The Invisibility of Motherhood
Much has been written about the invisible workload of motherhood. It has been stated that almost 90% of mother’s feel solely responsible for the “mental load” of their family. But what I am talking about this week is a different type of invisibility, that is more all-encompassing.
When you are pregnant everyone is interested in how you are feeling, how far along you are, how big the baby is, if you are feeling movement, if you are sleeping, the list goes on and on. Mom and baby are treated as a unit and there is equal interest in both. Many moms will say this all changes once the baby is born. This change occurs with friends and family, but also when it comes to healthcare. As soon as the baby is born, that is where the focus shifts. Everyone wants to hold the baby, visit the baby, take pictures with the baby and very few people ask the mom anything about herself. The few people who do are often new moms themselves, who clearly remember the lack of care that they also received. Postpartum is a phase that is largely forgotten about in North American Culture. In other cultures, the mom is looked after, brought food, supported, but in our culture mom is often left alone with her partner to figure out how to breastfeed after having gone through either major surgery or a vaginal birth. Both of which leave you with a wound the size of a dinner plate in your uterus, under normal circumstances of an “injury” like this you would be able to rest and recover. Not so with a newborn. Newer policies have you home from the hospital in 24-48 hours even with a cesarean and many women are home at 4 hours with a midwife.
During pregnancy there are numerous visits with the care provider. Postpartum, you get one that’s it and that one visits according to all the pelvic floor physiotherapist I know is not very throughout. After 6 weeks, no one checks in on mom. Why are we not checking in on mom at well baby visits? Not only are we not checking in, often times mom’s concerns are dismissed, and she is told that she is just a “first time mom”. This is exactly what happened to me with Harvey at his 4-month visit. He clearly was reacting to foods through my breastmilk and I was told that wasn’t possible and I was just an anxious first-time mom. I removed many foods from my diet in an effort to help him, he had severe eczema and wasn’t gaining weight, and was met with the same criticism at the children’s hospital when I had to take him when he was 6 months old for the “worse eczema” the ER doc had ever seen. I had only been eating 4 foods for 14 weeks at this point in time and he was still having reactions. They wanted to start him on hypoallergenic formula, the kind that is amino acid based and $70 a can. When I said I already tried it and he reacted to it the resident laughed at me and said that that was “not possible”. Why are mothers dismissed for their observations? We are the ones with our children 24/7. If a mother says something is going on that should be listened to. Turns out there was a good reason he was reacting to all hypoallergenic formulas, they all contain coconut, and as his allergy testing just revealed, which I suspected for months, he is allergic to coconut.
This is just one example from my relatively short motherhood journey, but I see and hear others that are similar all the time. Why are mothers so invisible in our society? Why are we not listening to their observations, why are we not celebrating, or at least acknowledging, all that they are doing? Why are we letting so many mothers struggle?
Interested in learning more? Check out 5 Sneaky Signs You May Be Suffering from Mom Burnout
How have you felt dismissed, overlooked, not heard, invisible? Post in the comments below so we can change the narrative for new mothers
Dr Alexis practices online via telemedicine and is currently accepting new patients. Click here to book your appointment