The Lies Motherhood Will Tell You

Real women get pregnant right away.

That was the first lie.

It made me feel flawed before I could even identify what I was thinking. A few months went by with my unwanted period arriving on time, a bloody announcement of what did not exist. I googled “average time to conceive” over and over, desperate to make the waiting feel normal instead of painful. If this is common, maybe it won’t hurt so much, I’d tell myself. Like many hopeful-to-be-moms, I assumed I’d get pregnant right away, but that was not my story. It took us a little while before I saw a positive pregnancy test. Wanting to get pregnant and not getting pregnant made me feel like I was less of a woman, like something within me was not whole.

Then came the second lie:

Real women have unmedicated births.

I watched the popular Ricky Lake documentary. Ina May’s YouTube videos and inspiring Guide to Childbirth colored my expectations for birth. I love how the natural birth community honors women’s bodies and supports them by providing safe and holistic options. So, while I decided to give birth in a hospital, I secretly hoped for a zen-like birth without medications. My birth ended up being the antithesis of an unmedicated birth: cervical folly, an epidural, Pitocin, multiple blood draws while I labored, and continual fetal monitoring. Finally, my birth culminated in a c-section. I believed my body had failed to do the “womanly” thing it was supposed to do: give birth to my baby. I felt like I was less than what I should be.

The Lies Motherhood Will Tell You | Twin Cities Moms Blog

And the third lie:

Real women breastfeed.

I remember awkwardly maneuvering my body so I could rest on my side and see my tired husband. He was feeding our newborn a bottle of formula as I laid in my hospital bed hooked up to a wound vacuum, an IV of antibiotics, a tube through my belly, and a tube through my butt cheek. My emotions ebbed and flowed with sadness and anger. I had many complications after my son’s birth and while I had been trying to pump in the midst of it all, my body was too sick and tired to make enough milk for my baby. While I eventually was able to exclusively breastfeed him, temporarily giving up my plans to nurse challenged the assumptions I carried about how I was going to be the mom I wanted to be for my child. What if I couldn’t nurse him? What if I failed at breastfeeding too?

When my husband and I were in premarital counseling, one of the statements that stuck with me was, “You don’t know what you’re swimming in until you’re swimming in something different.” What our pastor meant by this was that it’s hard to identify what you feel is normal or what your expectations are until you live with someone else’s. The same is true of these lies I believed. Until I swim in what’s true, I can’t even tell I’m swimming in lies. That’s why I believe it’s so important to examine our thoughts about ourselves and see if they’re true. I like to think of this self-examination as resistance.

I resist the lies that creep into my life by clinging to what I know to be true: my value does not come from my role or performance as a mother. My son is a gift and I am overjoyed to be his mom, but he does not define my worth. I often remind myself of these truths when I feel the siren call of mommy lies. Then I’m able to see clearly what I need to know:

Real women get pregnant right away.

No, my ability or inability to conceive is not my fault. I believe God gives me beautiful things when I am waiting. Waiting to get pregnant taught me about the mystery of life—sometimes children come when we least expect it and sometimes never at all. I learned I could use my desire to mother in a variety of ways: as a mentor, as a nanny, as a church nursery helper, and as a volunteer helping mothers in need. These are all meaningful ways to mother without bearing children.

Real women have unmedicated births.

No, I am secure enough in who I am to accept that needing help and support—whether in the form of a doula, a peaceful environment, an epidural, or even a surgical birth—do not make me less worthy. Needing help reflects my humanity: I am created to live in community with others and give and receive help.

Real women breastfeed.

No, I can use discernment to figure out the best way to care for my child in the moment. I can adapt and change my plans based on what’s best for our family. I get to live in the freedom that comes from not being trapped in the mindset that one parenting choice is the only way to flourish.

Your mom lies are probably different from mine. Maybe you believe the lie that your child’s behavior defines your worth. Maybe you believe your children won’t love you if you don’t always make them happy. Motherhood exposes what we believe about our worth—perhaps because it’s a job that demands not just what we can do, but who we are.

What about you? What lies are you tempted to believe? What truth do you tell yourself to fight them?

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