The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Is the idea of 'maternal instinct' a myth?

By Rebecca Gale

31 Oct 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

People struggling with the transition to parenthood might feel shame over lacking "instinct". Distress is a normal response to a challenge.

Like so many women in this country, Chelsea Conaboy went back to work shortly after having her first baby. She sat in a makeshift closet, trying to pump breast milk, and wondered when the magical "maternal instinct" she'd heard so much about would kick in.

"I had this ingrained sense that there would be a biological process that carries me through those early hard days," she said. "When it didn't happen as I expected, I thought something was broken in me."

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