The pressure to have a particular type of birth experience, whether this experience is attainable or not, can lead us to question ourselves or feel ashamed very early in our journey as parents.
I recently saw an Instagram post targeting new mothers describing the birth team a mother should have around her – lactation consultant, midwife, doula, sleep consultant, etc. etc. I think it was meant to highlight the huge gap in maternity care and services that can really help. If that’s what it was meant to do, I totally agree with this part of the post – there’s a huge gap in good care for expecting and new moms everywhere, and definitely in the U.S.
But as a new mom myself, the post made me feel terrible – and it really stuck with me.
My feelings about this subject are complicated. OF COURSE, I believe that these services should be universally available, and as a priority available to at-risk and vulnerable moms. Right now, they’re available to moms who can afford to pay or have great benefits through work. A mom who can afford all those services and did procure them might look at that and say – yep, that’s what I had and that’s what everyone needs. A mom with more resource constraints might be totally unable to relate to the picture…and worse, may feel bad about not having the ‘optimal’ birth experience.
In general, what is unhelpful to every mom is a picture that is unattainable for most that is supposed to be what ‘good’ looks like. If you don’t want or need to procure those services, that is also okay. You do not need to procure or use a certain type of service to have a valuable and supported birth experience. If you are able to, and most importantly WANT to, that’s great. But the commoditizing of birth support can make us feel – as new moms prone to a lot of self-judgment and shaming and comparison – like we’re doing it wrong unless we have all the components in place.
You’re not – ever – doing it wrong. You are living your experience and every birth journey is different and yours alone.
While highlighting the need for better maternity care and more accessible services around birth, we need to be careful about how we present these services to expecting and new moms, to ensure that those who envision a different birth experience for themselves or cannot access them do not feel ‘less than’ for going another route.
As new parents, we uniquely understand the propensity to feel like we are doing it wrong – or something is wrong with our particular situation. While sometimes there is something wrong, more often than not, we are just navigating a tricky journey as new parents and doing the best we can.