By Kim Kriesel- MSC, NCC, LAC
Once upon a time there was a woman who got pregnant the first time she tried to conceive. She enjoyed nine blissful months of a picture-perfect pregnancy. Just days after her delivery, she bounced back to fit into a size 2. The woman remained well-rested and she lived happily ever after. The end.
In my opinion, it really does need to be the end — the end of motherhood myths!
We are trying to conceive and parent in a whacky time where Photoshop and inflated news stories are our windows into reality. Before our eyes is 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 on a daily basis with my clients.
To avoid believing these myths, it is important to acknowledge our expectations. You can ask:
- What are my expectations for myself as a partner, 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?
- If they haven’t been met, how did I deal with that disappointment?
- Most importantly, are my expectations realistic?
Now, let’s break down some very common unrealistic myths once and for all:
MYTH: Unprotected sex = baby time!
FACT: According to resolve.org, 1 in 8 couples (12% of married women) struggle with infertility.
Here we are talking about the myths of motherhood; yet, for some, motherhood itself is an expectation that can seem far out of reach. Grade school sex education classes frequently convey that if we have unprotected sex we can (and probably will!) get pregnant. Many people continue to believe this skewed information through adulthood, which sets us up with some pretty high expectations when we finally start trying to conceive. It actually 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, often 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.
MYTH: You can (and should?) get your pre-baby body back quickly and easily.
FACT: Many factors influence this reality. The first being that you have a newborn. That word 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. Meal prepping your favorite Pinterest dinners is way harder than ordering a pizza in between feedings, constant soothing, and diaper changes.
There are countless myths and expectations of achieving post-baby body 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 ourselves! In a previous Mother Squad blog post, Doula Kimberly Denitz-Zuleger points out, “almost no one offers advice on how to care of yourself during pregnancy.”
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 truly, truly a 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, 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! There is nothing to be gained by pretending or expecting that we can do it all by ourselves, because that’s not how motherhood was designed to work. If your mom, sister, or best friend aren’t able to help 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 say that to ourselves? Negative self-talk is destructive and counterproductive. Instead, practice self-care and be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
In previous generations–families often lived geographically closer, which provided new moms with a greater sense of 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; however, those same connections can make us feel isolated when we see someone else appearing to handle motherhood better. 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.
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 non-judgmental support is crucial to our wellbeing. We were not designed to go through life’s trials alone, and we are better off when we help each other.
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 and carry the weight of unrealistic expectations. When we share the load, it becomes a lot lighter!
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 positive perspective and resolution to situations that can seem unbearably sad.
Although she now has two healthy children, Kim 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 Support International (PSI) and is a Crisis Responder for the 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.
Originally published at blog.mothersquad.com on October 31, 2018.