Book Talk: Mother Brain, with Chelsea Conaboy
FOR SO MANY OF US, maternal instinct doesn’t show up, at least not in the ways we expected it to. Caring for a newborn does not feel innate. There is no switch that flips when we become pregnant or when our baby arrives. Too often, we don’t question the narrative, the one that says we should know just what to do and how to feel. The one that discounts how parenting requires a whole set of practical skills that we may or may not already possess. The one that omits the facts and circumstances of our individual lives before pregnancy and afterward, that says we will transition seamlessly (but for a bit of sleep deprivation) from a person committed first and foremost to sustaining our own survival to one who is now also entirely responsible for a tiny, nonverbal creature that depends on us for their every need. Instead, we question ourselves.
— CHAPTER 1, “At the Flip of a Switch”
Join us for a live on-campus TC Book Talk with veteran journalist Chelsea Conaboy about her new book, Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood (New York: Henry Holt, 2022), co-sponsored by The Reproductive Psychology Lab in collaboration with the Neuroscience & Education Program and Gottesman Libraries.
“Conaboy expected things to change with the birth of her child. What she didn’t expect was how different she would feel. But she would soon discover what was behind this: her changing brain. Though Conaboy was prepared for the endless dirty diapers, the sleepless nights, and the joy of holding her newborn, she did not anticipate this shift in self, as deep as it was disorienting. Mother Brain is a groundbreaking exploration of the parental brain that untangles insidious myths from complicated realities.
New parents undergo major structural and functional brain changes, driven by hormones and the deluge of stimuli a baby provides. These neurobiological changes help all parents―birthing or otherwise―adapt in those intense first days and prepare for a long period of learning how to meet their child’s needs. Pregnancy produces such significant changes in brain anatomy that researchers can easily sort those who have had one from those who haven’t. And all highly involved parents, no matter their path to parenthood, develop similar caregiving circuitry. Yet this emerging science, which provides key insights into the wide-ranging experience of parenthood, from its larger role in shaping human nature to the intensity of our individual emotions, is mostly absent from the public conversation about parenthood.
The story that exists in the science today is far more meaningful than the idea that mothers spring into being by instinct. Weaving the latest neuroscience and social psychology together with new reporting, Conaboy reveals unexpected upsides, generations of scientific neglect, and a powerful new narrative of parenthood.”
– publisher’s description
Attendees who wish to have their book signed may purchase a copy of Mother Brain at the nearby Columbia University Bookstore (2922 Broadway), or other authorized retailers, prior to the talk.
Where: 306 Russell / Online