A clinical psychologist’s exploration of the modern dilemmas women face in the wake of new motherhood
When Molly Millwood became a mother, she was fully prepared for what she would gain: an adorable baby boy; hard-won mothering skills; and a messy, chaotic, beautiful life. But what she did not expect was what she would lose: aspects of her identity, a baseline level of happiness, a general sense of wellbeing. And though she had the benefit of a supportive husband during this transition, she also at times resented the fact that the disruption to his life seemed to pale in comparison to hers.
As a clinical psychologist, Molly knew her experience was a normal response to a life-changing event. But without the advantage of such a perspective, many of the patients she treated in her private practice grappled with self-doubt, guilt, and fear, and suffered the dual pain of not only the struggle to adjust but also the overwhelming shame for struggling at all.
In To Have and to Hold, Molly explores the complex terrain of new motherhood, illuminating the ways it affects women psychologically, emotionally, physically, and professionally—as well as how it impacts their partnership. Along with the arrival of a bundle of joy come thorny issues such as self-worth, control, autonomy, and dependency. And for most new mothers, these issues are experienced within the context of an intimate relationship, adding another layer of tension, conflict, and confusion to an already challenging time.
As Molly examines the inextricable link between women’s well-being as new mothers and the well-being of their relationships, she offers guidance to help readers reclaim their identities, overcome their guilt and shame, and repair their relationships. A blend of personal narrative, scientific research, and stories from Molly’s clinical practice, To Have and to Hold provides a much-needed lifeline to new mothers everywhere.
About the Author
Dr. Molly Millwood holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with advanced specialized training in marital therapy and intimate relationships. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford, Dr. Millwood joined the faculty of Saint Michael's College in Vermont where she is now a tenured professor and clinical supervisor. She teaches a course in marital therapy to graduate students earning their master’s degrees in clinical psychology, and her popular undergraduate course, The Psychology of Marriage & Relationships. She has published research articles on marital distress in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has presented her work at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association and other national conferences. Dr. Millwood is also a licensed psychologist in private practice where she is particularly known for her work with couples and with women navigating the transition to parenthood. She was a founding member of Vermont’s Postpartum Wellness Project, a community-based initiative to promote mental and physical wellness in new mothers through the services of a multidisciplinary team of practitioners. She lives in Vermont with her husband and two young children.
“To Have and to Hold speaks to so many women’s experiences of motherhood and marriage. Molly’s expertise shines on every page, and she writes beautifully. This book is exactly what I would be looking for if I were a new mother.” — Dr. Sue Johnson, bestselling author of Hold Me Tight
“A love note to mothers everywhere, movingly written, To Have and to Hold shines a powerful light on aspects of motherhood too long shrouded in shame. Millwood’s refrain— you are not alone, and what you’re feeling isnormal—is as empowering as it is healing.” — Dr. Craig Malkin, lecturer, Harvard Medical School, author of Rethinking Narcissism
“In To Have and to Hold, Molly Millwood has rendered an affecting portrait of the complexities of modern motherhood with compassion and empathy. While the mundanities of caring for young children can obscure the beauty of the act—as well as disorient us from ourselves—her gentle guidance will help readers find meaning, connection, and joy amid the chaos.” — Leah Weiss, PhD, author of How We Work, Lecturer at Stanford Business School, and founding faculty member of Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Program
“A compassionate book that affirms that emotional difficulties for new mothers are not anomalous but universal and can extend well past the immediate postpartum period, with profound effects on their relationships with their spouses.” — Publishers Weekly
“Although there are books on what to expect during pregnancy, there are few resources that address the major shifts that happen once a family welcomes a new baby. Drawing from research, her clinical practice, and her own life, [psychologist] Millwood explores attachment, marital strife, gender roles, and other essential topics.” — Booklist (starred review)
“As a culture, we largely ignore the emotional health and wellbeing of new mothers. To Have and to Hold provides an insightful and nuanced perspective from which to view the challenges facing so many women. Dr. Millwood’s writing is highly readable and her tone deeply kind. Thank you for pulling us out of the shame cave and into the light.” — Amy Mandeville O’Meara, WHNP, DrNP, AGNP, author of Maternity, Newborn, and Women’s Health Nursing
“Informative, entertaining, and enlightening research and personal reflections on the multifaceted ways children change a person forever.” — Kirkus Reviews