Menu

Science confirms you are a different person after giving birth

The person you were then is not the person you are now.

Science confirms you are a different person after giving birth

Most of us would admit to experiencing frantic, middle-of-the-night thoughts while we were pregnant in which we questioned our choice to become parents, or wondered whether we'd still be the same person after becoming a mom. Those of us who planned on pursuing careers after giving birth might also have agonized over whether we would be as committed to our jobs.

When singer and songwriter, Amanda Palmer, was pregnant, a fan expressed this worry for her, wondering whether Palmer's career would suffer after she became a mom. She was concerned that the artist wouldn't be able to produce songs of the same standard. “When you have this baby," she argued, “either him/her/it will suffer, or your career will suffer."


In her response via an open letter on Medium, Palmer expressed her own nervousness about her possible “loss of identity as an artist" when she becomes a mother. She wrote about concerns that had plagued her when she was deciding whether to have a child: “If I had kids," she mused, “would I turn into a boring, irrelevant, ignorable artist? Would I suddenly start writing songs about balance…? Would I become that annoying person who is so enthralled with their child that it's impossible to have an intelligent conversation with them about art because they'd rather show you iPhone photos of their kid drooling out a spoonful of mashed carrots?"

Changing lives

There's no denying it: After giving birth, your priorities change. You change. Different issues take precedence at different stages of your life. Life with a newborn is worlds away from the child-free life, and life with a teenager is worlds away from life with a newborn. Whereas your main concern prior to having children might have been how to climb the corporate ladder, your most urgent thought after giving birth might be how to do both—climb the ladder and be an involved parent—or even how to step off the ladder completely. The person you were then is not the person you are now.

Research tells us that a lot of change happens when we choose to have babies, and that a mother is not the same person she was before having children. Scientific American reported a few years ago that almost all female mammals undergo “fundamental changes" during pregnancy and after birth and that pregnancy and lactation hormones may alter the brain, “increasing the size of the neurons in some regions and producing structural changes in others."

Other research has found that a combination of pregnancy hormones and the experience of pregnancy and birth improve our memory and learning abilities.

From the Shop

Cozy up in your fourth trimester with these essentials


Changing priorities

Moms who were asked whether they felt they had changed all agreed that they had. Photographer and mom Carmen Visser believes, however, that Palmer's fears are misdirected and that her priorities will change after becoming a mom: “While pregnant, you have time to think and worry about losing your identity, but once the child is there, there is no time to worry about life, because life is happening. Life with a child is rich—richer than fearing the loss of your own identity."

Ema, mom to three boys, agrees: “When I became a mum, I kinda lost the 'me.' Obviously we all need a bit of 'me' time now and then, but I wouldn't change a thing. Now I am more than 'me'. I'm a mother."

Teacher and mom of two, Shereen, says that the biggest change she experienced since becoming a mom is “the emotional vulnerability one feels. I look at people who have lost kids," she says, “and there is such a fear and knowledge that the pain of such a loss is beyond anything I ever want to experience. I also have so much more empathy with others, whereas before kids I think I was quite emotionally detached."

Ema has also experienced this vulnerability since becoming a mom: “I used to watch the news or a documentary and see children suffering. Although I felt sadness, there was also a disconnection and an inability to understand exactly what those images represented as a whole. Now, every child on the news is my child. Also, I used to be scared of not being popular, or having enough money to buy all the nice things friends had, or be able to go on cool exciting holidays. Now, my fear is that I can't provide everything needed by my kids. I fear that I won't be capable of giving them the best chances in life."

Melany, mom to Eden, said that she didn't want to have children, but then, along came her little one. “When I turned 38, my mom, sister, and I discussed over a Christmas glass of wine how great it would be to have a combination of (my husband) and me running around. I threw away my pills, closed my eyes, and didn't look! A year and a half later, Eden arrived."

“I don't think the core of who I am has changed. I am still me. I haven't changed, but I have grown. My heart is bigger and it overflows with an untarnished, uncomplicated, and pure love for Eden. It is regenerating to see the world through her eyes. We make daily escapes to fantasy worlds filled with imaginary creatures. Life is better, more beautiful, and more peaceful with my daughter in it."

Change for the better?

Certainly Palmer's fan's fears about whether she would change weren't unfounded. But will the change be for better or worse? Will her ability as an artist suffer?

Poet and novelist, Finuala Dowling believes Palmer has nothing to fear. She argues that motherhood spurred her on to become a writer. “I found that my writing ambitions only gained clarity once I got pregnant. I suddenly realized that I had wasted a decade wishing I could be a writer but producing very little beyond two failed novels and some stories. In 1993, I sat down with my growing belly and, with an almost overpowering sense of time running out, wrote a story that went on to win a prize. Later, knowing that my daughter woke early, I would wake even earlier to write the chapters of what would become my first novel. I think becoming a mother teaches one how to use all the available time."

Researchers from the Netherlands recently proved that during pregnancy, fetal cells enter and spread throughout the mother's body. Called “microchimerism," it's the presence of cells “with a different genetic background" within your body. The researchers collected samples from 26 women who had been pregnant with sons and found the presence of Y chromosomes in all of them.

That's solid proof that, after becoming a mom, you're not the same person. It's Palmer's choice whether she turns into a “boring, irrelevant, ignorable artist" and someone who is unable to have an intelligent conversation. The unavoidable fact, though, is that pregnancy, birth, and parenthood will have changed her profoundly.

You might also like:

    True

    My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

    Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

    They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

    To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

    Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

    Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

    And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

    What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

    Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

    In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

    Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

    And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

    For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

    For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

    For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

    I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

    Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

    Thank you for understanding. ❤️

    In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

    Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

    Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

    I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life

    10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

    You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

    Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

    As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

    Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life