Shhh…we can’t mention that. The Taboos of Motherhood

I think that is important, to be mindful of how others feel. It is also important to recognise that how others feel is not our responsibility. If you feel joy, express it. You’re not saying “I am better than you because I had a good experience”, you are saying “I had a good experience, and I feel happy”. Perhaps you can even help those who might feel upset, by asking them to talk about their experience. When they have resolved their own experience, your experience won’t upset them. They might feel sad for what ‘might’ have been, or could not be, but do we really help by suppressing our own joy for concern that it might upset another…

this is fast becoming a taboo in our society. We can’t talk about our lost babies, because it might upset someone or make them feel uncomfortable, we can’t post a photo of our blissful breastfeeding, we can’t talk about how we might be struggling with motherhood, or returning to work…this motherhood ‘war’ playing out in the popular media is concerning.  It is interesting, the semantics. “brag”…is it bragging to say how awesome you feel? A birth doesn’t have to be natural for a woman to feel empowered and ‘to brag’ about it…but I guess it is the natural ones that grate the most? It is really important to share positive experience, but I guess there is a fine line between ‘encouragement’ and ‘judgement’?

Not to confuse the usual judgement (damned if you do, damned if you don’t on all mothering styles), taboo things usually seem to be infertility, miscarriage, still birth, serious childhood illness or death of a child, PND, birth trauma, relationship breakdown – the kind of things people find very confronting and hard to know what to say or do.  It also seems to increasingly be including the positive experiences.   I am by no means writing this post from a position of ‘expertness’, these are my thoughts on society taboos. Perhaps you know of others, or have experience? Please share your thoughts.

For example – ‘don’t tell people your preggers until after 12 weeks’…why? In case of a miscarriage? Why can’t a pregnancy loss before 12 weeks be acknowledged. It is heartbreaking. If it is a long awaited pregnancy, the Joy is too hard to hold back, you want to share the news. If it is an unexpected pregnancy – emotions could go in many directions, and the support of loved ones is vital. If it is an unwanted pregnancy, likewise the support of loved ones, even if it is a chosen few, is important.

And if you are in your 30s, or in a relationship, the questions of “when are you going to have a baby?” could be like a knife in the heart for a couple desperate to have a child, but unable. Likewise, if a choice has been made to not have children, the woman can be vilified. The infertile are to be pitied and the childless by choice are considered selfish and hard.

Before 20 weeks of gestation, a lost baby is a miscarriage. Unacknowledged, un-named, un-registered. No ceremony. No talking. Even after 20 weeks, with a still birth that is acknowledged, registered, grieved for openly at a funeral…at some point soon after, you have to ‘move on, forget…not remind people of the tragedy.

There is a general acceptance that birth doesn’t matter as long as mother and child are ‘healthy’, this invalidates a mothers feelings towards the birth (which could be disappointed through to traumatised). Whilst horror birth stories are the most common, they are spoken of in an accepting way – that birth should be like this. They are not spoken of with regret, anger or hurt. A mother is not free to express her true feelings, which can lead to/contribute to post natal depression.

Post natal depression (PND) is another area where mothers suffer in silence, even if they seek treatment and support. Sure we can complain about motherhood, we can tell everyone motherhood is hard…but lonely? overwhelming? or (and this is a big one) feelings of disconnect? Asking for help can be viewed as an admission of failure or incompetance…we modern women need to do it all – on our own.

Don’t fit in in your mother’s group? parenting differently? This can make it hard to talk about difficulties and find suitable solutions. Not all mother’s groups are the same – but not all women have the luxury of choice or even sometimes the ability to get to a mother’s group that suits them. This leads to further feelings of isolation, and greater risk of PND.

The loss of the ‘village’ and ritual, the devaluation of women and mothering, the segregation of society has created these taboos. In other cultures, the taboos may be different, the approach to mothering different. The taboos in this post seem to be those of western society. Modern mothering.

I hope if you find yourself in a ‘taboo’ situation, that you have supportive people you can turn too. I hope you can find your village, and in turn support others.

Go Well.


One thought on “Shhh…we can’t mention that. The Taboos of Motherhood

  1. Reblogged this on Sprout and About and commented:
    We seem to be approaching a time where we can’t talk about pregnancy, birth or parenting at all unless it fits within the confines of “normal”. Great article from Bellabirth about the various taboos of motherhood.


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