Being mumma enough… It’s more than just a “healthy baby”

As a mumma who grieves her births & a mumma who frequently discusses birth I often hear the phrase “but you have a healthy baby”. I know that when it is said it is usually from a place of genuine good intention. I know that the person saying it means well. I know that what that person has said is true.

And yet every single time I hear this phrase I cringe. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up in stiff defensiveness. My heart races with anxiety & my head hangs in shame.

Every time I hear it I think of how the inverse or oppositional implication of this comment is that I don’t matter. That mummas don’t matter. That as long as the baby comes out fine with ten tiny fingers & ten tiny toes, the soul of the woman who sacrificed herself physically & emotionally for that child to come earthside has no value.

That it doesn’t matter what choices she made, the efforts she went to, the research she conducted, the team she had to support her (or not as the case may be). As long as the baby is ok then it is assumed that by default the mumma will be to.

What the world needs to realise is that sometimes the mumma is not ok. The world needs to realise that being mumma enough is more than just having a healthy baby.

The world needs to realise that the bouncing healthy beautiful baby nestled in her breast may in fact be a stark daily reminder of the struggles, physical & emotional, that she endured.

The world needs to realise that birth is just as much of an experience as a process. It is a physiological, emotional, spiritual & defining process of many women’s feminity. Some would even argue sexuality. The world needs to understand that a woman will carry her birthing experiences with her to the grave. And just like every other major life event or potential trauma the impact of these experiences on her are ongoing.

Do we say to a rape victim “oh at least you weren’t killed”? No. Do we say to the blind “oh but at least you can hear”? No. Do we tell any person who has suffered a significant physical or emotional loss to just be thankful for what they’ve got?

So why then do we say to a mother who has just birthed her babe that her feelings have no place? Why do we tell her to suck it up & move on. Just be grateful that you have a healthy baby. Don’t worry that your vagina didn’t work. Don’t worry that you feel physically & emotionally broken. Don’t worry about the relationship you have with your husband. Don’t stress, the doctors knew what they were doing.

Sigh…

As a mumma of two it goes without saying that I am keenly aware that the work of a mother. I also view the experience of motherhood as one of unconditional love & self-sacrifice. Yet although motherhood changes us, gives us new opportunities to love & experience deeper than we ever thought imaginable does it not also reify who we are? Are our core values not made stronger through our tiger like defence of our young?

Being mumma enough both transcends & reiterate our very persons. It means that we are true to ourselves. That we set fierce & couragous examples for our sons & daughters.

I believe being mumma enough is about all this & more. It is about being authentic. It is about owning our experiences. It is about recognising our fallibility. It is about acknowledging that we do have feelings about our birth, parenting, sexuality, friendship, family & life in general. It is about saying “I matter”.

Being mumma enough is about more than just a healthy baby.

The implications of purely focussing on a healthy baby are that the mumma’s feelings are marginalised. This can & does lead to depression & trauma.

What was unexpected, negative, traumatic, physically difficult or soul destroying varies from person to person. It shouldn’t & doesn’t matter what your thoughts on another mumma’s birth. What matters is how she feels. Was she respected, was she listened to, was she empowered? Did she have choices?

Furthermore, if we only focus on a healthy baby we risk not identifying the lack of support or systemic failings that resulted in the mumma feeling that her birth experience was negative. Instead these issues are swept under the carpet. We gloss over the health “professionals” who act sometimes barbarically, raping & pillaging women’s bodies & souls like Vikings. Instead they are absolved, given green light nay even viewed with an air of saint-hood as they act in a “God-like” fashion to “save” lives.

So what are the implications of recognising that birth matters? What are the implications of recognising that mummas matter? Put simply healthy babies & healthy mummas.

Being mumma enough is about more than just a healthy baby.

 

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4 thoughts on “Being mumma enough… It’s more than just a “healthy baby”

  1. Another great read.
    I empathise with the way you feel, because I know I would have been devastated if I hadn’t been able to conceive, carry, and/or give birth to my children. I’m also aware that many mothers don’t feel this way and I can’t help wondering why. Is it a personality trait, or perhaps it is a type of acceptance that kicks in as a form of self-preservation, or could it be that they’ve been convinced that they have no right to feel loss because… at least they have a healthy baby?
    I wonder how many people offer that solution to your sorrow simply because they feel uncomfortable dealing with your pain, especially if everything went well with their births.

  2. I cannot express how much this resonated with me. Having experienced negligence and disrespect from my practitioners in one birth, and then losing a baby and having to stillbirth that child, I am unfortunately one of the many women whose birth experiences have been not just disappointing, but harrowing. I have one beautiful, healthy child and another due any day, and I am accustomed to hearing those words from others that are supposed to comfort me, but instead feel like a dismissal of my pain and loss. I also think there is a link from this concept to that of those misguided women who champion non-interventional births vehemently without acknowledging that so much of the experience is out of your control, regardless of your preference. I appreciate your well-worded understanding so much, I have had to share it on my blog, I hope you don’t mind.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words & I’m so happy that you shared it. I had a read of your blog- it’s fab! I’m sorry you also feel so often dismissed. It truly is so frustrating isn’t it? Many thanks again & wishing you lots of blessings for a beautiful empowered & supported impending birth ❤

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