In our circles, we've been hearing about a wide range of pregnancy and birth experiences, and earlier this week we asked how you felt about the care you received during your pregnancy and birth. Many of you feel supported and empowered by your care team while others have been completely disregarded, shamed, and disrespected.
You DESERVE to be supported, listened to, and respected. Always.
And you can always change care providers.
You can change providers at 6 or 39 weeks. You can find a new OB or Midwife to provide your postpartum care. You can change pediatricians anytime.
My 5 year old daughter LOVES her body. She loves everything about it - she told me the other day that one of the freckles on her arm is "SO cool."
It is heartening and heart breaking.
As adult women we've been bombarded for almost our whole lives with the message that our bodies are never good enough. It's exhausting, it's controlling, and it's something that with every fiber of my being I can't stand having my daughter (or son) be defined by.
It's something that's come up in every single one of our circles. How pregnant bodies seem to be an invitation to comment - "Are you sure its not twins?" "You don't even look pregnant!" "You're gaining too much/too little weight." Or how in a pandemic we feel truly invisible even though we're literally growing a human being.
Then we're supposed to "get our body back" after giving birth - like it's something we've lost instead of something that grew and birthed a baby (or two or more). Even though we did the most amazing thing in the world, we still feel devastated when our clothes don't fit or someone's judgmental comment brings our insecurities roaring back.
Disrupting this system and changing our own thought patterns is HARD. But living in a system that benefits off of our body shame, that keeps women, minorities, and differently abled people out of positions of power, is so much worse.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Our theme of the month is receiving support. If you have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, or if you ever do, we want to make sure that you feel supported by your community and know how to get help.
One of the hardest parts of losing a baby, outside of the loss itself, is grieving in isolation and without support. When I recall my own loss, the feeling of being alone stands out. I had never heard a close friend or family member talk about pregnancy loss. I had no idea how common pregnancy loss is. I wondered if I had done something wrong.
I questioned every choice I’d made in that short period of time: should I have not consumed that cheap coffee? Should I have not gone on that run? Should I have not yelled at my husband that day? One of these things that I had done might have caused it. I should have been more careful. These were the messages my vulnerable and isolated mind created.
This week, we hope you'll feel empowered to trust yourself and choose care providers who listen and support you. This is especially important for your OBs, midwives, and pediatricians, but also extends to those caring for you and your children on a daily basis. It's never too late to make a shift - one mom in this community changed providers at 38 weeks pregnant! We'd love to hear your stories, too.
While pregnancy and motherhood often feel completely all-consuming, there's nothing like a pandemic and full-on 24/7 parenting to remind us that it's SO HARD. The uncertainty, guilt, and need for a real break have punctuated all of my recent conversations. So here's our timely reminder that we need to advocate for ourselves, ask for help, and prioritize our own well-being.
During pregnancy, not only are we building a human being with our bodies, we are also morphing from an autonomous individual mostly free to spend our time, energy and resources any way we like into a person with responsibilities for others lives and well-being. We begin to feel the limitations of our time, energy and resources as we experience sickness, exhaustion, physical pain and discomfort, or simply getting too big at some point to tie our own shoes or go for a run.
In becoming a mother, we lose some of our autonomy, but we gain many other things, including a deeper sense of self and purpose in life for things in and outside of our home. We become oriented to a deeper richer fuller life if we allow ourselves the transformation.
But we can’t transform alone. We need help. We need to advocate for ourselves and our needs. While motherhood is a time of giving to the next generation, it is also a time of asking for and receiving help. The task is too big to do alone as an autonomous individual.
Those of you who have had children know that so much of the transformation to motherhood happens behind closed doors. It is largely invisible to the world. It is also a monumental shift. It’s real work.
In a newborn group this week, several new moms spoke about how guilty they’ve felt that they are sitting around feeding babies while partners do everything (or don’t do everything and there’s conflict!).
Some women really enjoy pregnancy. I didn’t. In fact, I hated every moment of those 27-months. I can’t believe I did it, on purpose, three times. For me and others, the debilitating nausea, exhaustion and physical pain leaves us feeling out of control of our bodies and our lives. Even if we’re well through pregnancy, there still comes a time when we have lost the ability to do something we have taken for granted - like tying our shoes, going for a run, or just getting up off the floor unassisted. As the baby bump gets bigger, we can’t control the unwelcome comments everyone, even strangers, feel entitled to direct at us. We lose even more control during labor. Contractions begin, become more intense, and then with a final push, a new life comes into being. And our lives are irrevocably changed.
Art and words by Morgan Harper Nichols.
While we do often have support around us, giving birth is an experience we go through alone under any circumstance, pandemic or not. Birth is happening in your body, with your body, and ideally, with your full participation of your own internal experience. It’s a Heroine’s Journey. (A Hero’s Journey is the masculine experience of adventuring out into the world, whereas a Heroine’s Journey is the experience of going inward to heal and reclaim our feminine power.)
Though it is a solitary journey, we can support and bear witness to each other, share our experiences, learn from each other, and build a new world that works for all, together, as a result.
There are many ways to experience the Heroine’s Journey. Pregnancy is one of the most tangible. Pregnancy is an internal, alchemical process, as you build a human in your body with your body. Creating, holding and growing life where there was none before. Please allow that to sink in. Really. If we understood the miracle of that, we could no longer have violence against women. Nor could we have violence against anyone who’s life was created by a woman. And we would trust women to know what’s best for her body, her life, and her family.
Owning this sacred, internal process is vitally important, now more than ever.
We cannot go on ignoring the sacredness of the lives we women bring into the world.
The Heroine’s Journey does not stop with pregnancy and birth. It is, however, an essential first step to the rest of your life as Mother. No one else will be Mother to your child but you. You may have proxies, but no one else will ever fill that role but you. No one will know and advocate for your child like you will. Partners, family members, friends and caregivers have their very important roles to play, but you alone are Mother. No one will give birth but you. No one will Mother but you. And no one will give birth to you as Mother but you.
Life is messy. It’s constantly changing. Nothing is meant to stay the same. Sometimes changes come in small ways: we try a new recipe, take a new class, meet a new friend. Sometimes those changes are bigger: we change jobs, move our home, get married. Other times those changes are extraordinary: we get pregnant and prepare to give birth. Becoming a mother is an extraordinary change. Like death, it not only changes our circumstances, but it also rocks us to our core. We are forever and irrevocably changed by the experience.
And it’s messy.
And you are experiencing this extraordinary time in the middle of another extraordinary time, a global pandemic.
Talk about messy.
Before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it turns into a soupy mush in its cocoon. That cannot be a pleasant experience. And it is certainly messy. The caterpillar literally gives itself up in order to become something completely brand new. This is what motherhood is about. I don’t mean that you give yourself up to be whatever your child needs, though there is an element of that. What I mean is that you give up the caterpillar you once were to become the butterfly you were meant to be.
There was just a really great recent thread on our companion list serve about essentials for a hospital birth - especially items not covered by the basic lists available online. Here are what 10+ moms in our community shared...
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.