news item: what nobody remembers about new motherhood

When my girls were rounding the corner towards their first birthday, I made a little video montage of them. It was similar to the ones I’ve made in the past for the parents of the children in my toddler classrooms when I worked in childcare, with video clips set to music that added an extra layer of sentimentality. The video is set up to mimic my memory of those early months– a bunch of shots of the girls gazing around sleepily as newborns, then a fast-moving flash of photo stills of our milk-filled freezer, bottles scattered on the counter, and late-night feeding sessions, and then clips of the girls again starting around nine months old, suddenly unrecognizably mobile and animated and interested and BIG.

I’ve watched it over and over, tearing up every time. The video montage of my girls’ first year isn’t about what they did that year, but about what it felt like to me. It’s powerful to revisit that time.

A PAIL blogger sent us an article from The Atlantic this week entitled “Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood,” which touches on that phenomenon of “memory montages” which color our memories of the early days of new parenthood:

Like the hormonal magic that dulls our memories of the pain of childbirth, the montage-ification of the first months of motherhood is therapeutic and practical. It allows us to smile fondly at a photo of the baby taken on her one-week birthday, the very day that we woke to her cries just an hour after the last feeding, put lanolin on our bleeding nipples and, sick with exhaustion, made a mental note to ask the man for whom we once wore expensive lingerie to run out for some adult diapers (excellent for post-partum bleeding). And it readies us to produce a sibling for the little tyrant who made us so genuinely miserable on that surprisingly photogenic morning.

But the flip side of rosy-colored memories of early motherhood is a sort of amnesia which, when we interact with other new moms after we’ve advanced to more seasoned parenting, can end up silencing and invalidating their not-so-rosy experiences:

… this benign forgetting also has the unfortunate consequence of making us feel a little more alone in those challenging months, because no one we talk to—not our mothers, not our friends with toddlers, not our pediatricians or lactation consultants—is able to re-inhabit her own experience fully enough to really understand how we feel.

To read the full article, pop over to The Atlantic for “Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood.” Then let us know what you think below!

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What are your early memories of parenthood? 

Do you feel that your memories are true to your actual experience?

What sort of sentimental advice do you hear from family, friends and strangers?

What, in your mind, is the most important thing seasoned parents can share with new parents?

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IMG_6389Jules is a former toddler teacher and nanny who turned her Master’s degree in early childhood into a full-time gig as a stay-at-home mom to twin toddlers. She blogs about her parenting philosophy (which she hopes is crunchy but accessible), her quest for better health and daily life with her husband, dog and two funny little girls at Two Pink Tulips.

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