I am severely disturbed by the prevailing attitudes with respect to mothers – in short I think that there is far too much enthusiasm for telling women who happen to be mothers, what to do with their bodies, and that the person to whom the body belongs has long ago become an afterthought. In short, I fear that we have let an entire group of women (and a rather large one at that), become a lesser class of people because they have taken it upon themselves to reproduce – to ensure that there is a future generation. We have allowed these women, to be reduced to their breasts, vaginas and uteri – and that is wrong – because it neglects the most important body part a woman has, her brain.
Yes, having a healthy baby matters – it matters a lot, and it particularly matters to mothers. However, having a healthy mother also matters – and that is where extolling the virtues of specific choices – like vaginal delivery and breastfeeding, neglects the person who must undertake those activities. That is where having performance measures that reflect these choices is doing a huge disservice to the health (and particularly the mental health) of mothers.
We have come to a place, where rather than informing the individual woman of the risks and benefits of her choices and allowing her to make the decisions that best meet her needs (and those of her family) and respecting those choices – we have told her what choices to make. By extolling specific choices, we tell certain mothers that they have succeeded, but we have also told certain other mothers that they have failed. What is sad, is that many of the women who we have told are failures – haven’t failed at all, rather they have made the choices that best meet their needs and those of their family best. Yet, there is a lot of stigma and shame that attaches to things like having a caesarean section or formula feeding a child.
There has been a lot of lip service to caring about the needs of mothers – but very little recognition of a mother’s need for bodily autonomy. Is it any wonder that many mothers find themselves depressed?