I just want to touch base with you today about oxytocin, again. That’s because I understand how your brain works, and today I want to make sure you understand baby brain too!
As a young girl I hope you were taught you could do anything a boy does. You could go to school and get a job. In your old life, you were measured up against masculine indicators of success, like winning, or discovering, or inventing. Being ambitious and competitive and independent were all considered positive personality traits in our left-brained culture. If you found yourself stuck or at a loose end, if you ever didn’t have the answer, you could look it up in books or just ask guru Google. Information was power. Everything was figure-out-able.
Now You Are A Mother
There have never been more books, videos, research and workshops on motherhood. We are suffering from information overload, we can’t figure out babies and we aren’t enjoying ourselves.
This is because mothering is not a masculine activity and does not have masculine solutions. Through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, oxytocin has planted you firmly into your right brain, the intuitive and instinctive part of your brain. High oxytocin makes you more contemplative, companionable and dependent. You feel sensitive and forgetful. You live in the moment. You are more tolerant of monotony and boredom.
You could call this more instinctive way of thinking your primal brain. On the other hand your modern brain, the analytical, masculine way of thinking, actually inhibits the primal brain. Activity in the neocortex lowers oxytocin. When your neocortex is quiet, your primal brain takes over your body, and you don’t need information from an external source. You have tapped into the ancient wisdom within you.
I Call This Baby Brain
It is that sweet, gooey love when you gaze into your baby’s eyes. It’s forgetting where you put your car keys. It’s bursting into tears when you watch the news. Oxytocin gives you gooey, mushy feelings, so expect to feel foggy and forgetful. That’s why I am repeating myself, to let this knowledge really sink in, slowly, over time.
And, if you have been taught to value more masculine ways of thinking, baby brain can be very confronting. Transitioning to motherhood can be painful, as there are deep internal shifts in ways of knowing and understanding the world around you. Maybe you are grieving as your old self is gone, superseded. Maybe you feel ‘all at sea’ as Naomi Stadlen put it. You are still finding your feet in this new, feminine paradigm.
If you feel lost, avoid looking for solutions. Don’t get stuck in an information frenzy.
You will not find what you need there. Avoid anyone that offers you a magic pill, or a one-size-fits-all solution. Don’t be rescued!
Be the hero of your own motherhood adventure and find your own way out of the confusion by connecting with yourself and your baby. Ask for practical physical help with cooking and cleaning and shopping, but only you can decide what’s best for your baby. Love conquers all, so it’s ok if you make a few mistakes along the way. Your baby loves you, and you need to love yourself too.