Conversations That Need Normalized to Really Support the Motherhood Experience

Abbey Williams

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Photo by Jenna Norman on Unsplash

Support can arguably be the number one thing expectant and new mothers need. There is a whole world of products to help mothers in their transition into motherhood with every product you can imagine for postpartum care, feeding, diapering, sleep, developmental growth, and more. However, the thing missing in the products is the connection, the conversation, and the support. Of course it’s missing, these are objects, not humans. But why are we as mothers leaning more into products than we are each other? Why are the conversations that need the most attention, care, and support, also the most difficult and somewhat controversial to have?

Let’s change the way we talk about the hard stuff in motherhood. Let’s start having more open and compassionate conversations that offer support to mothers, and let’s start with…

1. Miscarriage

According to the Mayo Clinic, “about 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant.”

And according to Tommy’s.Org, “1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage.”

Celebrities like Meghan Markle and Chrissy Tiegen opened up about their miscarriages and loss of a child very publicly in 2020 and were met with much controversy. The internet smear and hate campaigns went rampant leaving women who were experiencing or had experienced a miscarriage feeling continued isolation, lack of support, and various other negative emotions surrounding their miscarriage.

What do women who have or are experiencing a miscarriage need?

The answer varies per mother, but collectively we can agree this sensitive topic needs more attention, care and support for mothers. Mothers need space to grieve and process their loss. Mothers need supports that can listen compassionately and openly. Mothers do not need toxic positivity and more feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, or loneliness.

We must do better at supporting our mothers experiencing miscarriage and that starts with normalizing hard conversations about miscarriage.

2. Maternal Mental Health

Mental health in general is still fighting against stigma. We still have a long way to go in being able to talk about and understand various mental health issues and how to best support one another struggling with mental health issues. I would argue this is an empathy issue we collectively have, but that is a whole other topic.

According to Postpartum Support International, “15-20% of women experience significant symptoms of depression or anxiety during or after the birth of a child.”

And due to the lack of awareness and conversation we are having on these issues many women delay treatment and suffer in silence and alone. There are resources, treatment, medication, support groups, and research readily available for expectant and new mothers experiencing maternal mental health issues, so how do we ensure our mothers are healthy and well cared for the same way we ensure new babies are?

We start normalizing the issues, we start having more conversations surrounding the topic, we drive home that mental health issues do not make you less of a mother, and we ensure all mothers know where, how, and what treatments are available should they encounter these issues.

Mothers deserve to be cared for and supported in the same way we care for and support new babies. Mothers who need medication, mothers in therapy, and mothers who are seeking help for their mental health are strong. Let’s talk about!

3. Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding continues to be a controversial and taboo topic of conversation even still in the year 2021. It wasn’t until 2018 that women were legally allowed to feed their breastfeeding baby in public in all 50 states. The law is now on the side of breastfeeding mothers, but there is still a fight to get the public on the side of breastfeeding mothers. Mothers are still shamed, both physically and verbally, for feeding their babies in public, and are still being told, “to do that” in bathrooms, cars, and away from others.

But it isn’t just breastfeeding in public that is still getting a lot of backlash. The debate between “breast is best” and “fed is best” resurfaced at the end of 2020 across the internet which created more divide in the differing opinions on how to feed our little ones, but also created a new conversation among lactation consultants and maternal health experts and clinicians.

The new message that surfaced: Support is best!

The new message worked to break the divide among the breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers and create support for mothers in whichever journey was the right fit for them and their little one. The new message worked to bring to light the shameful messaging mothers receive for choosing formula from birth, and how we can better support and bring positivity to the mothers choice. The new messaging worked to bring to light the lack of education and support new mothers receive around breastfeeding which often leads new mothers throwing in the towel for the breastfeeding journey they had hoped for because they are battling supply issues, latching issues, etc. which leads to negative feelings for the mother.

The divide between breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers can go. Let’s normalize mother’s experiences, provide the support they need, stop shaming their choices, and empower women to feed their baby when they are hungry regardless of where they are. Feed your baby and be supported in the process!

4. Postpartum Bodies

The messaging expectant mothers receive is drastically different than the messaging postpartum mothers receive so it is no surprise that many women feel angst or disappointment in their new body.

A woman announces her pregnancy and society celebrates her with phrases like, “you are glowing!” We schedule maternity photo-shoots to celebrate our pregnant bodies and invest in maternity lines that accent women’s bumps and keep expecting mothers looking fashionable!

It can feel almost immediate that after the baby is welcomed into the world we are hurrying mothers to “bounce back.” The messaging quickly turns shameful around stretch marks, loose skin, and weight gain. At our six week postpartum visit we are told we are cleared to resume activities both in the bedroom and in the gym, but I do not know many mothers that felt ready to resume activities in either. Maybe a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air and boost my mental health, but getting back into my skinny jeans didn’t seem like an ideal goal at six weeks.

Can we start normalizing postpartum bodies?

Can we start celebrating the bodies that created life?

Can we start honoring the change and evolve of a woman as she enters into motherhood? She is forever different, and her body may be too. Here’s to change!

Messaging and words are important. Messaging and words in relationship to vulnerable individuals and sensitive topics is extremely important.

Connection is an important human experience that affects our mental, physical, and emotional health. Let’s support mothers through their human experiences, let’s normalize the motherhood experiences, and let’s have more open and compassionate conversations about motherhood.

Our mothers need it. Our mothers deserve it.

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Abbey Williams is the producer and host of the Mimosas with Moms Podcast, content creator of the social media platforms @mimosaswithmoms, and mother of 4. She is committed to supporting, empowering, and connecting with mothers in all seasons of motherhood. She navigates her blended family/coparenting life with her husband, four kids, and two sister labs.

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