Last week I read the viral post, “They Should’ve Warned Me,” by Jenny Studenroth Gerson, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Although it was a lovely portrayal of her smooth transition to motherhood, it rubbed me the wrong way and I decided to write a response. In my post, I wrote:
I believe that all mothers, regardless of how smoothly or horrifically their transition to motherhood unrolled, should be part of changing the cultural dialogue about new motherhood. It is so beautiful, powerful, important, magical—of course it is. But it can be haaaard, and it doesn’t come naturally or easily to many women. Our babies don’t all coo blissfully and sh!# unicorn glitter. Sometimes they never stop crying. Sometimes we have no idea what to do with them. As I read Gerson’s article, I kept thinking, “How would a woman suffering from postpartum depression feel while reading this?” Defective, discouraged, humiliated, I suspect. Perhaps even like a failure.
“I’m Glad They Told Me,” my response to Gerson’s Huffington Post article, is the first post that has ever gone viral on my website. I was floored. The response from other mothers who had a similar reaction to Gerston’s post was overwhelming. I was truly humbled by the support and sharing. A few days later,Huffington Post ran my response, and the comments and messages kept coming. I was so moved by how many women reached out to me to share their own perspectives. It became clear to me that many mothers felt ashamed and isolated after reading Gerston’s article, well-intentioned though it may have been, as their experiences had been a far cry from hers. They felt their voices had not been heard.
So this week, we are issuing a challenge to mothers. Now is the time to raise your voice, and share your experience. We want to hear from YOU now. Did anyone throw you a lifesaver at some point—either during your pregnancy, postpartum period, or even later into motherhood? Did someone give you a piece of advice or an honest admission that you were profoundly grateful for? Maybe somebody gave you permission to feel your feelings, or to let go of something. This week, all across social media, we are using the hashtag #sogladtheytoldme and asking moms to share the pieces of truth and wisdom they’ve received. Things like this: I’m so glad they told me
- That sometimes you don’t fall in love with your baby right away, and that’s OK.
- That you might miss your old life, and crave your lost freedom.
- Breastfeeding can be really hard work, and it may not happen for you.
- That postpartum depression happens, and that it’s not your fault.
- That your marriage may need a long, difficult period of adjustment. It’s normal.
- That you may even resent your husband.
- And worse, that you may sometimes resent your baby and your new lifestyle.
- That it’s OK to ask for help. There is help.
- It’s OK if you don’t feel like getting back in shape for a while. Take your time.
- You might not feel like yourself at first. You’ll come back.
- Every baby is different, and if yours is harder than your friend’s, it’s OK.
- You might feel like you suck at this. You don’t.
One of the reasons we decided on the subject matter for our upcoming anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness, is because we believe there is a serious need to present a broader, more balanced image of motherhood in our culture. When we only present one side of the story—the serene, “natural,” smooth side—we do a disservice to mothers and families everywhere.
I believe that there is a way to provide realistic, supportive guidance to new mothers without assaulting them with overwhelming, negative “warnings.” With our #sogladtheytoldme campaign, we want to hear how somebody supported you, or how you wish you had been supported, when you became a mother.
We’d love to see your photos of your personal “I’m so glad they told me…” signs. Mothers, please take a photo of yourself holding your sign and share it on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the #sogladtheytoldme hashtag. Or just post a photo of your sign, or a simple text only post. Bloggers, we’d love for you to write your own blog posts or and share them with #sogladtheytoldme. Let’s spread a compassionate, real, honest message about motherhood as far as we can.
You can also email us at email@example.com or Facebook message your photo to us if you prefer. Jessica and I will be compiling photos in our #sogladtheytoldme campaign to create a photo gallery sharing your amazing, powerful voices. Please spread the word to all the mamas you know! Together we can change the conversation about motherhood.
Or share your advice here!