Jenny Schatzle

Britta Bushnell, PhD

Tranformed By Birth: Exploring The Ways in Which Becoming a Mother Transforms Us 

EPISODE: 21   |    DATE: December 17, 2020

“Birth and death are powerful rites of passage. Their purpose is to change us. To alter our knowing of who we are. And you don’t get to go through that big change – that real identity transformation – by phoning it in and having it be super easy.  Great change is inspired by deep experiences.

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Key Takeaways

  • Undoing perfectionist tendencies is part of the journey of becoming a parent. 
  • Parenting and becoming a parent are two different things.
  • There is skill building and identity transformation that happens in becoming a parent.
  • We are very pluralistic emotional beings. Not dualistic. We are not one or the other. We are both AND. This and that and that. So we can feel happy and sad at the same time, and this often happens in parenthood.
  • The bookends of life are birth and death. So birth and death actually have a lot of similarities.
  • There is an overall rhetoric in our culture when it comes to giving birth and becoming parents that diminish acceptable other feelings. Well intentioned people make a statement that says you are only allowed to feel happy about your happy baby when instead a new parent might actually be having an experience of relief, of shock, of great sadness, and profound joy and love all wrapped up together.
  • Giving birth and becoming a mother is a right of passage. It is not simply a medical event or a physical event or a relationship event or a family event. It is all of that and more.
  • In order to prepare to become parents, we have to move beyond intellect.
  • Information can be important and it has a place. But information only helps you in your intellectual part of your brain. It doesn’t prepare the soul and body.
  • Becoming a parent is akin to a caterpillar going through metamorphosis to become a butterfly. The period of time in the cocoon is messy and challenging. That is the metamorphosis, and that’s becoming a parent. And metamorphosis doesn’t happen without transfiguration, without change, without shifts.
  • The books and professionals are important and they do have a place in our journey. They may be experts in babies. But you need to remember that only YOU are the expert in YOUR baby.
  • Use the books, advice and experts to inform your intuition, to inform your understanding.
  • Intuition and instinct are two different things. Instinct are those innate bread feelings and impulses that we have as human animals. But intuition is more of that felt sense, which is really a processor of experience and knowledge and wisdom and intellect and information and past experiences – all of those things get put into your intuition, and then your intuition kind of mixes them up and decides what feels right.
  • Before we head to the internet or to the books to look for an answer to whatever we are wondering about, Britta suggests doing these 2 things:
  • We need to allow ourselves to be in a place of curiosity more often in this day and age where so much information is available at our fingertips in the blink on an eye. That curiosity helps inform our intuition.
  • We need to be more kind to ourselves as we learn how to parent. We don’t berate our children for not walking at 4 months old. Because it’s not an appropriate time yet! And yet we tend to hold ourselves as new parents to a much higher, more judgmental standard that says we should know already how to do x, y and z.
  • Integrating your new identity as a parent can take several years.
  • Once you fully integrate yourself as a mother, you’ll find that what it means to mother continues to morph and change and evolve as your children get older.
  • The transformation that happens for first time parents is most often different than having subsequent children. A first born is born into an adult world. Meaning the world in that household revolves around adults. That newborn transforms the whole household to run around a child’s world. When the second and so on baby comes, those babies come into a child’s world. That home is not an adult’s world. 
  • One of the things Britta would love to change in the conversation around pregnancy and new parenthood is around normalizing grief. Grief is a normal part of this process. Giving involves a kind of death even with a living child. It involves a death of a part of ourselves, it involves a death of a certain kind of lifestyle and parts of who we were. Even if we are ok or even excited about those changes – there is still loss involved. And with that loss comes some grief. And we need to make that ok.
  • With regards to caring for your romantic relationship, Britta talks about a concept she got from Jack Zimmerman, which is the idea of the relationship as the 3rd entity. There is you, your husband, and then the relationship itself. 
  • Your needs and your husband’s needs might align. But neither of your individual needs or wants speak directly to what the relationship wants. 
  • We have to pay attention to the relationship as an entity that needs attention all its own.
  • Relationships can be a little bit like humans. They can throw tantrums. They can be toddlers. When you don’t give them enough attention, they’re going to make sure they get your attention. 
  • You have to figure out how to tend to the relationship as something special and unique that is both made up of you as individuals but is also separate from you as individuals.

About Britta

Dr. Britta Bushnell (she/her) is a wife and mother, author of Transformed by Birth, veteran childbirth educator, celebrated speaker, mythologist, and specialist in childbirth, relationship, and parenting. For over 20 years, Dr. Bushnell has worked with individuals and couples as they prepare for the life-changing experience of giving birth. Her work with parents has been enriched by her doctoral work in mythology and psychology, her years spent as former co-owner of Birthing From Within, as well as her dedicated study of solution-focused brief therapy, storytelling, sustaining sexual vibrancy, and helping romantic partnerships thrive even during parenthood.

Britta is an engaging teacher, speaker, and presenter. Whether addressing a room of expectant parents, new mothers, or seasoned birth professionals, Britta has a way of captivating and inspiring them all. She has presented at conferences such as DONA International, MANA, ICEA, and Lamaze. Additionally, Britta has been featured on several popular podcasts including Informed Pregnancy, Birthful and Atomic Moms. In 2016, in recognition of her transformative childbirth classes, Britta was awarded “Educator of the Year” by the Southern California Doula Association (DASC).

Britta’s work focuses on the transformational journey of pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood. Using a grounded, honest, and playful approach, she helps parents navigate birth and parenthood with strength, confidence, and a deep connection as a couple.





Resources in this episode

Britta’s Book: Transformed by Birth

Britta’s Podcast: Transformed

The Episode Britta References with her son: Holding Space for Our Broken Parts

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