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♥ Let’s End Toxic Positivity ♥

 

Pregnancy is amazing. It’s an incredible time in your life, and leads to the most precious gift of all: your baby. It’s also messy, painful, and at times downright miserable. These facts are not mutually exclusive. You can love your baby and be grateful for their existence without enjoying the aching hips, the inability to keep food down, and the mood swings that make you cry at how cute something is, then want to smack your partner for trying to give you a compliment because you’re absolutely certain they said it sarcastically and think you look like a beached whale that’s been tarred and feathered. Toxic positivity can make you feel ashamed for these valid feelings that are completely normal during such a tumultuous time in your life.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is a sugar-coated form of gaslighting. It is a way of invalidating a person’s genuine feelings and making them feel shamed for them. It is the belief that a person should maintain a positive mindset regardless of their circumstances, and that any voicing of negative emotion makes them responsible for those emotions’ very existence.

A Phenomenon on the Rise

Lately, I have been seeing an increase in the number of pregnant moms hurting because their family or friends have invalidated their feelings for the umpteenth time. One mom said that her grandmother told her that she had a miserable time when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, then later that day, told her she needed to “stop complaining and just love her baby” when she tried to vent about how tired she was feeling on her own personal facebook timeline. Another told of her aunt who would tell her she needed to stop being ungrateful and “suck it up” every time she heard her mention anything not 100% positive about how she was feeling. I have heard the anguished cries of loss mamas, shamed into suffering in silence by toxic positivity, unable to seek support from their friends when they needed it most, as they went through their pregnancies with their rainbow babies.

Every Mama’s Feelings are Valid

This treatment is not okay. Just because she is having a hard time does not mean she doesn’t love her baby, and we as a society need to stop pretending it does. I love my girls with all of my heart and soul. They also drive me up the walls at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make me an ungrateful mother to wish they were able to see things from my perspective once in a while. I would never dream of telling another mama that she didn’t love her children just because she didn’t always love their behavior.

The Double Standards Need to Stop

Have you ever been so incredibly annoyed by something your partner did, but still loved them anyway? Unless you live in a fictional world or have never loved anyone, you probably have. Why can the same principle not be applied in parenthood as in relationships? Would you tell a woman she couldn’t possibly love her husband if she felt hurt that he chose to go out for an impromptu drink with his friends while she was at home puking her guts out after having to cancel plans with her friends because she felt so sick? Maybe you can see it from both sides, and think maybe he just thought she wanted to have some peace and be alone, but he should have asked her if that’s what she wanted instead of assuming. But you probably wouldn’t tell her “You should stop whining and be glad you have a husband!” or “It isn’t good for your marriage to get so stressed out over everything, you need to calm down!”

Trauma Is Not Healed By Positivity

A growing number of women suffer from trauma of one kind or another during pregnancy and birth. Many more have experienced it prior to pregnancy, and will experience it after. Some of us will even develop PTSD from our experiences. Being positive does not erase the trauma. The only way to heal from it is to process it. Yes, therapy is extremely important, especially in cases of PTSD. But support from your friends and family is, too. Shaming or shunning someone because they have unhealed trauma might make your ego feel better about your own trauma, or allow you to wrap yourself in a bubble to avoid facing it altogether, but it can be incredibly damaging to the other person, and can serve to deepen and reinforce their trauma. If the goal is to help them develop a positive mindset, this is entirely counterproductive, not to mention cruel.

A Positive Mindset Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Yes, during pregnancy and immediately postpartum, it is important to protect your emotional space and try to keep a positive mindset. It’s important for success in all areas of life. Having a positive mindset, however, doesn’t protect us from all possible negative feelings and experiences. The human brain needs to be able to process the things that happen in order to move forward. To do this, we need to talk about them. Holding it all inside can foster resentment, anger, fear, and a whole host of other negative feelings. Letting it out can help to release those feelings, allowing them to be replaced by more positive ones.

 

How You Can Help

Don’t invalidate a mom’s feelings and experiences just because they are unpleasant. Empathize with her. Try to understand what she is going through and hold space for her to talk about it and process it. Allow her to speak on it and seek to better understand her through it. Let her know she is not alone. Make her feel heard and validated. Support her. If you see someone participating in toxic positivity against another (or even themselves), gently remind them that all feelings are valid and deserve the space they need to be processed. That is how we change lives and make the world a better place.

 

Are you searching for a safe place to talk about your troubles while being supported instead of invalidated? Would you like to join a community of moms coming together to educate and empower each other in healthy ways? Come join us and help us build the village we all need.

 

♥ Black Birth Matters ♥

“According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health.” ¹

We Need Change

I am calling on my followers to learn more about the abysmal treatment of black women and transfolks in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and what you can do to help.

“There is much evidence to document the impact that generations of imperialism, colonialism, racism and white supremacy has had on African people in general—and on Black women in particular… Black mothers, children and families… are unseen and unheard in a health system driven by the remnants and realities of institutionalized racism.” ²

According to the most recent CDC data, more than half of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period, and one-third happen seven or more days after delivery. The majority of initial postpartum appointments don’t happen until four-to-six weeks after birth. These are also frequently the only postpartum appointments that occur. Anyone that has had a c-section, pre-eclampsia, depression, or is taking anticoagulants needs to be seen sooner than four weeks after birth. Black women and transfolk are far more likely to experience all of these things, sometimes more than twice as likely as white women. In one study published in 2017, two-thirds of low-income black women never made it to their doctor visit.

The high risk of death surrounding black birth spans all income and education levels. It happened to Shalon Irving. It almost happened to Serena Williams. Their education and money did not change the way that their providers brushed off their concerns and ignored them. This shows that the problem does not stem from race, but from racism.



All of this was even before COVID-19 came along and highlighted the disparities even more.

 

What Can You Do?

  • If you are a black mother or a care provider, read this guide for how to acknowledge and address racism in prenatal and postnatal care.
  • If you are a care provider, pay attention to your unconscious biases that may arise when serving black women and transfolks. Work hard to be mindful and overcome them. Talk about them with others in your field, to help them give voice to their own unconscious biases, which is the first step to removing them.
  • Support the NAABB in their mission to “combat the effects of structural racism within maternal and infant health to advance black birth outcomes.”
  • Check out the resources offered by and support Black Women Birthing Justice.
  • Speak up and speak out. Raising awareness of black maternal mortality rates helps inspire policy changes, targeted funding, additional training for providers, and other solutions. Vote for candidates that support these solutions. Talk about these issues with your friends.
  • Share the IRTH app with your black birthing friends and acquaintances, so that they know about this resource for reading and sharing reviews of black care providers. This helps black birthing people make informed decisions when choosing their care providers.
  • Have a look at the anti-racist reading list and other black maternal health resources offered by Every Mother Counts, an organization working for equality in maternal health care around the world.
  • Support National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization working protect constitutional and human rights for women of all races, but primarily focused on black and low-income pregnant and parenting women. They provide legal defense and advocacy services.
  • If you are black and have a passion for helping pregnant women and babies, consider becoming an OB/GYN, midwife, pediatrician or other medical specialist, or doula. Currently, only 4% of doctors are POC. According to a review in 2019, the mortality rate is cut in half when black babies are cared for after their birth by doctors of the same race.

Remember to Share Positivity

It’s easy to share the scary articles and statistics surrounding black birthing women and transfolks. But sharing and celebrating the positive stories is just as important. There are lots of beautiful, peaceful, relaxed, and/or powerful black births that happen every day, and they deserve to be recognized, too. Black birthing people need to see the happy stories and know that they can have those kind of stories themselves. The media likes to share things to scare everyone into believing there is no happiness or joy in the world anymore. Even Google brings up only horror stories and dismal statistics when searching “black birth”. That means it’s up to us to prove them wrong.

 

  • You can tune into the podcast Birthright for inspirational black birth stories.
  • The podcast NATAL Stories also provides positive black birth stories alongside empowering ones that tell of overcoming the issues that black women face.
  • Homecoming Podcast is a podcast focused on black home birth, working to dispel the myths that hospital birth is safer than homebirth and that black people don’t birth at home.

 

sources:

1. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why
2. https://thenaabb.org/advocacy/

3. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)30368-X/fulltext

4. https://theeverymom.com/black-mothers-are-dying-at-an-alarming-rate-how-to-be-an-ally/
5. https://www.nytimes.com/article/black-mothers-birth.html
6. https://thenaabb.org/
7. https://www.blackwomenbirthingjustice.com/
8. https://irthapp.com/
9. https://everymothercounts.org/anti-racist-reading/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5auGBhDEARIsAFyNm9F3mczdvIMSeK4uWb5pb03WdxsoQfICIvx9Z5HLJPb0vLxEw2qtvpYaAuhTEALw_wcB
10. https://www.nationaladvocatesforpregnantwomen.org/
11. https://1410c6d1-d135-4b4a-a0cf-5e7e63a95a5c.filesusr.com/ugd/c11158_150b03cf5fbb484bbdf1a7e0aabc54fb.pdf
12. https://birthrightpodcast.com/
13. https://www.natalstories.com/
14. https://www.instagram.com/homecomingpodcast/

♥ My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Journey ♥

 

Warning: This post contains very personal and not-pretty details regarding my anatomy, sex life, and bodily functions. If you don’t like TMI, you may not want to read it. Then again, you may not even be here to begin with in that case! 

“OH! NOW I see the problem!” — not words you want to hear your doctor say when they’re digging around in your lady bits.

But I did. And after 5 years of being told nothing was wrong, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly validating.

I gave birth in 2015, to an amazing baby girl. The birth was incredible. It was also incredibly physically traumatic, thanks to a deformity in my tailbone caused by a childhood injury I didn’t even remember. I only pushed for one hour when giving birth to her, but the first half of that was spent pushing against my tailbone until it finally broke to allow her through. All that straining caused some serious issues. I ended up diagnosed with stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse, specifically uterovaginal prolapse.

I knew things were a mess down there. You expect them to be after giving birth, right? But there are some messes that are a bit harder to “clean up” if you know what I mean. I didn’t tear; I just had a couple of small skid marks at the edge of my perineum. My midwife checked me out and said everything was fine. Even my broken tailbone was denied until my chiropractor did an x ray for me and proved what I already knew. I went to my family doctor a few months after birth, asking her to give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist for pelvic organ prolapse because I knew I had it. She did a quick exam and told me everything was fine, and I had no prolapse. I felt dismissed. She gaslighted me. She wasn’t trained in pelvic organ prolapse. She didn’t even know the right ways to check for it, much less diagnose it. I asked her again a few more times over the next year, and was always dismissed. I gave up. I resigned myself to the new troubles I was having as a new way of life.

Over the years, it would improve for a while, especially when I was more sexually active. But during the times when I was not, it would worsen considerably. A student midwife friend of mine told me I just needed to “use it” more. She might have been right, but it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re in pain, or your cervix is hanging out of your body.

In early 2020, I broke my ankle and spent 4 months unable to walk. I only really had sex one time during that timeframe, and it didn’t last long. Without any reminders, my vagina seemed to forget where it was supposed to be. I found myself having to “tuck myself in” more often, and had to wear my period panties all month long because of worsening leakage when I coughed or sneezed. I had more difficulty with urinating and bowel movements, regardless of their consistency, because my rectum was fighting with my bladder for the open space in my vagina. My vagina would bleed after bowel movements, because it would get over-stretched and the walls would tear a little each time, unless I remembered to “splint” it. I had to urinate much more frequently while on my period, when my cervix was at its lowest in my cycle. Whenever I tried to have sex with my husband, I would have to stop very quickly and then curl up in bed, crying in pain after he hit my uterus, so we stopped trying to have sex at all.
Finally, as I recovered from my injury and began walking again, I got determined to demand the care that I needed and deserved. No one deserves to suffer the way I had. I got a new doctor, who referred me without even doing an exam because she knew she was not qualified to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse. At first, the specialist I saw sounded like she was skeptical of my symptoms. I’m young and relatively healthy. I couldn’t possibly be having this much trouble. My body couldn’t be doing the things I said it was doing. Bodies simply don’t work that way.
Halfway through the exam, I finally got the validation I’d been seeking for 5 years. “OH! NOW I see the problem!” That’s what I heard her shout from between my legs, as she poked and prodded and told me to bear down. The tone of shock in her voice sent a chill up my spine, and filled me with dread, while a wave of relief at finally being vindicated washed over me at the same time. She concluded the exam, and had me hold a rubber glove by two of its fingers. She held the other end, and gestured to the palm of the glove. “This is your vagina,” she said. “And these are the ligaments that hold up the top of your vagina,” she continued, as she pointed to the fingers I was holding. “And this is what is happening to your vagina,” she explained, as she had me move the tips of the fingers to meet her hand at the bottom of the glove. My vagina was collapsing because the ligaments that hold it up had become stretched and lax. She showed how I was correct that it was my cervix that was protruding from my vagina and having to be tucked back in. She explained that it was blocking my urethra, making it difficult to urinate or fully empty my bladder. The harder I’d try, the more blocked it would become. My uterus was hanging down and filling the space, putting it in the path of my husband’s penis. She told me that it was technically stage 2 prolapse, but would feel like stage 3 to me because of the protrusion of my cervix.
We wanted to have another child. This news was devastating. I can’t even perform the act of trying to get pregnant, much less carry a baby, with everything trying to fall out of my body! And surgery to repair it would make it dangerous to attempt pregnancy again.
Thankfully, she did give me hope that a pessary and physical therapy could improve things enough to make it possible to have another baby, and pregnancy might even help hold things in place as my uterus got too big to fall into my vagina anymore. So we scheduled my pessary fitting, and she referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist.

Unfortunately, at my first visit with my physical therapist, I was informed they will no longer take my insurance beyond the end of this month, and there are no insurances I could switch to that they will take. The next closest one is over an hour and a half away. I can’t drive 3+ hours round trip multiple times a week! I have a business to run and children to care for. It simply is not feasible for me.
Lucky for me, and for anyone reading this and going through similar, but unable to get treatment, I won’t give up that easily. Stay tuned for updates on my journey as I learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and ways to treat it without a professional physical therapist.

♥ It’s Okay to Not Always Be Happy ♥

I’ve always felt born to be a Mom. I mothered all my friends. I mothered my own Mother from the age of 3. I mothered my Husband from the moment we moved in together. But becoming an actual Mother, a tiny Life depending on you for every single thing,  24/7, after two and a half decades of only being a Mother to my friends when they needed guidance, not wiping their butts or putting food in their mouths… that was a huge change!

I watched my Husband go to work every day, come home and play video games, eat all the unhealthy crap he wanted, snore his head off and sleep without waking. I watched my friends go about their daily lives, as if nothing had changed. Because for all of them, it hadn’t. But for me?

My entire life was completely upside down. I had this tiny thing attached to me. I was responsible for every aspect of its life. I had to focus all of my time and attention on it. I had to respond to its every noise and movement. I couldn’t play video games all day. I couldn’t go anywhere I wanted anytime I wanted. I couldn’t just slip on my shoes and go for a run. I couldn’t roll over and go back to sleep until 4 in the afternoon if I still felt tired when I woke up. I couldn’t binge on brownies and cake all day if I wanted to. My life was all about this little being that was and always will be a part of me. She was now my entire world. I couldn’t do anything without thinking about how it would affect her.

I was happy to do it, it was what I had wanted, longed for, ached for, for so many years. But being a Mom is hard. There were definitely times when I questioned if had made a mistake. If I was crazy for wanting this. If I was good enough. If I could handle it.

I still have those thoughts sometimes, nearly 4 years later and pregnant with our second. They’re normal. It doesn’t matter what it is, when you make a drastic change in your life, you’re going to have moments of doubt, of regret, of despair, especially when it gets hard. And even when it’s easy, you can still miss the way things were before at times. Being a Mom is hard, but when it comes down to it, I absolutely would not go back and not become a Mother if I had the chance. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments I question whether that’s true. We all fantasize about things being different than they are at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a Mother. It doesn’t make you wrong or crazy. It makes you Human.

So go ahead, cry. Cry and scream and make plans to run away. Think out the details. Think about the greasy diner you’ll work double shifts in, in some tiny,  backwater little town where no one knows you. Think about how you’ll go to night school and get a law degree and become a rich, successful lawyer, all on your own. Think about all of that and more.

Then, after you’ve had your fill of fantasy,  come back to reality. Think about getting through the day without having to change your spit-up covered shirt more than three times. Think about how, tomorrow, Baby might take her first step. Think about next weekend, when your Husband surprises you by changing a diaper without being asked. Think about 10 years from now, when your Child surprises you by doing something you didn’t think a 10 year old could do. Think about seeing your Child driving for the first time, getting married, having her own Children. Think about her calling you in the middle of the night, crying because she is having all of the same thoughts that you are having right now. Think about telling her that she’s okay. Think about telling her that it’s normal, that being a mom is hard.  Think about how you will tell her that you thought and felt it all yourself, and you got through it. Think about how you will tell her how much you love her,  and how you wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Being a Mom is hard, even when it’s easy. There is no job in this world that is more difficult or rewarding. So be happy when you can. And let yourself be miserable without feeling guilty about it when you need to. It’s okay. I promise.

For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 
If you or someone you know shows signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
 Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources.