03 March 2009

The myth of the maternal instinct

A University of Warwick study suggests that many women feel ill-equipped for pregnancy and childbirth because of the demands of modern life and more specifically, because it is now routine for women to move away from their hometowns and families when they get married. Thus, women have less support and advice from female relatives in their new environment. Upon interviewing 90 women, Dr Angela Davis, Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Centre for the History of Medicine, also added that most women are in some ways disadvantaged going into childbirth because they often have never had the experience of birth (in terms of seeing one and participating in delivery) until they have their own children. Interestingly, Dr. Davis believes that there is still a lack of appropriate education for women around sex and parenting and this is a long-standing problem since the 1930s in the UK. One of the most salient points to arise from this study is that mothering is not viewed to be instinctive and that women struggle with feelings of unpreparedness.

Did you feel prepared for motherhood? Is there such a thing as a maternal instinct?

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302120104.htm

1 comment:

Cherryskin said...

I definitely felt prepared for motherhood. I have been "wanting" a baby officially since I was 18 (the first known written record, in my diary!) but according to my mum I was always very interested in babies, even as a small child. (My 26yo brother is the same, so it's not just a female thing.) It wasn't so much as wanting a baby then and there (in practical terms), but having some kind of strong internal need or drive.

Also, I trusted in myself (my body in labour, and my instincts as a new mother) and reminded myself of the fact that women have been birthing and raising children forever, and that if they could do it, then why not I?

Having said that, having my first baby totally threw me for about a year -- the change from living pretty much for myself my whole life, to living for this new person, is beyond words, but I suspect pretty much every new mother (and parent) feels that way, no matter the circumstances surrounding them and their upbringing!

I can totally see how, due to the way society is structured, women are not given much chance at all to prepare for birth and raising babies. I'm guessing there are various degrees of the kind of drive I felt, and I'm also guessing it might play a role in how well you cope with a baby once you have one.

There is also a LOT to be said for the fact that women's self-belief and self-confidence in these aspects are undermined constantly by various interested parties (e.g. many obstetricians, powerful formula-manufacturing drug companies).

Women's (esp mothers') business is scorned often, too. I remember even from primary school the disdainful, "What, are you having a mothers' club meeting?!" directed at any group of girls or women interacting closely.

Sorry, this is getting long!

I just also wanted to add that I do believe that for many women (to varying degrees) something kicks in after you have a baby -- an instinct to protect your baby. Although I guess it doesn't happen for all mothers.

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