Picture it: I’m eight months pregnant at my own baby shower, opening new bottle sets, baby outfits, nursery decorations, car seats, and various other baby goods. It’s a beautiful day. We are celebrating the new life that is going to be coming into the world within the next month by sharing food, cake, laughs, and stories.
As clear as day I remember opening a postpartum basket that one of the guests made for me. I was thrilled! (Side note: a postpartum basket is a wonderful gift for a baby shower!) It included witch hazel foam, larger postpartum pads, coffee pods, and even sitz bath tablets. Then, from the crowd, a heard one of the guests say, “Oh, you’re going to need it!” I kind of laughed and just kept on opening the gifts. After the gifts were open, I began mingling and began speaking to this particular guest (who will remain anonymous) who decided that my baby shower was an appropriate time to tell me how horrible and regretful childbirth was for her.
Now, I am not naive. I didn’t get pregnant thinking that the birthing experience was going to be some sort of orgasmic fantasy filled with bodily pleasure. A woman pushes a human person out of her body. However, hearing the stories of this guest made me uncomfortable. I genuinely felt myself become filled with anxiety and sadness. My baby shower was lovely despite these comments, and this one guest’s comments were not the first or last I heard before having my son. For some reason, seasoned moms love to talk about the negatives of motherhood. They love to talk about how little sleep they are getting, how bad their toddlers are, how difficult teething is, the difficulties of raising teens, etc. They also love to talk about how horrible their childbirth experience was; how much they bled afterwards, the tearing, the stitches, the painful postpartum sex, the baby’s inability to nurse correctly, etc.
If you have bopped around my blog a bit, you’ll see that I do talk about these topics. I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression in length, about weaning our baby off his pacifier, and even postpartum insomnia. I genuinely believe that talking openly about these topics is important because motherhood is hard and transparency allows women to know that they are not alone in their struggles. However, even though it is important and even essential to be open and frank about our experiences, it is also important to remember the good aspects of motherhood. Maybe it is who I follow on social media and the blogs that I read in particular, but I find it more likely to stumble upon a post that complains about motherhood rather than celebrates it.
Changing the narrative about how we talk about motherhood and raising children is, in my opinion, important because motherhood is such a defining feature of oneself. If you asked me to use three words to describe myself, “mother” would probably be the first word I would choose. If that very important defining feature of myself is only filled with regret, negativity, and dread, I have ceased to contain joy in my life. No, sleepless nights with a newborn are not fun, but seeing a baby smile for the first time is wonderful. No, teething infants who cannot contain their crankiness is not a walk in the park, but watching a baby chew a Cheerio for the first time and love it is exciting. No, trying to get a baby to latch to breastfeed is not easy, but the bond some women experience is glorious. For all of the “bad” moments of motherhood, I guarantee you that there are ten good moments because life and existence is inherently good. There is a biological reason that mother’s release bonding hormones when they have a baby. Children are joyful! (Even when they are sticky, and cranky, and teething…)
With that being said, we have to stop scaring moms-to-be. I cannot tell you how many women tried explaining to me how bad childbirth was. Yet, interestingly enough, these women typically have more than one child or wish they had more children! Negative comments do not help at all, and instead come across rude. No one likes unsolicited advice, and I can assure you that no eight-month pregnant woman wants unsolicited horror stories. Every birth experience is different. Some women are in labor for hours and some are only in labor for thirty minutes and barely make it to the hospital. One woman’s experience is not exactly how every other woman will experience it. Honestly, this is why I have never written about my birth experience. If someone asks me about it, I am open and honest, but. have no interest in worrying, exciting, or trying to help a mom-to-be who doesn’t want or need it.
Women’s bodies were created to have babies. Now, this is not me trying to encourage every women to to have babies or anything like that. Parenthood is a decision and lifestyle that each couple has to make for themselves. But what I am saying is that if pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood, etc., were as bad as everyone claims they are, people would cease to exist because why would anyone put themselves through such misery?
Curb what you say to expecting mothers. Curb what you say to women trying to get pregnant. Honestly, curb everything you say unless your opinion or witness is asked for. At the end of the day each women will make her own decision about parenthood and motherhood, and will have her own experiences! If you’re a friend, relative, fellow customer in a coffee shop, the best thing you can do is just be supportive and positive.
I agree it is in extremely poor taste to talk about one’s horrible childbirth experiences at a bridal shower.
Childbirth is an imperfect, sometimes brutal process for some women. I wasn’t even capable of “pushing’ the babies out on my own–I had 2 csections. It is not a horror story, but it is their story. I had preeclampsia with my first pregnancy—something that can be fatal, especially for those who don’t have access to good prenatal care. Preeclampsia can lead to seizures—I entered the hospital knowing that I might not be able to speak for myself or my baby—and that I would need to trust my husband to advocate for myself and my baby.
I had staples pop out of my C-section with my second pregnancy—my incision was barely healed before it was time to return to work. For me, certainly a launching point for a discussion about mandating longer maternity leaves. I felt unsupported in breast feeding journey. We tell women they should breastfeed, but don’t fully support their efforts to do so. If women don’t share their stories how can things change?
For the most part, I have not offered unsolicited telling of my story. Sometimes it just comes up though– could be a conversation at work with other mothers, where a woman who is not a mom is present. Or I might be listening to a pregnant woman with very strident opinions about perfect natural childbirth—and I decide to interject that this simply isn’t possible for every woman.
Having littles is a very intense season—both the ups and the downs. Why shouldn’t women talk about their lack of sleep—sleep profoundly affects both physical and mental well being? So many people try to gloss this over—and then people wonder why women aren’t shining well dressed, well coiffed beacons of positivity or are baffled that their marriages are struggling.
Women absolutely should share experiences of painful postpartum sex–my guess is that women who are having painful sex have been pushed into sex much faster than their bodies are ready. That is alarming, honestly.
Why can’t people fret about their teens? Once your kids have their driver’s licenses, you’ll know a whole other level of anxiety you hadn’t experienced.
My children have been a source of great joy for me. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been speed bumps long the way.
Your Better Self says
I agree with you insofar as women should talk about their experiences, but only when it is appropriate. Baby showers are not an appropriate time to discuss the pains of childbirth. Neither is waiting in line next to a pregnant woman at a coffee shop, etc. There is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes, as you said, sometimes that place is randomly at work or with friends. But one should not just throw anxiety on expectant mothers without their consent.
My post intended to highlight two things: 1.) that unsolicited horror stories are not appropriate to tell pregnant women, and 2.) that the narrative of motherhood should not always be centered on the negative. As you said, yes, there are speed bumps. However, your children have been a source of joy in your life. Joy should outweigh negativity, always.
Yes! You are right on with this. Ten times more joyful moments with my little babe!
Your Better Self says
I am so that that you agree!