(Click to read the blog on mother.ly)
As an anthropologist who studies human fatherhood at the University of Oxford, I’ve run up against a widespread and deeply ingrained belief among fathers: that because their bodies haven’t undergone the myriad biological changes associated with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, they’re not as biologically and psychologically “primed” for caretaking as women are.
As a result, they feel less confident and question their abilities to parent: Will they be “good” parents? Will they bond with their babies? How will they know what to do?
As my own personal and professional experiences dictate, the idea that fathers are biologically “less prepared” for parenthood is unlikely to be true. Much of the role of parenting is not instinctual for anyone. (I remember the steep learning curve of those first days of motherhood — learning what each of my baby’s cries meant, mastering the quick diaper change and juggling the enormous amount of equipment necessary just to make it out the door.)
And while the biological changes fathers undergo are not as well understood (nor as outwardly dramatic) as those of mothers, scientists are just beginning to find that both men and women undergo hormonal and brain changes that herald this key transition in a parent’s life.
In essence, being a dad is as biological a phenomenon as being a mom.
(click link at top to read on nytimes.com)
“Is he sleeping through the night?” asks a stranger.
“She’s too clingy. You really need to stop picking her up.” says a friend.
“Is she a good baby?” asks a woman at the park.
“He should be self-soothing by now. Consolidated sleep is critical for healthy brain development.” proclaims a sleep trainer.
“You’re creating a rod for your own back.” exclaims a grandmother.
“I hope you’re putting her down drowsy but awake.” advises a mother at a meetup.
“Feed, play sleep! Feed, play, sleep!” chants a daycare worker.
“You’re not nursing him to sleep are you? That’s a bad sleep association. How do you expect him to learn to fall asleep on his own?” questions a health nurse.
“Oh, he’s just manipulating you, dear. He’s got you wrapped around his tiny eight-week-old little finger.” says a mother-in-law.
“If you don’t put your three-day-old baby down to sleep in a crib on his own you’re risking suffocation and death. It is the only way babies are safe from SIDS.” states a pediatrician.
These are the loud lies of infant sleep that our culture repeats from one generation of new mothers to the next, as if on autopilot.
Without questioning the roots or validity of these statements.
Without an understanding of the biological needs of babies.
Without knowledge of what normal infant sleep looks like.
Without an appreciation for how most cultures around the world care for their babies (and why).
These mistruths are dangerous, not only because they’re false, but because they’re full of unrealistic expectations that set a new mother up to feel like she’s failing. To doubt her own abilities. To worry that there may be something wrong with her or her baby.
(click link at top to read blog in entirety)
Giving birth draws you deep into your body, yet you’ll depend on others to get through it. Whether you have a brief labor eased by an epidural, deliver on all fours in your own living room or have an unplanned C-section, what matters most is how you are cared for and if you are listened to by your providers. The best way to advocate for yourself in the delivery room is to begin the process well before your swollen feet ever step into the space itself.
It is possible to get compassionate, respectful care from many kinds of providers — midwives, obstetricians, family physicians and nurses — and in settings including hospitals, birth centers and your home. But, according to a recent international survey, up to one third of women experience some trauma during birth, which means that at some point during labor, they felt that their emotional well-being or even their — or their babies’ — lives were under threat. And according to the latest Listening to Mothers report, one in four American women who underwent either labor induction or a C-section reported experiencing pressure from a health professional to do so.
(Click to read this great piece by Angela Garbes on nytimes.com)
Mama, I see you crying in the shower.
I hear your thoughts as they mislead you into believing that you’re failing.
I sense your fear. Your worries. Your uncertainty.
Your overwhelm. Your grief. Your yearning for the life you’ve left behind.⠀
And I see something else.
I see you holding your baby as your tears fall.
(Click to read post on raisedgood.com)
Laboring with my first daughter was not easy. After being sent home from labor and delivery for following my doctor’s advice (given as he boarded a flight to Aruba) to “go straight to labor and delivery” because my contractions were regular, things ramped up again and so I headed back to the hospital… and was sent home from the hospital, again, at midnight. This time I was bleeding, weeping and yelling through contractions that were 3-5 minutes apart, but was turned out because I hadn’t hit the magic 4 centimeters of dilatation. “If we admit you now, your chances of having a c-section will double,” the triage doctor informed me. Perhaps I imagined it, but I could swear the nurses smirked each time they informed me that this was my first labor, it could go on for days.
I hobbled away with a bath towel between my legs, enraged. My cervix might have failed to fulfill the textbook definition of active labor, but I was certain that my baby was coming. Sure enough, I was back four hours later, and by the time I got the epidural I’d been demanding for hours, I was close to eight centimeters; it was almost too late.
(click link at top to read the rest of the blog on romper.com)
It begins and ends with smoke. Singed white sage is brushed up and down the body. Head to toe, limb to limb. This ritual smudging is meant to clear the indistinct wounds of trauma. A restless morning or ugly fight must first be washed away before each woman enters the headquarters of Tewa Women United in Española, New Mexico. In the smoke, she is grounded.
For 30 years, Tewa Women United (TWU) has brought together Indigenous women from the Tewa and other Indigenous tribes throughout Northern New Mexico’s pueblos, and across the United States, to address the problems facing their families and the larger community. At first, they met around kitchen tables and in coffee shops to discuss divorce or suicide, says Kathy Sanchez, who helped found TWU in the late 1980s. Later on, the members of TWU came to realize that these were symptoms of larger issues and generational trauma. “Why are our kids turning to alcohol? Why are the men so abusive?” Sanchez asks. “Why do we have so many sexual abuses toward women? We were asking a lot of questions about why things were the way they were.”
In recent years, the group has turned its attention to a particular problem connected to reproductive health: After African-American women, Native-American women face the second-highest rate of death during childbirth, more than twice the rate of white women. In 2003, the Tewa Birthing Project began to examine the disparities in health care for Indigenous women, particularly by creating more access to the support provided by a midwife or doula. Last year, a doula training program was organized to help broaden access to health care and create a safer birth experience with less medical intervention. It is free of charge for the students, asking only that they assist with three births within the community.
(Click link at top to read this piece in it’s entirety on vogue.com)