Book Review: The Birth of a Mother

During my academic years I read articles and heard about Dr. Daniel Stern many, many times. He was an expert on mothers and babies and brought a psychodynamic view and developmental research together. Known for writing several books on these topics, I have to say that they were on my to-read list for a while.

Again, aligning the timing of my personal life with my professional interests, I thought it was a perfect time to read one of his great books. I picked  “The Birth of a Mother: how the motherhood experience changes you forever”  by Daniel Stern, M.D.  Available on Amazon for $9.99 (Kindle version) and $17.10 (paperback).

birth of a mother

This book met all my expectations and beyond, satisfying my professional curiosity and aligning with all the feelings and transformations that I am personally going through in this new phase of my life.

Dr. Stern uses case examples to illustrate what his research and years of working with mothers and babies have taught him. At the same time, for the pregnant reader, you are struck by the similarities in those stories.

The book explores the psychological transformation that occurs during pregnancy, birth, and in motherhood. This isn’t typically a topic that is discussed much when a woman is pregnant. There is a focus on physical health and preparation for labor, but the psychological transformation, the changes and development occurring during this phase are as important. This book talks about what other people don’t. What is going through your mind while you are pregnant and in different stages of pregnancy; the role of the imagined baby; the transformation that occurs at the time of birth; the changes in your relationship with your own mother and the influence of the memory of your own childhood; the role of the father/partner; and even the topic of career and going back to work.

As an example from the Part I, here is a quote that speaks to the complexity of change that is happening during this time:

“In a sense, there are three pregnancies going on simultaneously: the physical fetus growing in your womb, the motherhood mindset developing in your psyche, and the imagined baby taking shape in your mind. “

It’s a great book and read for anyone professionally interested in mother-baby dyadic relationships and/or for pregnant women and couples.

Book aside, I would just add that there are many times of change in a person’s life. Pregnancy is one of the big ones. Your roles and relationships will be shifting and life as you know it will too. Pregnancy consumes your every day for 9 months – from the physical changes that happen everyday, to the planning and preparation for the arrival of the baby, to the psychological/developmental changes happening in your mind. We live in a fast-paced environment today, and many mother’s are not “allowed” the time to think about these things. If you are ever feeling like you are wasting time thinking about your pregnancy or your baby… don’t! It is as important (if not more) as finishing that project at work or going to the supermarket. You need the time to focus on yourself and your baby… it’s part of the preparation. And you want to be prepared, right?

Personally, being pregnant has made me live more in the moment, listen to my body and it’s needs, and begin a connection with a small human being that I haven’t even met. Some relationships are starting to shift and there is some thinking about what my new roles will be and what they will be like. But above all, there is a positive feeling that I have been in the moment, I have lived this pregnancy, and I trust that once she is born, I will discover what this new phase has in store for me and what my new roles will be.

So, I will finish with another quote from Dr. Stern:

“During these early years,  not only are you creating your motherhood identity, but you also have the opportunity to rethink and reinvent yourself as a person. There are few opportunities for adults to do this, but becoming a mother is one – as is falling in love.” 

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