As most of you that follow Hollywood news might have already heard, Kim Kardashian is pregnant. I saw an interview she gave on New Year’s about her pregnancy and I thought that it was such a real and sincere moment that touched such an important issue regarding current societal expectations on pregnancy and motherhood. Here is the clip with the interview:
I know how controversial the Kardashians are, as are all other reality TV personalities. But despite the fact that you may or may not like reality TV stars, in watching this interview, I truly felt sincerity in her words. And I think it was great! When you have the media exposure that Kim Kardashian has, I think you have an obligation to bring attention to important topics. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this video stir up as much talk as I thought it would. Perhaps because it’s not as interesting as the gossip around her still being legally married to someone else?!
While I was listening to this interview I thought about a lot of the stories I hear in my professional life as a psychologist, but that are not talked about as much in informal or even family settings.
Once a women announces she is pregnant, usually it creates a big deal of excitement in the surrounding people. Of course, its great news! But, at the same time, everyone’s focus is the positive. And don’t get me wrong! I am a firm believer in focusing on the positive, but not at the cost of having others deal with the negatives on their own. So you announced you are pregnant, everyone is happy, you look at magazines, read books and watch TV shows that all show how wonderful and blissful pregnancy is!
Everyone wants to touch your belly and asks you about your plans for when the baby comes… but not many people want to know how you are feeling (because obviously you are feeling great, right?). You want to talk about it, but then you think back to your sister or friend that were pregnant and never complained about anything else besides the nausea. You didn’t even know they were pregnant until they were 24 weeks! So you keep it to yourself and sometimes you even think “maybe I am not that excited about this if I just feel like complaining”. And then, the negativity sets in.
At the same time, if you ask Google about all the uncomfortable symptoms you are having, you will find hundreds of links to mommy forums that are asking about and talking about these things: nausea, constipation, period-like cramps, fatigue, hemorrhoids, and a million other bodily symptoms that you never thought you would experience. Now why does no one tell you this? Is it because everyone else is embarrassed thinking they are the only one’s going through this? Is it because now that you are pregnant (which was the ultimate goal) you are not supposed to say anything bad about it? Is it to not be discouraging to new mothers? We are drifting further away from the old and tribal societal way of living were women actually helped other women out during times of major need, like pregnancy and motherhood. Instead, expectations are higher and more pressure is added to new moms. Like Kim says in her interview, she sees her sister Kourtney just breeze through this… how does that make her feel? Some people think that is the norm, so they try to live up to that and sometimes that’s when the vicious thought cycle begins – “Should I be feeling differently?”; “What if I am not ready?”; “Am I going to be able to handle all this?”; “What if I am not a good mom?”… and the list could go on and on.
In another interview to a radio station, Kim speaks to having had some fertility issues in the past. This is another great example/topic. Many people assume that when you have fertility issues and you get pregnant everything is awesome. And for the most part it is. However, research says that there is a high incidence of depression after fertility issues both during pregnancy and after birth. Many people spend years trying to get pregnant and when it finally happens a lot of doubt settles in. It starts with fears of having a miscarriage, to thoughts of not being able to do take care of that baby, and many times it’s all about the disillusion of realizing that your high expectations on pregnancy and motherhood are not quite what you had imagined. There is so much to be said on this, that I am sure I will come back to this topic in the future.
After motherhood, women are expected to do it all. And these expectations come mainly from ourselves.
This is the new image of the working mom. Able to keep up excellent standards as a mother, housewife, employee, friend and be fit and healthy in the middle of it all. This is what we see in magazines, TV shows, and movies.
But in all reality, many times, this is what it looks like:
Obviously we are looking at two extremes. But the truth is… being a mother is hard! And you don’t hear that enough! You especially don’t hear it enough as a normalizing statement. It is normal to have struggles during pregnancy, it is normal to have struggles as a mother, and it is especially normal to have struggles in trying to adjust to many different roles. Pregnancy and motherhood bring many changes and many of those are psychological, which is unfortunately still a tabu in itself, due to the continued image of psychological being synonymous of crazy or psychotic. Let’s be more supportive to the moms in our lives. Let’s give less critical opinions and more genuine support. Be honest and share the difficulties not just the joys. Be there just to listen or help with the laundry, if that’s what she needs.
For all the mothers-to-be or new mothers out there, just because it’s not discussed does not mean it’s not normal. When you are having doubts, insecurities and discomfort, just remember that everyone goes through it; your feelings are always going to be different from the one’s around you. After all, you are the one going through intense transformation and it’s natural that you feel things more intensely than your partner, your family or your friends or that they are not as sensitive to all the changes that are happening. And if you have had a baby and resonate with this, next time you interact with a pregnant friend or family member, think about how she might be feeling, about a moment where you felt misunderstood and share an embarrassing story, offer genuine support. Finally, remember, if you need help, ask for it! There is nothing wrong with needing an extra hand. After all, it takes a whole village to raise a child!