Once upon a time there was a woman who got pregnant the first time she tried to conceive, enjoyed 9 blissful months of picture perfect pregnancy, bounced back to a fit size 2 just days after her delivery, and remained well rested and beautifully happy forever after. The end.
In my opinion, it really does need to be the end – the end of the motherhood myths! We are parenting and trying to conceive in a whacky time where fake news and Photoshop are our windows into reality. Before our eyes are a kaleidoscope of airbrushed images and skewed stories of how it SHOULD and COULD be. Our “friends” post only the best photos with carefully curated captions. These seemingly flawless images create expectations that are pretty difficult to achieve. As a therapist specializing in helping moms at all stages of their motherhood journey, I do my best to debunk the “myths of motherhood” daily with my clients.
To avoid believing these lies, it is important to acknowledge our expectations. Ask what are my expectations for myself as a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, an employee? What are my expectations of my career, my family, my relationships? How were these expectations formed? In what ways have they been met? And if they haven’t been met, how did I deal with that disappointment? Most importantly, are my expectations realistic? Let’s break down some very common unrealistic myths once and for all:
You can (and should?) get your pre-baby body back quickly and easily.
Many factors influence this reality. The first factor being that you have a newborn. That sentence alone should explain it all! For the past 10 months your body has been through more changes and strange experiences than you probably care to discuss. Now that the baby is here you’re not sleeping, and meal prepping your favorite Pinterest dinners is way harder than ordering pizza in between feedings, constant soothing, and diaper changes.
Because of the myths and expectations of post baby perfection, returning to our high school (or even our adult pre-baby) body quickly after birth can become an uninvited and unwelcome focus. The pressure put on by social media can be immense and damaging to our psyche. By striving for something so unrealistic we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment at a time when we could be focusing that energy on the newest member of the family and on taking care of yourself! In a previous MotherSquad blog post, Doula Kimberly Denitz-Zuleger pointed out, “almost no one offers advice on how to care for yourself during pregnancy”. Find her blog post here:
I urge women who have recently given birth to remember that their body has just accomplished something AMAZING. Getting pregnant, carrying a baby, and giving birth is a truly, truly miraculous process. If there is any energy left after caring for that amazing little human you just brought into the world, try spending it on thanking your body for what it has just allowed you to do. For every negative thought you have about your post baby bod, add in two thoughts that glorify your experience and appreciate the perceived flaws that result. Each new mark or scar or roll of tummy pudge led you to motherhood. Even when you’re up in the middle of the night questioning your sanity, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
MYTH: Good moms can do it all!
FACT: You’ll exhaust yourself trying. That’s why good moms need help! In a perfect world, help would come in the form of community and family. In past generations families often lived geographically closer, which gave new moms more support. Today many of us live far from our families and don’t feel comfortable relying on friends to help out. We are also living in a time where we feel “connected” via social media to our communities, but those same connections can make us feel isolated when we see someone else appearing to handle motherhood better than we are.
There is nothing to be gained by pretending or expecting that we can do it all by ourselves, that’s not how motherhood was designed to work. If your mom or sister or best friend aren’t able to be right there helping you, please be patient with yourself and all that you’re trying to do. There is much to be gained by learning to be kind to ourselves. We would never tell a friend they are a bad mom for not keeping up with lofty expectations, so why would we tell that to ourselves? Negative self-talk is destructive and counter productive. Instead, practice self care and be gentle with yourself, I know you’re doing the best you can.
MYTH: Unprotected sex = baby time!
FACT: According to www.resolve.org, 1 in 8 couples (12% of married women) struggle with infertility.
Here we are talking about the myths of motherhood when for some, motherhood itself is the expectation that can seem so far out of reach. Since sex education in grade school we’ve been under the impression that if we have unprotected sex we can (and probably will!) get pregnant. While that might not be a bad scare tactic for teenagers, it does set us up with some pretty high expectations when we finally start trying to conceive. It can take months, years, surgeries, and other invasive, costly medical procedures to get to the point where you get to worry about sleepless nights and feeding schedules.
For couples dealing with infertility, many times it is dealt with in silence. It is rare to see anyone post on social media about their losses or infertility because it can be perceived as a failure. More often we see the perfectly produced pregnancy announcements and gender reveal parties. Because of the heartbreak that comes with this isolation, I created an infertility support group for women to gather and share their stories. I firmly believe that we benefit from being around others who “get it”. The same goes for new moms, or moms at any stage; finding nonjudgmental support is crucial to our well-being. We were not designed to go through life’s trials alone, and we are better off when we help each other. Social media can make you believe you have many friends and followers, but it may also make you feel completely alone when those “friends” are not by your side when you truly need them.
Let’s come together as a community of women who seek to debunk these myths. Let us build new, more realistic truths so women do not have to trudge through the challenges of motherhood carrying the weight of unrealistic expectations on their already tired and frustrated shoulders. When we share the load, it becomes a lot lighter!
Kim Kriesel MSC, NCC, LAC
Arizona native, Kim Kriesel is passionate about helping moms-to-be and new moms in their journey to and through motherhood. In order to serve women in this capacity, Kim earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and has received advanced training in the areas of infertility, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, pregnancy, trauma and infant loss. In her counseling practice, Well Mamas, Kim exudes warmth, deep understanding, unwavering support and a unique way of bringing understanding, positive perspective and resolution to situations that can seem unbearably sad.
Although she now has 2 healthy children, she and her husband struggled with infertility and experienced devastating losses along the way. In overcoming her own grief and transitioning to a place of peace and acceptance, her passion now lies in helping women who are experiencing distress related to infertility, pregnancy, new motherhood and loss.
Additionally, she serves in the community as an Arizona Coordinator for Postpartum International and is a Crisis Responder for Chandler Fire Department. In her time away from work, Kim enjoys spending time with her husband and children, reading, traveling and taking the occasional trip to the spa.