We Need to Talk More About the Messiness of Parenthood, Not Who Belongs in the Club
The language around parenthood and who it includes is changing. But the gritty reality of what it means to give birth doesn’t change. Here’s why I’m OK with sharing the wealth.
As I write this, my head hurts, my stomach feels like a vice is being twisted around it, I’m an emotional wreck. It’s a feeling those of us with uteruses are more than familiar with: I’m about to get my period.
Ever since becoming a mother to my 3-year-old daughter, the emotions that come with my period have taken a turn for the darker. Mixed in with the usual mood swings I was once all-too-familiar with is the addition of postpartum anxiety that seems to worsen with PMS, which I can’t seem to shake three years in (not that anyone can ‘shake’ postpartum anxiety, as we know well).
Not to mention the physiological effect of having had a C-section. I get twinges around my abdomen I swear were never there before, and my period cramps feel different post-baby. Sure, maybe this has nothing to do with having birthed a child, but the drastic changes your body undergoes during pregnancy and the often-arduous recovery that follows can’t be dismissed.
For me, motherhood—womanhood—with all its messiness can feel like a lot. A burden but also a blessing. I loved being lucky enough to carry my daughter for almost 42 weeks; to feel her kick back when I accidentally rested my arm too heavily on my stomach. It’s worth every inch of my C-section scar to have experienced that—to me. And I know it’s a privilege. Many people who want to carry children aren’t able to, whether it’s through infertility or not being born with the body parts that let them do that. It’s a privilege I acknowledge every day.
Of late, as a brand, we’ve been talking about the language we use around parenthood and pregnancy. Language gets complicated: Nothing is black or white. Men can get pregnant. Men can get periods. Non-binary people can get pregnant and have periods. Dads can give birth. This can be confusing when we’ve been brought up with societal norms telling us just the opposite.
A little explainer: What we mean by the fact that men and non-binary people can get pregnant or have periods is not to say all men can have periods. It’s also not to say that all women can have periods or get pregnant, either. It’s saying that there are trans men and non-binary people out there who do get periods and can get pregnant, and let’s acknowledge them.
As new parents, we don't talk enough about what happens to our bodies during pregnancy and afterward. When exactly to expect your period after you have a baby; why the people who give birth can feel so neglected and isolated afterward. We can do more as parents to support each other and be mindful about the language we use—to talk about periods, to talk about pregnancy.
Here at Parents.com, we try to be as honest as possible about what it means to become a parent, in all its facets. Just as it’s important to talk about the changing role of what it means to be a mom or dad today—no longer is one destined to be in the workplace or the other at home, nor is one more of the primary caregiver—parenting identities shift. I’m more than willing to share this fantastically complicated journey with whoever wants in (ever mindful of the climate, of course). What the world needs is good parents. I say the more people who want to make the effort to do that, no matter what they look like or how they’re born, the better.
Julia Dennison is the executive editor of Parents.com. She co-parents her 3-year-old daughter Esme and her pughuahua Fergie. Follow her at @JuliaDennison.