Why "Running with Bunions"?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maternal No-Instinct

"…the notion of maternal instinct is a myth…"
Dr. Amy Blackstone

she has no idea what she's doing
Once upon a time I believed all women had the instinctive capacity to be fierce mama bears. Who would sacrifice honor, self-respect, livelihood; go hungry and die, if necessary, to protect baby.

But some women? Just. don't. have. it.

"For some women there is…no overwhelming urge to nurture and protect…" (The Guardian)

When a lioness is ready to give birth, she holes up alone in a cave or dense brush. Hormones coursing through her body, milk leaking from her teats, she delivers, feeds and protects her babies. Alone.

When the cubs are approximately 6 weeks old, mother and still-nursing babies return to the pride. Mom is ready to go back to the business of hunting! The cubs are absorbed into the family, which typically includes one lion and multiple lionesses, who share hunting, nursing and childcare duties - without concern for whose baby is whose.

Allomother: "an individual other than the biological mother of an offspring that performs the functions of a mother..." (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
new person clamoring for food

Like the lioness, a woman's body changes when she gives birth. Hormones alter her brain, rework her body. Her breasts fill with milk. Her uterus tightens. And there, at her feet, appears a tiny new person clamoring for food.

Mother's body signals her to feed it.

While some mothers handle the transition (and hormones) better than others, nature sets the stage during this sleepless, getting-to-know-you, new baby period for future connection. So that when mother's milk dries up and the baby-making hormones are gone, love, humility and a purposeful desire to nurture might take over.

"We're not born mothers; we become mothers." (wewomen.com)

A study conducted at Harvard Medical School indicates the presence of a gene called fosB may be one reason some women - and men – seem to be more instinctive caregivers than others.

The study involved a strain of mice that lacked the fosB gene. Without the gene, mice neglected their children. The babies died!

Both male and female mice injected with the gene transformed into vigilant, nurturing caregivers. (Baltimore Sun)

But mice aren't expected to "parent" their children. Mice don't educate, socialize or inoculate their babies. Mice don't lose custody for childhood neglect.

parenting without instinct: hard work, great reward
And neither instinct nor hormones guide a human mother to potty train her child, take her to well-child checkups, feed him fresh fruit and vegetables. Physical impulses don't press Mom to attend school music programs, open houses, field trips, Halloween parties, IEP meetings. Or remove children from harmful elements, like lead, once the danger is known.

With or without instinct, hormones, fosB or a pride of allomothers, human baby makers are expected to attend to the job of parenting. Sometimes that means enlisting help from friends, family and professionals. Communicating with an estranged partner. Putting your child's needs above your own.

Successful mothering takes selflessness. Humility. Persistence, perseverance, purposeful nurturing. A willingness to learn.

And humanity.

Unfortunately, some women? Just. don't. have. it.


Charles Hedrick said...

Well researched and interestingly informative! Thanks for telling me something I did not know.
Charles W. Hedrick

Peggy said...

This mother (me) felt the experience of every 'good' mother --me--with my three (Ch-Cin-K) and their magic with ME--which only to be shared with their good father.