Dear Birthing Mothers: On What Not To Say Out Loud

Dear Birthing Mothers: On What Not To Say Out Loud November 10, 2013


Dear Birthing Mothers,

I’ve wanted to write this letter to you, to us, for a while. But until this moment, it’s been a thing of anger for me. I’ve read your comments, your Facebook statuses; I’ve read of your wishes and dreams and hopes and losses, and I’ve seethed with anger at your ignorance.

But right now, in this moment, I’m not so much angry with you as I am sad and hurt for those you unknowingly wound.

Like me.

Like my hyster-sisters.

Like all the mothers who’ve lost their babies before they were born, or in the birthing suite, or long before they were ever unborn beauties and were only plans.

We humans have a nasty habit of saying things without thinking. We don’t consider the full consequences of our words; we just speak them and let them fall.

I’m writing to tell you: your words have fallen on me and others like me, and they carry with them the weight of a mountain.

You talk about how terrible your pregnancy is; how you just “hate carrying this parasite” even though you know you’ll fall in love when s/he’s born.

You talk about how upset you were when you learned about your unintended pregnancy, and how this baby is a huge disruption to your life and that of your husband and other children.

You talk about how heartbroken you were when you found out your baby was a girl, instead of the boy you so badly hoped for, because you already have three girls.

You talk about your stretch marks and your baby belly, about how hard you worked after your first two to get your body back, and how frustrating it is to be pregnant again – all that effort was for naught!

You talk about your all-natural birth plan, and how other moms bring destruction on themselves when they dare to give birth in a hospital rather than at home, or when they choose to induce, or because they want epidurals to ease the pain, or because they had to have c-sections (which you believe is almost never actually necessary).

I used to be like you.

While I had a perfectly healthy and comfortable pregnancy, I remember the moments of pain and days of discomfort, weeks even – especially at the end – of wishing I just wasn’t pregnant anymore.

I remember how disappointed I was, if only very briefly, when I found out I was having a boy instead of the girl I was so sure I was carrying.

I remember worrying – I even wrote blogs! – about my post-baby body, about my post-baby career, about whether I’d ever have my own life, my own body, my own space, my own time ever again.

I remember meeting with our doula, practicing breathing through the pain, writing up a birth plan, and insisting to myself, my husband, and everyone who would listen, that I was going to have an intervention-free delivery story come hell or high water, because this is how God made women! I convinced myself that because His way was the “natural” way, if I just avoided induction or intervention, I wouldn’t need a c-section or anything else. And I silently praised myself for my superior womanhood, for how much better a mother I already was.

We say these without thinking. We seem to operate on the premise, “Speak now, apologize later (maybe).”

I don’t hold that against you. It’s a human condition. We all do it.

I write to you today to ask you to beware of your words, be conscious of what you say, and consider the women in your life who are stung a thousand times over by your complaints and your boasting.

We cringe every time you complain about how horrific “this pregnancy” is, because we will never experience this tremendous horror you seem to take for granted.

We weep every time you talk about how disappointed you are, how great of a “loss” it is that you’re having a girl instead of a boy, because we know true loss and would give absolutely anything to be able to get pregnant at all, or carry a child to term after so many miscarriages, or because we have survived life-saving surgeries that have left us barren.

We suck in our flat bellies and cover them with shame every time you decry your mommy flab – what we wouldn’t do to trade our broken bodies for your birthing hips and stretch marks!

We feel the acute burn and deeply internalize every judgement and complaint you share about c-sections, and epidurals, etc. etc. etc., because we once stood where you stand and learned the hardest way imaginable that we have absolutely no control over how and where and when – or even if! – our babies are born. We know all too well, “Many are the plans in a woman’s heart, but the Lord directs her path.”

So when you’re tempted to talk motherhood or babyhood or delivery or any of it, I beg you to remember us:

Remember the women who can’t get pregnant.

Remember the moms whose bodies physically can’t deliver a baby “the natural way.”

Remember the moms who’ve lost babies before and during and after birth.

Remember that your path is only one of many thousands of beautiful journeys to motherhood, and it is no better or worse than another.

And please, please: Sing a song of gratitude for this incredible thing you’re able to do, by the grace of our Good God alone.

With Gratitude,

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