An interesting article was published this past Summer on the very real, little-discussed changes that occur in the brain of a pregnant, postpartum, and/or caregiving person.
There are a number of rapid and monumental changes that happen to the portion of our brains that control social-emotional processes or the “ability to atttribute emotions and mental states to other people- key to raising a human.”
“The more brain change the mothers experienced, the higher they scored on measures of emotional attachment to their babies, a finding that echoed past studies. And the changes in most brain regions remained two years later.”
Whoa. Two years?!
What is even more fascinating is that this change was most profound in the parents who were also pregnant, but was not limited to them. Caregivers other than the birthing parent, including fathers, experienced some of these same changes that correlated with how much ‘exposure’ they had to the babies and children.
For many of us who have been pregnant, postpartum, and/or a parent, we already know that this is true. It’s not just our bodies that change. Something else changes that never goes back to its original configuration: our brains. Maybe all the time we spend consumed with getting bodies back is more about getting our brain back; a more tangible and socially-acceptable pursuit. All the while knowing, in the murky recesses of our changed brains, that the worry, the conjured scenes of certain death, and deep guilt over every imperfect moment will never leave us.
What if we better understood what was happening to our brains and not just our bodies? Would it change our relationship to postpartum and parenting? Would it reframe what we experience as depression, anxiety, or plain-old feeling like we are losing our minds? Would we reach for help, talk more openly, or simply settle into it more easily?
This spins other spirals of thought for me also. Is it possible for this effect to be compounded? If we have more than one pregnancy, more than one postpartum, and, truly, more ‘exposure,’ do our brains continue to change? Do the changes add up? Do these spaces in our brains grow deeper and wider?
I wrote a new installement of my Muse-letter, due to break later this week, before I even read this article. Ironically, it touches upon parallel notes of exposure, changes, and leakiness of our hearts and emotional selves. And, of course, I have to ask: what is the gift?
What new wild and remote expanses of our minds can we now saunter through that were not accessible before? In what ways can we empathize, understand, or simply be with our fellow humans that were not as effortless?
Children and change have a lot in common. Endless. Relentless. Generous with their gifts.
What are your favorite gifts?
#pregnancybrainisreal #postpartumbrainisreal #parentingbrainisreal #changeisreal #giftsarereal
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