Rather Mom- Shame, ...

5 min read

Key Points

  • 0-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
  • 15% of women experience disrupted lactation and cannot breastfeed.
  • 19% of women ages 15-49 struggle to conceive in the first year.
  • 26% of women ages 15-49 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term (impaired fecundity).
  • One in three women undergoes a cesarean section in the U.S.

 

Article Written By: Jess Kimball

Every woman has been asked the question “When do you want to have kids?” or “How many kids do you want?” We are encouraged to dream of the family we want, but for so many women when they are ready to have the family they want they face many obstacles. These obstacles often go unspoken because when they are talked about there is a shameful response. 

When those obstacles arise it seems like the least supportive people are other women, the people who should be the most understanding. Many women in the United States struggle with pregnancy loss, unplanned birth outcomes such as an emergency cesarean section, struggles in breastfeeding, body image issues, and a variety of other mentally draining obstacles that could be better overcome with a strong supportive community in place. It really does take a village, not just to parent, but to exist. 

  • 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
  • 15% of women experience disrupted lactation and cannot breastfeed.
  • 19% of women ages 15-49 struggle to conceive in the first year.
  • 26% of women ages 15-49 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term (impaired fecundity).
  • One in three women undergoes a cesarean section in the U.S.

After my first miscarriage, I thought my friends and family would offer an amazing level of support. I thought I’d heal with ease through that support, but I learned what many women who miscarry learn, that many people are not sensitive. The least sensitive responses of all seemed to be from other women, specifically women who did not experience the same hardship. 

 

I was told “It just isn’t your time”, “You could pretend it never happened”, “At least you got pregnant”, “God is punishing you for something”, and a whole mix of other hurtful comments. I do not think anyone has a seamless pregnancy and postpartum experience, but it seems as though people are only sensitive to the same struggle they went through. Or, in some cases, once they conquer the struggle they are not sensitive at all. This seems to stem from mom-shaming or the “mommy wars”. 

 

Mom shaming often includes shaming about breastfeeding, questioning a mother on their baby’s milestones, pushing your values, portraying your life as perfect on social media, or questioning someone's birth choices or birth outcome. 

 

50% of women who have miscarried report feeling guilty and blaming themselves, despite it not being their fault.

 

By better supporting the women around us throughout the obstacles they face in their fertility and parenting journey we can reduce this shame. I don’t think anyone understands the pain of having a miscarriage until they go through it, the same goes for not being able to breastfeed. Sometimes people just do not understand how to support someone who is going through something they are unfamiliar with. Isolation and shame make these struggles even harder for the people going through them. 

 

The mom-shaming extends past fertility and into pregnancy. There is a huge pressure from other moms to not have a cesarean section, but some people choose to have a c-section because it is the best option for them and other people do not have control over that choice because of an emergency. We should avoid telling people who have a cesarean section that it is “unnatural” or “the easy way out”. The majority of c-sections are deemed medically necessary with only 2.5% being maternal requests. At the end of the day, it is a person's choice for an elective c-section, but we should not assume how someone's c-section came to be or cast judgment. 

  • A survey of 913 mothers commissioned by TIME found that half of all new mothers had experienced regret, shame, guilt, or anger, mostly due to unexpected complications and lack of support. 
  • More than 70% felt pressured to do things a certain way. 
  • More than half said a natural birth was extremely or very important, yet 43% wound up needing drugs or an epidural, and 22% had unplanned C-sections. 
  • Out of the 20% who planned to breastfeed for at least a year, fewer than half actually did.

 

How can you offer support?

  • Acknowledge what they are going through. The loss they are feeling is real, whatever that loss is, and it needs to be acknowledged not diminished.
  • Listen and hold space. People need other people to get through the struggles of life. Sometimes all someone needs is a safe space to discuss their struggle and know that they have someone there that they can safely talk to. If you are unfamiliar with the challenge they are facing you can simply say “I can’t offer advice, but I can offer an ear. I’m here if you need to talk”. 
  • Offer practical support if you can. Maybe you know of a resource that could help them. Do not push those resources on them but mention the resource and let them know that it could be worth reaching out to the resource if they feel like it could help. 
  • Avoid triggers. You may have good intentions, but sometimes statements that you meant to be supportive are actually harmful. Be sensitive and conscious of how you speak to the person you are supporting. 
  • Do not make it about your experience. Keep the conversation focused on them unless they ask for advice about a similar situation you were in. It is important to focus on supporting them. 
  • Support can be physical. If you are not a good listener and do not have any advice that you feel could actually help try running an errand or dropping off a meal or coffee, just to let them know they are not alone. 

 

We all have the ability to set our own personal standards and choose what is the best option for us. Parents should always trust their intuition and do what works best for their family. Mothers are a huge part of the foundation of the family and should remember to protect both their mental and physical health. You cannot be a good parent if you are pouring from an empty cup and your cup will empty a lot faster when you are listening to mom-shaming. It can really negatively affect mental health! Remember to choose safe people to talk to. It is okay if not all the people in your life offer the support you are seeking. One friend may be a good listener while another may be better at offering a distraction, such as a coffee date!

 

It truly takes a village and sometimes it can take some time to really find your village. You may find yourself adding to the village you already have. Your friends who do not have kids may not be who you go to discuss struggles. You may find yourself making new mommy friends. It is important to have a strong community around you, as your family expands you should expand your support network. 

 

References:

Howorth, C. (2017, October 19). The goddess myth: Why many new Mothers feel guilt and shame. Time. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://time.com/4989068/motherhood-is-hard-to-get-wrong/

 

Tue, Apr 19, 22
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