This book is absolutely life changing. To Have and To Hold by Molly Millwood, Ph.D. should be read by ever women out there in any stage of motherhood. I related to so many parts of this book and there were chapters that were extremely hard to read because it brought back feelings of shame and guilt I felt when my children were newborns. It is hard to face those emotions head on, but I know now that doing so makes me a better person. So much of this review is tied into my own personal experience as a mother, but I hope the honesty helps influence you to read this book. My hope is that it is as life changing for you as it was for me.
The past few years, I have embarked on a self improvement journey and continue to educate myself on self care. Before I had children, I described myself as a perfectionist who praised myself for being independent, shamed myself when I felt any feelings of dependency, and felt stranded if I was not in control. I thought the fact that I had the tenacity to get through anything was living, but it took having children to learn the truths about who I truly am as a person. Children hold a mirror up to our faces and force us to take a good, hard look at who we are and who we want to continue to be. After I had Abel, I fell into a spiral of anxiety and depression. I never realized it until then, but I suffered from anxiety and depression my entire life. It took upending my life with a new baby to realize it and actually do something about it. When I was pregnant, I read several books about what to expect with pregnancy and a newborn. You know the ones I am talking about. They are the typical "what to expect when you're expecting" and "newborn 101 basics." I felt so prepared. I knew what was happening inside my belly, how to give a newborn a proper bath, change a diaper, breastfeed (you just stick your boob in the babies mouth and it happens, right?) Boy, was I in for it and boy, was I wrong! I knew maybe 10% of what I needed to know and the other 90% came at me like a freight train. Nothing can prepare you for the realities of having a newborn. And no book I read mentioned much about the changes I would face mentally. I felt like I knew the "how to" for having a baby, but I did not realize how much it would mentally affect me and change my relationship with my husband. I wish a book like To Have and To Hold by Molly Millwood, Ph.D. was around when I first started having children. This book has so much honesty and relatable experiences, I highly recommend it for any of my mom friend's out there, regardless of what stage you are in motherhood.
To Have and To Hold touches on all of the things us new mothers experience. The icky stuff that people do not want to voice out loud, but so desperately need to so we can realize that our feelings are valid and completely normal. To Have and To Hold discusses the life changing experience of motherhood and the ways it psychologically, emotionally, physically, and professionally affect and change women. It is an honest and authentic reflection of the joy and love, mixed with feelings of shame, guilt, tension, conflict, and confusion that all mothers experience to some degree. Molly Millwood draws from her own experiences as a mother of young children, combined with stories from her clients, and scientific research. Molly's personal narrative and client stories are what make this book so relatable. She draws from her own experiences in such an authentic way and gives tangible advice that I could immediately apply to my life. She explains different perspectives on motherhood, such as that from the father's point of view, that have personally helped me so much.
To Have and To Hold is structured into ten chapters, covering the motherhood transformation, unspoken shame, letting go of expectations, relationship divides, self reflection, learning from your children, and finding yourself again. I found the anecdotes relatable and honest. There were some stories where I remember feeling and thinking the exact same thing as Molly or her client. There is comfort that can be found when you learn that you are not alone with your feelings and that they are completely normal and experienced by most mothers. Molly's advice is tangible and I found that I was able to start implementing some of the advice almost immediately in my relationship and with my parenting.
The first half of the book is more focused on the the initial stages of motherhood: emotions involved with maternity leave, shame, guilt, resentment with your partner, etc.. The chapter on shame was hard for me to read, but also something I needed to face. Molly talks about how us mothers need to confront shame and guilt head on. Do not bury it deep and ignore it. Call it out, face it, and work through it. This is not fun and by no means easy, but so necessary in order to move past the shame and guilt associated with motherhood. I am only a couple years removed from maternity leave, so a lot of the first few chapters were pretty fresh for me, but I found it really powerful. I had a very hard time with my first child, especially while on maternity leave. I mourned my old life, despised my new life, and loved, but also hated my child. To Have and To Hold is completely unfiltered and talks about the shame and guilt that comes along with these feelings. I felt like some sentences were written especially for me. That does not happen often when I read a book, so that means something special. Reading a book that you so desperately need to read, without realizing it when you initially pull it off the library shelf, is an amazing feeling.
The second half of the book focuses more on the relationship with your partner and how to not let the life altering event of having a baby push you apart. I laughed out loud when I read the quote preceding the chapter titled "Couples Adrift." It says "Having a baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage." Have truer words ever been written? I think not! With our first child, my husband tried to work together as a team, us against the challenge of our new life, but I repeatedly pushed him away. Looking back now, I understand it was the depression and anxiety doing the bulk of it and I had suppressed memories and issues that arose when I was faced with the stress of a newborn. When we had our second child, we were more prepared and I had a couple years of therapy under my belt, so we banded together as a team and pushed through the long days and hard nights. The chapters where Molly discusses the family unit and relationship division really hit home for me and I found a lot of helpful advice.
I gave To Have and To Hold by Molly Millwood, Ph.D, ★★★★.5. I loved the honesty and authenticity of this book. Molly holds nothing back and her personal stories, mixed with her client's stories and scientific evidence, make this such a valuable parenting book. I have already recommended this book to so many people and I feel like it is one of those "life changing books" that all mothers should read.
Have you read this one or will you add it to your list? If you do, bump it up and read it ASAP. You will be glad you did!