“What are those first few months like?” my friend asks.
We’re sitting in my apartment chatting as my son runs around us. I look at him and can’t help but laugh. My friend, who is several years younger, is married and doesn’t yet have kids. But she and her husband know that having a baby is in their plans for the next few years. So I ask her, “How honest do you want me to be?” Being honest about motherhood, especially the early days, is important to me. There isn’t enough out there that shows new moms just how hard early motherhood is.
Early motherhood is not as warm and fuzzy as the media tries to make it out to be. Sure, you have this beautiful little baby, but damn if it isn’t incredibly hard. Postpartum product company Frida Mom made a beautiful commercial highlighting the struggles new moms face. They understand the importance of being honest about motherhood, and they did it so well. In the ad, a new mom wakes up because her newborn is crying, but first she must use the bathroom. Frida Mom spares no expense at showing just how painstaking the process is for postpartum moms, mesh underwear, peri-bottles and all. Because, that’s reality. Seeing these images not only prepares us, it unifies us and affirms us.
Even though it doesn’t show anything that one could consider graphic, the ad was banned from airing during the Oscars. Sharing the video on their YouTube channel, their words offer an explanation for the ad. “The ad you’re about to watch was rejected by ABC & the Oscars from airing during this year’s award show. It’s not ‘violent, political’ or sexual in nature. Our ad is not ‘religious or lewd’ and does not portray ‘guns or ammunition’. ‘Feminine hygiene & hemorrhoid relief’ are also banned subjects. It’s just a new mom, home with her baby and her new body for the first time. Yet it was rejected. And we wonder why new moms feel unprepared.”
Representations of new motherhood in the media are severely lacking. It’s either warm and fuzzy all the time, or the depths of utter despair. There’s really no middle ground, which is where most of us exist. Bonding with your new baby is a beautiful thing. However, all of the things that are going on with you and your body may feel horrible. And if we’re being honest about motherhood, we’d know that those horrible feelings are totally natural.
That’s why the Frida Mom ad is so important. Man, I wish I had someone at the time who would have told me the real truth. Everything hurts — peeing requires a squeeze bottle and witch hazel pads. I didn’t tear, but something the size of watermelon did come out of my vajay, so there’s that. And holy fuck, trying to poop is a nightmare. My overconfidence got the better of me, so I always tell my friends not to stop taking the stool softeners, no matter how good you feel. Being honest about motherhood pulls back the curtain on these things.
Having open and honest conversations around the early days of motherhood is so important. The beginning is so isolating — it’s so easy to just cut yourself off from human contact. You’re feeling bloated and crampy. Your boobs feel like they weigh a million pounds each, and if you’re breastfeeding, they’re also leaking. The only clothing you want to wear is loose and stretchy, but it’s also likely covered in baby puke and sweat. Chances are you’re not showering regularly because who has the time or energy? There’s no way anyone can see you like this. But guess what? All of this is completely normal.
If society allowed raw honesty about motherhood, those early days would feel way less isolating. So many of us are out there thinking that we’re the only ones struggling. There are so many problems we could solve if we begin portraying the early days of motherhood the way they are — really fucking hard.
When I was a new mom, the brutality of those early days was shocking. I was moving around like a zombie. I felt gross because showering was no longer a daily occurrence. Even though my son took naturally to breastfeeding, it still hurt and was uncomfortable. I was dealing with this new reality and feeling very lost. Even with friends who were going through the same thing at the same time, we weren’t talking about it. It’s heartbreaking to think about how many moms are suffering in silence because they think they’re alone.
Now that I’ve come out on the other side of those overwhelming first days, being honest about motherhood with my friends who aren’t there yet is crucial. I go out of my way to make sure they know that whatever they’re experiencing is normal. Yes, what they’re experiencing is hard, and no, being honest about that doesn’t make them a bad mother. Being able to check in with themselves and know how hard it is makes them amazing. If knowing they’re not alone brings them a small sense of comfort, I feel like I’m doing a good thing.
We need to honor the early days of motherhood. They’re never easy, and it’s time to de-stigmatize that. It never should have carried a stigma in the first place.Being honest about motherhood — brutally honest — is the only way we can begin to move past mom guilt. Moms have been quietly suffering for too long and it’s time to stop that. We owe it to them and to ourselves to begin having more frank conversations around motherhood. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows — most of the time you’re holding on by a thread. None of us are martyrs, and if society stops expecting us to be, maybe people will begin to take early motherhood seriously.