Real fear, Or neurological change ? Find out.

Real fear, Or neurological change ? Find out.

Women all around the world ask themselves this question.  Is this fear real or irrational... what actually happens to us when we give birth.

Well, I can tell you studies have been done on the female brain to see the neurological changes which prove we are not just "gone windy".

I have been through this myself and can relate, having done young horses for a long time, I know the uncertainty that lies behind and have asked myself, " have I lost my bottle?".

The answer is no, so...

What actually happens to a woman's brain when she becomes a mother?

Emotional changes are largely neurological. Before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of the brain. Scientists link the way a woman acts with what is happening the brain where grey matter becomes more concentrated, we see increased activity in regions that control empathy, anxiety and social interaction. (Yes ladies, you are not crazy). One of the most basic levels of those changes is prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period help a new mother connect with her baby. Those maternal feelings of Fierce protectiveness, over whelming love, constant worry, new-found empathy and high anxiety begin with reactions in the brain.  This also explains as to why so many new mothers experience serious anxiety and depression. It's estimated that 1 in 6 women suffer from postpartum depression. Can I get a show of hands who has put more pressure and guilt onto themselves to ride that horse that's been sitting in the field for 9 months,  And to lose that baby weight, get back out jumping or to whatever we were doing before you had a child. Is this where the term Crazy Horse girl comes from???

It has been reported that mothers show high levels and patterns of thinking about things they CANNOT control. In my opinion there is only so much you can control and your hormones and changes in the brain are certainly not one of them.

I found myself a bit nervous getting back up on my horse after giving birth to a mini human that I now have to keep alive as well as myself... that's what hit me the most. It's not just me I have to mind anymore. My baby needs me, needs me to be able to take care of him... it wasn't about going out hunting on a screw of a horse and telling the tale after about how you got that black eye and cut on your face coming home with a near miss of death and laughing about the massive ditch you jumped and just about landed on the other side with a barbwire fence in the middle. A few pints later, sure aren't you grand. Didn't you survive... those words weren't good enough now, now I have a totally different reason to stay alive and well. Don't get me wrong I like being alive, sometimes a little too much that I never want to leave this world, but it hits different when you grow a life inside your own body and then are responsible for doing the best you can for it for the rest of your life.

On my first child I bought a horse when I was 8 months pregnant, so my first sit up was 6 weeks after I had my boy. My husband rode him for me, I find him to be a good judge of a horse. He wasn't wrong, I loved him from the moment I sat up on him. 4Yr old Irish draught, broken and riding. But the thoughts that came flooding in like a steam train with no brakes, those over whelming feelings, the love of the horse was not strong enough to override the new-found maternal protectiveness, anxiety, constant worry, and love I have for my child to protect myself from danger... let's be honest, we are not riding bikes, these 600kg animals have their own minds and are capable of anything. (Again, crazy horse girls ?!). One main thought was, what if I'm not good enough? My confidence was gone... not because I had a fall or anything of the sort, but having a child made me question my worth. Am I good enough for anyone, or anything? Am I good enough to be a mother? The flood gates opened once again, and I found myself spiraling deeper down the rabbit hole of doubt. "I should be further down the road. I should be back out jumping by now. I'm fat. I'm tired. I'm overwhelmed. I need to keep going. It's what everyone does, don't be weak, show people you are strong, get back out there, tell everyone I'm fine, prove it.

One thing I find now I can control is the thoughts that I fed my brain. Therapy helped all of those thoughts, one thing I never regret spending money on. We cannot control the changes in the brain, but we can control what thoughts we feed the brain.

Some neurologists say it is not clear whether or not a mother's brain ever goes back to what It was before childbirth. Men show brain changes also when becoming a parent but by a socio-cognitive network that develops in the brain in both sexes later in life. Whereas women have a brain hormone that is automatically primed for motherhood. The blueprint for mothering exists in the woman's brain even before she has children.  

You will be glad to know, "baby brain " is real, you are not losing your marbles... when our brains need to make space for a new priority like keeping a baby alive, remembering a shopping list takes a back seat ... also sleep deprivation, hormones, anxiety have a part to play in baby brain. Some cognitive advantages in new moms are something like a superpower, hyper vigilant, aware, looking out for danger, listening for cries, heightened empathy. And plenty of other emotions to go with it.

All I'm saying ladies is, take it easy on yourself, talk to someone. I know it feels like it's only you, you are the only one who feels and thinks this, but trust me, it's not.


We all think we are alone until we speak to others on this subject... vulnerability is scary but when you open up it's a whole new story.

Lorraine McElroy

Lorraine McElroy

42 year old horsey mammy of 2 boys. Married to a wonderful man. 1 horse called Albert. We do a bit of everything. Been around horses for the last 34 years. Hope you enjoy my stories. Love learning💕