The Good Mother, Part 3

The payoff for all the hard work is the feeling of love, said Stoline, and the biology of motherhood plays a big role in developing it. Not every woman, however, has those feelings as part of her individual nature, she said. And others who do have it can get derailed.

“My theory is that the more we get away from pregnancy as a natural spiritual process, the less we support women and their partners through it,” said Stoline, who is opening a women’s mental health and wellness center, Millwood Place, in Fallston, Md.

For example, she said, there is a subtle dance of neurochemical readiness between mother and fetus before birth. Technological intervention in the birthing process is necessary in some cases, but overused in others, to the detriment of that mother-child bond.

That intervention, followed by the isolation of a mother at home with a newborn, can lead some women into a period of postpartum depression.

“Our society likes to think motherhood is a matter of using your head,” said Stoline, who is the mother of two young children. “What we tend to forget is that motherhood is a relationship, a unique bond with another person that can’t be replaced.”

Lest any mother feel further overwhelmed, Zax has some reassuring words based on her research. After all, she said, “No caring mother gets up in the morning and says, ‘oh, gee, I wonder how I’m going to screw up my kid today.’”

First, she asked daughters what they want most from mothers. The overwhelming answer? “Approval.”

And what do mothers want from children? “Understanding of how hard they work at being a mother,” she said. “And I say amen to that.”

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