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parenting, patience, kids, babies, parenthood

What’s really happening in the brains of new parents?

When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we were showered with encouragement.  The “Congratulations!” were mixed with comments like “Your life is over”, or “Everything will change” (in some creepy horror movie narrators voice) leaving me feeling a little apprehensive about the baby growing inside me.

All of that apprehension and fear, flew out the window the moment we laid eyes on our son for the first time.

A learning experience 

“Everything will be different”.  This statement seemed so “final” before the birth of our son, but after he arrived…I got it. Everything is different but that’s ok!  Routine gets tossed out the window, and expectations are completely bashed, but the change is a good thing!  Your new family unit gets the opportunity to grow closer together in just trying to learn to survive with each other. That experience alone grows your love for each other.

An innate experience

Falling in love with our child was a lot different than falling in love with my husband.  With my husband, it was more of a growing process. However, with my son, it was as though a flower bloomed that had been growing in me all along.  Of course, everyone’s experience is different (postpartum anxiety and depression, birth experience, past trauma, etc) but I think all parents can agree that loving your child is an indescribable, natural experience.  That doesn’t mean that its easy, but it’s something that comes naturally…and there is a natural, biological reason for that!

A biological experience 

In the past few years, there has been an increased interest in gaining knowledge about the biochemical side of pregnancy and parenthood.  According to maternal brain researcher Pilyoung Kim, “…new mothers experience many changes in regions of the brain involved in emotional regulation”.  This includes specifically the amygdala, which helps drive emotional reactions as well as process memories.  Although it happens differently, fathers also experience similar brain changes, the major difference being that these process occurs as fathers involve themselves in caregiving.  In summary, the biochemical process as well as the act of caring for your new baby forges new pathways in our brains; therefore, becoming a parent truly changes you.

Becoming new parents is hard.  But it is also one of the most rewarding experiences I have yet to have in my life.  Loving my son every day looks different, and sometimes it isn’t pretty.  However, I think its far from coincidence that our brains react chemically in the same way when we fall in love and when we become parents.  Whether biological, or learned, falling in love with our children is an experience like no other.

While it is a wonderful feeling, it’s ok to admit if you are having a difficult time. Don’t give up hope. With a little bit of counseling and perspective change, you too can begin to enjoy parenthood, even with the immense amount of poopy diapers. Give us a call at 832-421-8714 or email us to make an appointment.

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Sarah Howard

Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor - Intern, Supervised by Huston McComb, MA, LPC-S. Sarah enjoys working with young adults, adults and couples.
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