Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We Need to Stop Blaming Postpartum Depression on Women's Hormones

Three weeks after I had my daughter, a friend was stunned to learn that I had not yet returned to work, and that Athena was not even close to sleeping through the night. A week later, another friend was shocked when I told her I hadn't yet lost all the baby weight. "But you're so thin, and you were in such good shape before you got pregnant!" she exclaimed. Clearly neither of these women had children.

Veteran mothers may laugh at this ignorance of postpartum life, but it speaks volumes about the lessons our society teaches--and fails to teach--about what it's really like to become a mother. One of the biggest lies our culture spreads is that postpartum depression is just one more example of women's crazy hormones making them, well, crazy. Just as PMS and "pregnancy hormones" allow us to simplify and dismiss women's emotions, the idea that postpartum depression is entirely hormonal allows us to ignore the cultural factors that make postpartum life so difficult.

I'm lucky enough to have had an easy postpartum recovery. I haven't struggled with serious health problems or pospartum depression. Nevertheless, my postpartum experience has helped me understand why the story is so different for many other women. Perhaps even more telling, my "easy" recovery might sound like an utter nightmare to someone who has never had a child.

Friday, October 14, 2016

What Does Child Labor Feel Like?

Childbirth is shrouded in secrecy, so questions about what labor really feels like often go unanswered. We all know that it hurts like hell, but only those who have gone through it really know what that even means. And much of what happens during birth--vomiting, confronting your own mortality, losing bladder control--is taboo to discuss. So women enter into one of the most intense experiences of their life unprepared and frightened.

When I told everyone I wanted to have a natural birth, people were adamant that I couldn't do it. They were equally insistent that birth on my terms--no hospital gown, basic respect for my wishes, a quiet and peaceful room--was impossible, and that expecting otherwise meant I was naive and spoiled.

They were wrong. So if you're here because you're considering a natural birth, know that you can do it. Child labor is painful, but it's not the horror many people want you to believe it is. That's especially true if you have a supportive care team (and if you don't, you need to fire your doctor or midwife yesterday).

I spent my entire pregnancy Googling what childbirth feels like, and the answers I got were unsatisfactory. Every woman is different. Every birth is different, and we all perceive pain differently. No one can give anyone else a fully reliable picture of childbirth, since most of us only give birth a few times. But if women know what to expect, they may be better equipped to cope. And no woman deserves to enter motherhood terrified and intimidated. So here, in as much detail as I can manage, is what labor felt like for me. If you want to get a more general idea of what to expect from childbirth, you might be better off reading my birth story.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Sexist Assumptions Inherent in Unsolicited Parenting Advice: Don't Worry, Moms, Everything You Do is Still Wrong.

Before I became a mother, I thought of motherhood as a politically neutral status. Now that I have a child, I'm stunned to see how politicized the simple act of parenting a child is. Almost every time I post anything about my child on Facebook, someone comes along to shame me. They're often quite aggressive--from mocking my comments about my child to accusing me of being a child abuser because of my parenting choices. In one particularly hilarious and disheartening episode, I posted a complaint to Facebook about unsolicited parenting advice, especially that which comes from men. The first response I received from a man was--you guessed it--unsolicited parenting advice.

It's important, you see, to remind women that no matter what they do, it's wrong.

Monday, October 10, 2016

10 Things to Know Before Visiting a Newborn

The Internet is full of listicles about what to do and what not to do when visiting the parents of a new baby. Weirdly, the comments sections of these articles are always full of hostile backlash--"I'll do whatever I goddamn well please" and "Well then, I just won't visit."

We're talking about protecting the health of people who may have been up for days, the sanity of a woman who is at a high risk of suffering from depression and anxiety, and the life of a delicate newborn baby. That people would react this way under the guise of "care" for the baby is nothing short of despicable.

Still, lots of new parents fail to adequately explain why they've established the rules they have. Also, a number of articles on rules for visiting a newborn focus on bringing gifts and food. I don't need my visitors to bring me things. I do need them to respect my family time and to understand how demanding it is to have a newborn. Here's what you need to know before you visit me, or any other new mother.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here's Why Opposing Public Breastfeeding Makes You a Misogynist Who Doesn't Care About Children's Well-Being

If you come over to my house, you might catch a glimpse of my nipple. I promise it won't kill you. Studies show that not one single human has ever died from looking at a nipple. But many have died because they weren't offered ready access to their mothers' nipples. One recent study found that breastfeeding could save 800,000 lives a year.

If you run into me at the book store, you probably won't see my nipple, since it will be in my kid's mouth, but you might--gasp!--see approximately the same portion of my breast that a revealing top might show. I know, I know. It's unbearable to even think about. You're pro-breastfeeding, just not public breastfeeding. Or you think it's fine to breastfeed in public. You just wish people weren't such exhibitionists about it. Why do all these lactivists have to be so attention hungry? Why do moms have to be such exhibitionists?