Being a mother is hard… from the start!

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!

Miranda_Kerr_Vogue_Aust_Editorial_05blissful birth

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.

multitasking-mom

 

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:

frazzled-multitasking-mom[1]

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!

It-Takes-a-Whole-Village

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5 thoughts on “Being a mother is hard… from the start!

  1. Congrats on the post.
    It is very nice written and shows in a clear way, some of the less beautiful aspects of pregnancy and becoming a mom.
    I can agree with almost everything you wrote, but there is something that leaves me unsure. When you say: «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.» i tend to see it from another perspective. It’s not scientific, it’s my way of seeing, maybe you can enlighth me more about it.
    I honestly want to think, that yes, some things changed and pregnancy and birth unfortunately maybe be not lived in family as before, but i also see everyday, that more information is available and easily spread and heard by everyone. Humanizing birth practices, doulas, literature, open talk spaces in baby and mommy stores, all this has become more accessible to moms, and specially now to dads. Maybe having the family women around you all time has changed, but i think we talk more openly about everything… that in years before was not done, because it was a tabu.
    You can now talk about it loudly, with no fears, no restrictions, as it was before, when only women could speak about it, or speak to other women. Now dads read about this things, participate and are more involved, can be present in birth…

    And yes, it takes a whole village to raise a child! And also to help a couple become parents 🙂

    • Catarina, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I understand what you are saying and agree with it. It is true that there is more access to information and that even dads are more involved now. However, I feel like there are two factors that influence the information not reaching their intended audience.
      1. The information is not accessed by everyone. People that have a lower social-economical status and that are not in contact with professionals, may not know or access this information. Also, despite the information being out there, I feel like unless you are looking for it, it won’t come to you. If you are more literate or higher on the social-economical status, you might be looking for it and find it. It’s true… nowadays there are many magazines, books and professionals that talk about these issues and I do think it’s much better that it has been in the past.
      2. However, even though we can access that information, that does not necessarily mean that we are willing to discuss it with others. There might be expectations on women to keep it to themselves and not ask a question or talk about something because someone else “might think it’s silly”.
      Either way, there is much more information out there than ever before, more research available, more dads involved. And if new parents are struggling, either because they don’t access the information, do access it but don’t want to share it or just don’t know how to use it, supporting new parents is extremely important since they are raising our future generation!
      Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you keep reading and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Good topic–I think a lot of moms, especially those who had to take extra measures to get pregnant, feel a certain level of pressure to be happy and positive about everything that comes with pregnancy and a new baby. And though it is great, it is a humongous, scary change. I remember toward the end of my pregnancy, well-meaning family and friends would constantly ask how I was feeling or if I was excited, and the honest answer was “I feel awful, and I’m excited but also scared of being a mom!” But I felt bad saying that out loud for fear people would think I was ungrateful or something was wrong with me.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! That’s a great example of an experience that I was thinking about while writing this post. I hear that so many times, so I have to assume to many people go through this silently. Hopefully there is always at least one person available in new mother’s lives that she can share these insecurities with, either a spouse, a friend or even an ObGyn. Just wanted to shout out that these thoughts are normal and part of a huge developmental change that the person is going through!

  3. Pingback: Do you have kids? | Two tiny feet, one big heart

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