Six years ago when I became a mother, my own mother was by my side at my home birth and spent the entire first month of motherhood with me — it felt like an extra security blanket of confidence and care having her by my side 24 hours a day on this new frontier.
But, when she returned to New York, I was definitely not fully prepared for the fourth trimester. I was all about doing it myself both personally and professionally and, was completely averse to asking for help. This was about two years before the self-care and self-love “trend” hit pop-culture and, although I regularly taught my patients to practice self-care, I apparently hadn’t convinced myself that I needed a support community.
Luckily my mother’s intuition lead me in most situations and told me that I needed mothering so I could mother. It was then that I started leaning more into my intuition to see what I could see — first as a social scientist looking in on the mothering movement and, eventually, as a full-on participant.
Mother’s Intuition: It’s in our DNA
In her book, First Intelligence: Using the Science and Spirit of Intuition, intuition expert, Simone Wright describes how a mother’s sixth sense is completely natural — a mother just knows. She argues that all of the data and intellect we prize so highly in our society pushes this innate ability to the side.
As science on intuition has emerged, so did an interesting study showing the discovery of fetal DNA in the brains and organs of mothers.
The study, featured in PLOS One, reviewed the brains of 59 women who had died between the ages of 32 and 101. Of these women, 37 were found to have traces of the male Y chromosome in their brains (which they could not have received from their fathers because that would have made them male).
It’s been suggested that this fetal DNA is at least partially responsible for the emotional intelligence we refer to as mother’s intuition. LA-based integrative health experts, Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami who highlighted this research believe this DNA connection may eventually be able to explain how subconscious, cross-generational traumas are passed down that later create illnesses and how we can heal from them.
By supporting more science on mother’s intuition, we may extend this understanding conferred through DNA beyond ourselves as mothers and onto our sons and daughters — the new generations to shape humanity.
Instead of undermining one another’s intuition or second-guessing ourselves, we do one another a favor to open up these below-the-surface conversations with each other.
Resurgence of Practicing the Fourth Trimester; Society Take a Cue
Another delay in the progress of women supporting one another during this special time in their lives is the myth that women should “bounce back” to their former, more “fit” selves only weeks or months after becoming new moms (because, you know, not sleeping, breastfeeding, healing episiotomies, and sometimes separated pelvic floor muscles are a completely sound recipe for attempting to hit the gym).
Unlike the family-friendly maternal and paternal leave policies of countries like Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, many working American women enjoy their pregnancies, but once their baby is earthside, outdated societal expectations send mothers back to work with short leaves — creating guilt over their abilities to choose the best childcare, bond with their babies, and spend the sort of quality time they’d like to with their partners.
Thankfully, the ‘Mothering the Mother’ philosophy is a recent resurgence that is highlighting the necessity of honoring the fourth trimester, taking the time to experience the mother’s expression as a benevolent, nurturing force.
Mother’s and women’s organizations like The Fourth Trimester magazine, Kimberly Johnson (author of the book, The Fourth Trimester), and LA’s LOOM center are teaching that life after birthing deserves a special, extended level of support.
An integral practice before entering the fourth trimester is aligning with other mothers that will help you flourish, so that the baby too, will flourish. This camaraderie will support you emotionally, build your self-confidence, help prevent depression and anxiety, and aid you in learning to use these tools so well, that, when it’s time, you can pass them along to another new mother.
Juli Novotny, mother of three and founder of Pure Mamas in Southern California shared her experience when a midwife taught her that motherhood is a phase of life where the community should work together to support other parents. “I will never forget her telling me (right after I gave birth to my second child) that it would be so helpful if I went over to my neighbor’s house and offered to help with her new baby because it was her first,” she recalls. “That has stuck with me over the years. Having such loving, caring caregivers from the start pushed me to help all the friends around me when they first gave birth because it’s such a huge life-changing event.”
Feeling alone in the process of motherhood is unnecessary and a situation we can largely avoid putting ourselves in. Juli shared that when she reaches out to other moms and forces herself to be vulnerable, it actually puts her more at ease when other mothers listen and offer feedback. Often, when hearing unsolicited advice, we tend to think something is wrong with us and that we should be equipped to do it all, but, what we’re learning from experiences like Juli’s and the new fourth trimester birthing community is that, when mothers nurture one another they can confer this emotional intelligence to their posterity.
Mental Health — We Need to Talk about it if We Want to Upgrade Humanity
It seems ridiculous that those of us suffering from mental health issues still feel ashamed to ask for help out loud, and those of us that recognize others struggling feel too embarrassed to broach the subject.
Danielle Beinstein, friend and psychological astrologer recently explained, “In the healing world, I’ve noticed we tend to lean one of two ways. Either we fetishize happiness or we fetishize depression.” She went on to say how, in many ways, many of us are attached to one spectrum or the other “in an effort to cement an identity” — yet, the reality is the human condition experiences it all.
In our do-it-all society, we place the happiness-expectation on new mothers when depression and a full range of fluctuating emotions is the actual reality. With the emergence of this new movement, mothers are learning how to lift the stigma with a bit more courage. By sharing this nurturing wisdom, it will penetrate it’s way into our communities… because after all, we could all use a little mothering.
Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist. She has devoted her career to helping others realize their personal visions for wellness through the meeting of science and spirituality. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her husband and daughter.