210. This is the reality for many many moms and their babies in the U.S.
    it is a criminal reality that we do not educate women/girls or men/boys about their bodies and about the realities of sex and procreation.
    Sex in America is not a responsibility it is a commodity sold on TV etc.

  211. I love learning new words!
    Matrescence is the process of becoming a mother -- do anthropologists have a word for when you become your own mother? Because that's the process I'm at right now!

  212. Yes childbirth is certainly creates a transformation for moms and it can also impact the couple beginning with " we are having a baby" rather "than my wife is pregnant" or even, "I'm pregnant". This "we" mindfulness is required for couples who truly share parenting thereby lessening the impact of the challenges and magnifying the possibility for emotional growth.

  213. Another article telling women how to feel about their feelings? It sounds like it's trying to be helpful but it is still encouraging women to look for an outside stamp of approval (from the "right" people) to claim the right to their own experiences.

    I don't recall a lot of articles like this for men.

  214. Completely agree with this comment. While it is trying to articulate the vastness of reactions to becoming a mother, it reduces us to mothers only. I am a mother, but I am much more than a mother and I was before and I will be when kids are grown and gone.

  215. Yup, it's OK to validate your own experience, females.

  216. Are you kidding me?? OF COURSE I'm a new person. I don't need an article to tell me that. What I do need, is for someone to tell me what to DO.
    Because I lived for 38 years before I birthed my daughter, I had a super strong sense of who I was, what I was, what my place in the world was. Now I look like a completely different person (apparently having a BMI of 19 and exercising 5 days a week before you get pregnant is no guarantee that you won't gain a shocking amount of weight that you then can't lose, even while exclusively breastfeeding); I have a completely different capacity for exercise and food and sex; and I have entirely different feelings about the validity and importance my full time job as a Public Health Nurse.
    But what do I do with this? How do I weather the changes occurring against my will in every facet of my life while parenting, wifeing, adulting and working full time? Anybody?

  217. I remember a mentor of mine with young children I babysat saying you can do everything, but not at once. That's come back to me now that I have children the ages hers were when I cared for them.

    There's nothing quite like the first year of a child's life--especially the first year of the first child's life. Experience that time the best you can, then I found my head to be more regularly above water and I could start thinking about what I wanted to do.

    Long-term career goals though...I still struggle with that.

  218. If anyone needs a less rosy view of motherhood in America, check out Peggy Seeger's song "I WAS GOING TO BE AN ENGINEER."

    MOOOOO.

  219. My doctor told me that losing weight while breastfeeding is not the norm.

    I dropped all excess weight once I quit breastfeeding with both children in less than 2 weeks. I don't know where it went. One day I was a size 10 and the next I was back to an 8.

  220. This is all very interesting and worth considering. However, when I looked up "fratrescence" there was no such word. Perhaps equal time should be spent considering the effects of fatherhood. I think we mothers have plenty of guilt, shame and "good enough parent" issues to share!

  221. "Frat" is brother.

    "Patr" is father.

  222. Agreed - this article seems to suggest that neurobiological changes are exclusively experienced by female biological parents.

    This type of article seems to suggest that raising children really is women's work instead of a process that women also bring weaknesses and fathers also bring equally important strengths

  223. CD, sure, studying becoming a father is a great idea... for another article. WHY must every article that covers something woman specific always be met with some incarnation of 'but what about the men'? Why?! It's beyond tiresome.

  224. Aside from the emergency C-Section, becoming a mother wasn't particularly challenging for me physically. But psychologically? Yikes. Two weeks of weepy baby blues was followed by six months of post-partem OCD. Thank G-d I had a world class support system in (1) my husband, (2) my psychologist (3) my my doctor, (4) my lactation consultants, (5) my blessedly easy baby, and (6) my own grit and education. Boy DOES it take a village--even from the very start.

    Additionally, the psychological ordeal that was PP OCD, changed my life course profoundly toward an active committed to social and environmental justice. Motherhood isn't for the fainted-hearted.

  225. By the time the baby came out, I'd been in labor for 74 hours. Seventy-four hours! His poor face was so bruised by the strain that my husband turned to me and, in another language, said, "BLEEP! He's ugly." I laughed but was glad he hadn't spoken English. Then just after birth they took him away for the Apgar screening, and when they finished, the nurse asked if I wanted to hold him.

    I remember looking across that room at the bassinet where he lay and thinking to myself, "I don't know if I want to hold him at all." The nurse saw that ambivalence in my face and was ashamed of me. Ashamed for me.

    I love my kids. They're almost grown now. I've been a pretty good mother. But ambivalence and then shame were the very first emotions I experienced in the moments after this all began and that I have felt guilty about it ever since.

  226. That's really unfortunate for you, but this was a specific moment in time when your emotions were essentially not under your control. I hope you can forgive yourself. What you went on to do with all the rest of being a mother is much more showing of who you are, not that momentary uncertainty.

  227. I'm hoping that nurse's face wasn't a good read, because if she looked anything other than sympathetic after 74 hours of labor, she is an idiot and should look for another job. Of course you felt ambivalent. You would have been out of your mind by then. I'm with LeoK, a moment in time, when you were a long way off recovered from the trauma of the birth itself, and, quite reasonably, not feeling in a receptive head space. If you heard another woman tell that story you wouldn't think she should feel guilty.

    My first and only was a 7 hour labor and it happened so fast I was in shock. Shaking like a leaf. I felt pretty ambivalent and disassociated. I held him but didn't feel like it was real. And I've had plenty of opportunities to feel guilty since, mostly completely unwarranted, but we're so good at it!

  228. Motherhood still defines me at age 70, in spite of a long interesting work life. I never considered this profound concept until I read this... Until I die I will judge myself through this prism of my motherhood.

  229. Yep.

  230. Great title and crucial perspective to acknowledge. A gazillion emotions to process in a new dynamic with the greatest responsibility in life ever. No light switch exists to turn on motherhood, it is a unique transition and a process for every mom and child.

  231. I would argue that most moms are not fooled by the Instagram perception of perfection. Give us some more credit. I think that for most of us there are gaps between what we have tried to accomplish and the lowest acceptable standard--- that measure should also be considered. I don't think we are kicking ourselves for not achieving the glow, we are kicking ourselves for giving the toddler goldfish for breakfast instead of pizza.

  232. Thank you, Alexandra. And thanks to the NYT for publishing your piece. Two and a half years after giving birth to my son I still rarely talk about the aching depression that followed in those first few months. It's great that celebrities can use their forum to share, but they still represent a largely unattainable perfection and can afford help and self-care that most women cannot. It's incumbent on each of us to speak our truth and to support one another. Thank you for that reminder.

  233. Becoming a mother is a shock. You can't take the day off. You can't go back to life as before. You are signed up for life. Your job is to love this other person and work yourself out of a job by making this other person independent of you. All of this without instructions! Not even a crib sheet. You are terrified of making mistakes and yet you make lots of them. You are tested at every junction. This is not a woman thing it is whoever is in the role of mom. You are hated, loved, cussed at, sticky kisses, hugged and must be the most dependable person in this other person's life. You are unpaid. You pay them! Providing money for ice cream, bikes, proms and college. What a job. But although the most difficult and underrated job in the world, when your child gives you a hug and says I love you mom, it is the most wonderful job in the world.

  234. "Not even a crib sheet."

    I don't know about you, but I got a whole bunch of crib sheets from my sister-in-law at my baby shower. :-)

  235. That is the most beautiful photograph. I want to kiss that little guy myself.

  236. Being a mother is watching your heart run around outside your body and being unable to always protect it.

  237. Yes. Yes. YES! Goes for fatherhood too.

  238. I remember reading a book on pregnancy (maybe 'What to Expect When You're Expecting') when I was 11-years-old and being completely disgusted and horrified to learn what women went through to have a baby- stretch marks; incontinence; skin tags and melasma; epistiotomies; hair loss; etc; etc. Not to mention the tortuous and humiliating act of childbirth itself (screaming on a table, legs spread wide open while a bunch of strangers poke around your shaved and mutilated private parts). I vowed then and there never to have children. Now 47-years-old, happily married for 25 years, unencumbered with plenty of disposable income and a wide and interesting social circle; I don't regret my decision for a second. Way too many people on the planet, anyway.

  239. You got me. It's because deep down inside I'm actually very sad and am desperately trying to justify my life choices to myself so I don't go insane from regret.

    Just Kidding!!! (I love my life.)

    Seriously though, I decided to share my thoughts because A) They're germane to the article; B) because they offer a different perspective from most of the other comments I read; and C) because I have a feeling I'm not the only woman reading the article who feels the same.

  240. When I was a young woman (in my 20's) I didn't want children. I was very firm about it. As I became older (and more ambivalent), I used to say, "If I don't have children, I won't know what I missed. If I do, I will!" I had my children at ages 39 and 42, and I "know" what I would have missed by not having them. Thank goodness I did.

  241. Totally agree. If it weren’t such an everyday occurrence, the whole business - pregnancy, birth, and then the baby feeding off your body - sounds like the plot of a horror story. Wasn’t for me and I’ve never regretted it.

  242. Let's start conversing, not just about the young years, but about what happens over a lifetime of mothering. Mothering is one long birth canal. Joy of anticipation, lots of pain, and hopefully a perfectly formed adult at the end. But for many moms - and dads - the struggle continues as they try to help their kids with physical or psychological difficulties. Strength to you all!

  243. It is quite clear from numerous studies that American mothers self-identify as less happy than women who are childless. The so-called transition to motherhood is not always a joy-inspiring journey.

    This phenomenon is obvious on its face; nowhere in the article does it point out that motherhood can be tedious, repititive, boring, and mind-numbing, especially if done full-time.

    However, countries that provide the greatest social services and support to working mothers report highest levels of happiness among child-rearing mothers. The Scandanavian countries, which you might not expect, are most likely to receive happiness from motherhood. Probably because extensive day care, child health services, and other support, provided throughout the child's life.

  244. Your comment is so spot on.

    There is no historical precedent that makes ignoring the needs of young parents as part of our American "culture" ...and yet, here we are.

    As far as I can tell, this egregious oversight is the root cause of many problems that we are facing (from the achievement gap, to poverty, long-term mental and physical health... and productivity).

    It is short-sighted and counterproductive to not prioritize and protect our families when they are at their most vulnerable.

  245. Yes, context and support really matter. there is an odd thing under the surface of American culture where the Puritans are still shaping the conversation, that a woman who had (shhhhh) sex (!) is wicked and deserves whatever punishment is meted out to her. We certainly don't want to HELP her. Trump care is the latest example, where Republicans were perfectly happy excluding maternity care from "essential care". Why, after all, should men have to pay for something that is "not their problem" so to speak. Why indeed.
    All very sad. But so deep-seeded in the culture, it's unlikely to change.

  246. this has probably already been said but I felt no different waiting for our daughter's adoption that any pregnant mother feels waiting for her child. Actually, I found this aspect of the article to be very interesting.

  247. I love your comments about how you felt while waiting to adopt. I agree with you 100%. I have three sons. One is (technically) a step son, one is a biological son, and one is an adopted son. But we never use these technical terms because these distinctions don't matter at all to us. Biology is just blood, not emotion. My love for my three boys is deep, eternal. My children are my children; they are my everything.

  248. "Any pregnant mother." I like how you remind me to respect her personal experience, thank you, but she herself does try to universalize it.

  249. You're both right. It's not the same, but there are always similarities, each of which enriches the understanding of the other. Things don't have to be the same for both to matter. Susan Stroh is of course correct -- they aren't the same. But it's easy to understand why the adoptive mother is thinking of her experience in the same terms. We all understand our lives in metaphor and analogy. This is the origin of meaning.

  250. What's missing here is the swirl of feelings that come with a baby's stages. I was shocked by the feelings of almost mourning that came when my son's baby behaviors transitioned to toddler behaviors and so on. As the kiddo develops, you say good bye to the being they were as they become a new version of themselves. My son is 9 and I love him dearly, but I miss the baby, too. It's such a strange mix of pride and sadness that comes with them growing up.

  251. I always thought of parenting as a job whose description changed every 6 months, if not more often. As the child gets older, you have to change as a parent and keep becoming someone different to keep up. It's the most interesting that ever happens to any of us.

  252. Interesting perspective which I as a mother of 2 girls experienced. But I think this perspective is something we pick up 20/20. my twin grandchildren just turned 1 and are transitioning to toddlers. But their parents are very much in the moment and celebrating each baby step forward. My comments on how they may look back and miss x or y are interesting but seem foreign to them.

  253. Totally relate to this comment. I well remember my sadness when I had to give away my baby daughter's first set of clothes when she outgrew them. After that though, every stage has been my favorite stage. Now she's 13 and once again, the best stage yet. I look forward to what comes next (teenage years and all).

  254. My favorite quote about parenting is from one Sir John Wilmot, who left us (awfully early, at age 32) with this gem:
    Before I got married I had six theories about raising children. Now I have six children__and no theories.

  255. There is only one theory: Respect the children!

  256. Please no more relying on psychoanalysis or psychoanalysts in any form to comment on new motherhood. Psychoanalytic theory has long since been replaced by attachment theory to explain the matter at hand here. Those of us readers younger than, say, 55 instinctively resist if not reject the unhelpful bias we get from the sort of experts interviewed here. I am not commenting specifically on hear experts. I am saying that I do not trust them as psychoanalysts to give expert commentary on this topic. Today we have good science based reasons to believe psychoanalysis brings nothing to this discussion of maternal performance or "style." Specifically, we know that it is NOT primarily influenced by the style of the new mother's mother. It is primarily influenced by the new mother's capacity for attachment and perhaps by her attachment style. Both of those things--attachment capacity and style--are now believed by neuroscientists to be grounded as deeply as personality in genetics and also influenced to some unknown degree by the environment. As a reader I want to be sure that your journalists, writing in pieces like this, are choosing experts who understand that. And are communicate that to the reader. And, finally, are not bringing the baggage that psychoanalysts (unfortunately for those who have evolved beyond the limits of their training) often bring to the topic. There is a lot of questionable psychotherapy out there. Sadly psychoanalysis has a lot of damage to account for.

  257. Regrettably, this person perceives psychoanalysts as out of vogue or unhelpful. It is a fascinating and inspiring discipline with much depth and understanding. As far as research goes, prominent researchers on attachment are often psychoanalysts including but not limited to, those cited in the article. I suspect this person sees psychoanalysis as "Freud" only, and while brilliant, the profession has evolved theoretically and technically over a hundred years, and also there is current research in neuroscience and attachment documenting and substantiating mirroring, mirror neurons, secure base, eye contact, skin to skin, smell, the qualitative nature of non-verbal communication in transmitting unconscious meanings, resistance and defense. Some of the most substantiated neuroscientists point toward the effect of deep therapeutic processes, such as the experience-rich and near process of psychoanalysis, on neuroplasticity. This person sees attachment and psychoanalysis as either/or, rather than "and" based on theory and research of mother-infant, father, and prenatal bonding and relating.

  258. A brilliant psychoanalyst helped me tremendously.

  259. Not every article can cover everything. It would be more interesting to hear what you think of what's here than try to be so p.c. squeaky clean...

  260. One sentence could cover the fact that adoptive mothers, as well as birth fathers can experience a shift in brain chemistry and hormones.

  261. This article makes some valid points. It also ignores the fact that many women become mothers without pregnancy...adoption, surrogacy, same gender parents. It would be nice to speak about the transition to motherhood in broader terms than pregnancy and postpartum.

  262. It doesn't ignore that fact. It is explicitly interested in the psychological and biological / neurological changes wrought by biological motherhood. I don't understand why this distinction is difficult to accept. Should it not be a subject of explicit study by scientists, because women who have become mothers without the physical experience feel left out? Do non-cancer patients feel left out of cancer research?

  263. Then the title of the article should be "The Birth of a Biological Mother."

  264. Father here.
    6 years post partem bla bla bla. I've been a nerves wreck trying to provide for my wife and two kids for 27 years. Wouldn't change a thing but none the less, 27 years is a long time.
    Anyway I wanted kids but don't know why. Guess I'm just a sock eye salmon swimming up stream.

  265. As a pediatrician, I was very attuned to the vulnerabilities of new mothers. A new mother is, at once, the most powerful person in the universe. She has produced a completely new human from her body. At the same time, she's a bit burdened down: she's sleep-deprived, in hormonal storm, and has a new person running her schedule.

    Sniping at new mothers is rampant. Strangers feel free to comment on her job performance, "You don't have a hat on that baby." Family members may tout, "Your husband never took a pacifier, there's no reason for his son to have one."

    New mothers deserve support, and too often they get sabotage.

    Ask new mom what she needs. Make a friend forever by giving it to her. A nap, a coffee, drop off a meal. Offer help, not advice. After all, that baby is programmed to succeed, hat or no hat, pacifier or not.

  266. Wow. Can I quote you? Exactly what I'm going through at the moment.

  267. Speaking with my wife of 41 yrs about this article, seeing as how we're adoptive as well as bio parents, she said that, while the two processes were different in numerous ways--both fundamentally and superficially--the anticipation and transformation in both cases was equally profound. I can give a similar report as an involved father.

    We've both striven over the years to parent differently in some ways than we were parented; there's significant dysfunction on both sides of our family tree as well as great strength, intelligence, and warmth. As a general remark, I appreciated the article for pointing out that the emotions surrounding becoming a parent can be all over the map and that it's unhelpful to fall into the trap of trying to force you--or your child--into any sort of rigid template.

  268. Yes! My mother I know did her best, but she was an angry, stressed person. I feel like I "learned" to be a mother watching my best friend (who I met in law school) parent her daughter over the years. Watching her patience and engagement was a revelation to me and when I had children (by which time my friend's daughter was a teenager), I consciously tried to model myself on her. I didn't always succeed, and the times that I felt myself channeling my mother are not proud memories. But I do feel that I tried to offer my children something better than I had - and I feel that we (my kids, now college age, and I) are closer to each other than I ever was to my mother.

  269. This article describes well the process of becoming a mother, ,maybe a parent. Unfortunately, a maternal history of an eating disorder may increase the new mother's uncertainty about feeding her child. We are now recruiting at Stanford parents with eating disorder history for a study offering a short parenting program. Wishing health and happiness to all new and veteran parents out there.

  270. Thank you for this article! I hadn't been able to identify some of these things I was going through and feeling. So thank you!

  271. Alexandra Sacks paints an evocative and desperately needed picture of the complicated process of the transition to motherhood. Sacks' effort is toward dispelling the myth that the birth of a baby is only a time of joy and wonder. Instead, she underscores the complex psychological, familial, and biological strains central to this shift in identity. New mothers can feel even more alone or unsure of themselves when the prevailing belief is that significant stress is only a sign of postpartum depression or other psychiatric illness rather than a marker of an important developmental process. Given what we know about the crucial contribution of mutual engagement between mothers and infants in the first months of life for the robust development of both the baby and the mother, interventions that support mothers, their partners, and babies together should be an essential element of routine care. Through the Human Development Strategic Initiative at Austen Riggs we are working in partnership with our local hospital and pediatricians on the Discovering Your Baby Project aimed at supporting new families from the very start.

  272. Thanks for the article, I had a strong Mother so it was not as difficult to adapt to Motherhood. But suddenly, at 21, the needs of my infant exceeded all else, including my husband's initial jealousy of this infant. Mother's do not get college courses, we learn on the job. This role is much more difficult in today's world, the Republicans wish to remove all assistance from pregnancy, birth and motherhood, including birth control and abortion. In their view, woman are simply a vessel, something a man may own or simply impregnate.

  273. The hardest part of motherhood isn't the actual parenting (which is, of course, incredibly hard)--it's the guilt over everything you may be doing wrong and the struggle to forgive yourself for it. I had no idea how many rules and expectations we had about motherhood until I had my own child. The weight of the world's judgment weighed so much more than my son's 7-pounds-10-ounces (and his 25-pound car seat!).

    I agree that we need more research on fathers and fatherhood. But the expectations for dads are COMPLETELY different than for moms. No one asked my son's father how he could possibly survive spending a night away from his child when he traveled for work. No one asked him if he was going to go work part-time to invest in his child. No one bemoaned him for not running him to the ER at every cough. These questions were always reserved for me, and I was the one fretting about them at 3am as I cradled my crying baby and wondered how a "better mother" might have gotten him to sleep.

  274. The importance of bringing this issue to a broad audience cannot be underestimated. Recognizing the complexity of the transition to parenthood, for both mothers and fathers, should lead us to not only normalize and de-stigmatize the struggles inherent in this developmental period, but also to devote sufficient resources to supporting new parents. The Discovering Your Baby project at Austen Riggs offers opportunity to listening to parents, promote listening to the baby, in turn promoting healthy development for the whole family.
    As I write in my recent book The Developmental Science of Early Childhood:
    “We need to recognize and address the normal massive psychological shifts of motherhood, the role of the baby, and the relational nature of the issue, as well as the normal ambivalence that accompanies this developmental phase, which may be distorted in the setting of social isolation, severe sleep deprivation, and unrealistic expectations of quick return to pre-pregnancy function. The shifting dynamics in relationships between parents, the role of the father or partner, and changes for both parents in relationships with their family of origin all have a significant impact on the emotional experience of the transition to parenthood. An infant mental health approach recognizes the importance of tapping into the healthy personal resources for the patients in resolving their own difficulties rather than considering them entirely incapacitated by a medical disease.”

  275. Why not ask the wisest of them all, moms and dads? Grandparents? Honestly, with all due respect for professionals in the field of psychology, counseling, medicine, etc., every new parent knows that the greatest source of wisdom, advice, support, ideas, etc. is other parents. I'd love to read an article that uses real parents in the trenches as its "experts." (And no, i don't mean for serious clinical depression.)

  276. Being an expert in your child or your children is not the same as being an expert in the childhood development as a whole.

  277. It seems that we have become a culture where the mother's needs and wellbeing are routinely overlooked. I read another article in this paper that pointed out we have unacceptably high maternal death rates, preventable deaths, at the same time that we have steadily reduced infant mortality rates. Prenatal care is NOT available or affordable to all American women. Pregnancy can be treated as a pre-existing condition so insurance can be denied. Mothers in the US get the least and stingiest maternal leave in the First World.
    So my question is: why do we pretend to idolize mothers and motherhood when our actions as a society say otherwise, time after time?

  278. I think spending some time listening to the "pro-life" side of an abortion debate could settle that question for you. For a large portion of the populus, women have little value outside of being baby vessels in this country.

  279. A good enough mother here with a big helping of ambivalence. All this writing about postpartum depression and the challenges of young motherhood, reinforces to me that I'm lucky. My house can be a mess, my children go some nights unbathed and dinner may be McDonalds but I'm mostly happy and I think the kids (and my partner) are too. I think the secret is ditching the fantasies, the comparing and the competing. Live life, do your best for your children and know that they're turn out all right. I have a three month old, a 2.5 year old and a 4.5 year old. I'm currently deep in the trenches, some moments it's lots of fun and some moments not, but that's ok.

  280. Postpartum depression has nothing to do with being happy or having unrealistic fantasies or choosing a mindset.

    It is an unmistakable chemical change in the brain that some women never experience, just as some women never get stretch marks. It's not a character flaw or a psychological issue. It's biological.

    It hit me at about 5 months postpartum, completely out of the blue. It was bizarre, but I am so glad I experienced it because now I have compassion for other women instead of ignorance about it. I went to the doctor and got medicine for it; it lifted almost overnight once my chemicals were balanced.

  281. Please shine a spotlight on maternal mortality in this country. We embrace a hallmark vision of motherhood in the US and host a constant political debate over providing basic contraceptive care to women and allowing them basic reproductive rights. We fail mothers in a million ways. One of the most egregious is the national maternal mortality rate. Women die in this country before, during, and immediately after childbirth at rates not seen in other developed nations. And what about national healthcare, subsidized daycare and excellent public education? All those things that would show we actually cared about and supported mothers? We fail. The NY times can MAKE maternal mortality and issue and a national point of shame. Put it on the front page. Publish graphic, heart-wrenching stories. Please actually HELP the mothers—don't just blather about them. A mother would never be "born" as this article puts it if she doesn't LIVE past the delivery of her child. There has been resistance to taking a standardized, protocol-based approach to preventing maternal deaths and some of the resistance has come from doctors. Publish the stories. Publish the names of the "worst" hospitals for maternal deaths and maybe even the names of the "worst" physicians for maternal deaths. It is a tragedy and a travesty that in this country at this time we ALLOW women to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. Take this issue on please

  282. Amy, this is a wonderful and true comment. In it, you say "The NY times can MAKE maternal mortality an issue and a national point of shame." I'm afraid that will not work, however, not with the Republicans dominating our government. They are keen to withdraw women's health care from pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care not to mention mammograms birth control and of course abortions, no matter what the cause. They seem to feel that women are only 5/8 humans, just as African Americans once were labeled.

  283. As an adoptive mother who would not change anything in our many years-long life-changing journey towards our beloved son, I find myself thinking about subjects not in this article. My longing for a child was not about fantasization but rather about my active construction in my soul of the unbreakable bond with my child to come. I think about the 2.5 years that I was NOT with him, and how people in general do not understand that I was his mother during that time, even though I was away from him (because the first 2.5 years of his life corresponded to the end of the wait period for us), and even though we only knew who he was, exactly (being matched with a specific child), for the last year. I was loving him from afar, and I most certainly did not become a mother on the day we finally went to get him in a faraway country. I had become a mother way before then. Physically having a child, meaning for me physically being a mother through physically taking care of and getting to know my son, was pure joy and pure fun. When you have waited so long and with great uncertainty and major geopolitical risks and foreign relations hurdles, your capacity for enjoying every moment balloons out. Of course I have changed and evolved as a mother, just as many things in life cause one to change and evolve, but the big existential and psychological shifts in my identity happened way before I ever saw my son!

  284. To imply that physical changes from carrying a child give women some sort of magical parenting experience/revelation that others don't have shows to me that the author did not interview the countless women who became parents by means other than giving birth and the profound impact that the experience has on their psyche and life outlook. The author's whole premise is an insult to adoptive mothers everywhere, who know their brains are happily hijacked with love and protective instinct for their child even without the hormonal influences the author suggests are at play due to pregnancy. There may be changes in the brain that happen with motherhood, but they are not due to the act of carrying a child or giving birth. They can happen without carrying a child. Mother nature has made sure that vulnerable children are protected in that manner by those placed in the role of mother/protector. Any adoptive mother will tell you that. It's a mystical and magical experience and a transformation whether a woman physically gives birth or not.

  285. Re pregnancy/childbirth and their aftermath:

    The physical/ chemical stuff was profound (and not entirely in a good way). Acknowledging this obvious reality casts no shade on those who parent through adoption. There is space enough to examine the full range of human experience.

  286. You are right. It is the loving self sacrifice and commitment to caring for (growing like a plant) another human that makes a real mother, not just popping out the pups. Some are good at it, some just awful.

  287. Huh? Isn't one of the *main* points of the article that the physical changes from carrying and bearing a child does NOT give women the magical parenting experience / revelation that they might be expecting? But instead, they feel a complex of emotions, many of which are negative, and that magical state of perfection is never achieved?

    Did you read the article at all, or did you just skim it, and then take the opportunity to start riding your favorite hobby horse?

  288. I am 63. I never wanted to have children and did not have any. I do not regret that decision in the least. This is a benighted, overcrowded world and I would have been a not good and miserable mother. What I do regret is the sense that our society, nay, our species, judges women by their motherhood status. I am a
    human being in my own right, not a baby machine, and the sticky-sweet aura that is plumped up around motherhood is misleading and offensive. Not everyone should have children and everyone should be fully free without risen eyebrows to make that choice and make of their lives what they will. And I'll bet my boots there are a few women out there who don't feel motherhood to be the most profound physical and psychological thing that ever happened to them.

  289. Yes, and that is why I am speaking out. I should say that part of my reason was that I am an artist, and as Lee Krassner said to Jackson Pollack: "we can't have children, Jackson, we're ARTISTS." (there are exceptions of course!)
    It does require that women think hard about this in advance and communicate deeply with the men they are connected to.

  290. I certainly hope you don't pressure her --recognizing as you say you do that not everyone should have kids. That would be very selfish of you.

  291. Thank you for clearly stating this. I wholeheartedly agree. Even being a millennial, you still get questions that assume that you will become a mother at some point.