MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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The Founding Mothers: Women in Herstory

This month marks the International celebration of Women’s Day (Sunday, March 8) and Women’s History Month.

Both of these acknowledgments demonstrate an earnest desire to understand and honor the contributions of women. Wednesday, March 11th will mark the opening event for a new exhibit at USF, Women’s and Gender Studies Dept., curated by Martha Joy Rose.

Panels featuring the four waves of feminism flank the entrance to the exhibit titled The Founding Mothers: Women in Herstory. Also on exhibit are a myriad of art pieces including works by Rose, Christen Clifford, and Kim Alderman. This timely installation brings together feminist voices throughout herstory who have challenged conventional attitudes about gendered performance and motherhood through their writing, activism, and art. A multi-media interactive exhibit encourages participants to think critically about evolving family narratives and womyn’s place in society.

Please do come visit. See the impact Mother Studies can have on your life, perspective, and the future. Write INFO@MOMmuseum.org for more info. Flyer for the opening event is here. The exhibit will be up through May 8, 2020.

See more panels here online at the Museum of Motherhood: LINK

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M.A.M.A. 41 Featuring Michele Landel and Ann E. Wallace

MAMA with MOM Museum, Procreate Project and Mom Egg Review featuring Michelle Landel

Bio: Michele Landel creates intensely textured and airy collages using burned, quilted, and embroidered photographs and paper to explore the themes of exposure, absence, and memory. She manually manipulates digital photographs to highlight the way images hide and filter the truth. She then sews layers of paper together to create bandages and veils and to transform images into fragile maps.

Michele is an American artist. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and Art History. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, the UK, and the US and she is extremely proud to have been in the 2017 Mother Art Prize group show. She was awarded the 2018 Innovative Technique Award by the Surface Design Association and is represented by the Jen Tough Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and the Muriel Guepin Gallery in NYC, NY. Her upcoming art events include Imagining Identity: Contemporary Textiles at the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation in Palo Alto, CA and the Hankyu Paris Art Fair in Osaka, Japan. Michele has lived in France for over 15 years. She has three school-age children and works out of her art studio in the Paris 9th arrondissement.

Project Descriptions :

1) Who’s Afraid is intended to capture the tension between men’s anxiety of being unreasonably accused of inappropriate behavior and women’s fear of sexual harassment and assault. It is referencing the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the inherent tension between actors and audience that is part of theater performance and in this play the volatile and complicated relationship between men and women. To capture this, Michele started with the gaze. Specifically, the ‘male gaze’ as defined by the feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey. She began with a photograph of an anonymous woman from a clothing catalog. The photograph fits interestingly within Mulvey’s three phases of the ‘male gaze’: How men look at women, how women look at themselves, and how women look at other women. She enlarged the photograph, divided it into small rectangles, and then printed the image on secondhand bed sheets. She pieced the photograph back together and painted, using machine embroidery, the woman onto a second bed sheet – covering her skin, hair, and clothes with thread. She cut out the woman’s eyes to make the viewer uncomfortable and scared. Deliberately referencing childhood ghost costumes made by cutting out eyeholes from old bed sheets, she is engaging with the idea of spectator and specter both of which have the Latin root word ‘spect’ meaning to ‘see.’ From a distance, the embroidered figure on the sheet appears three-dimensional. The embroidered figure appears to ‘see’ the viewer when in fact the gaze is empty. The vacant gaze causes anxiety and feels powerful. Blog Link I Instagram @michelelandel  I www.michelelandel.com

1) Michele Landel

For There She Was, comes from the last line of Virginia Woolf ‘s “Mrs. Dalloway” and includes over a hundred embroidered, burned, dyed and collaged images. The series emerged from thinking about all the women who are currently speaking out about their pain and trauma and are refusing to go away. To summarize this moment, Michele brewed natural dyes in her kitchen using organic materials and then dyed small scraps of fabric (a cloth baby diaper, an antique tablecloth, a stained tea towel…) to represent the physicality of womanhood and gender roles. She matched the fabrics with small paper dolls that are digitally edited photographs from clothing catalogs to show the commodification and manipulation of women’s stories. To deliberately erase the women, she burned holes in the photographs and repeatedly stitched over their faces and bodies. Yet the women are still there. Their presence is even stronger.

Closed

By Ann E. Wallace

Close the door.
She looks at me like I am ridiculous.
But I only left it open for a minute.
A girl raised by a father has not
had to think much about the reasons
a family of girls keeps the door closed
and locked.
A family of girls knows
the unwanted will enter
closed doors, will penetrate locks
uninvited.
We do not need to leave
the door open for them.

Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her poetry collection is Counting by Sevens, from Main Street Rag, and her published work, featured in journals such as Wordgathering, The Literary Nest, Rogue Agent, Mothers Always Write, and Juniper, can be found on her website AnnWallacePhD.com. She lives in Jersey City, NJ and is on Twitter @annwlace409.

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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Muttererde & The Language of Class

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor Muttererde (2017) Video

Muttererde profiles conversations with five black femmes on the knowledge and non-knowledge of their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and as far back as the knowledge carries them to create a rich and powerful archive on ancestry.  They explore themes of motherhood, migration, cultural differences, beauty standards, queerness, kinship, death and rebirth. Their stories, although from five different countries, intertwine to weave a tapestry of herstory through the African diaspora. Through their testimonies, the viewer discovers that ritual, memory and oral history can challenge the status quo.

This work, made in collaboration with filmmaker Astrid Gleichmann, features the stories of Camalo Gaskin, Tobi Ayedadjou, Niv Acosta, Natalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Fannie Sosa. It has been supported by the Decentralized Cultural Work Tempelhof-Schöneberg, District Kunst und Kulturforderung Berlin and A Prima Vista Filmproduktion. Posted in partnership with the Museum of Motherhood, Procreate Project and the Mom Egg Review.

 Artist Biography

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1984, Florida) is a multidisciplinary artist and community organizer. Her roots are in the Southern United States, born in Mississippi and raised in Florida. Taylor’s work manifests through performance, text, dialogue, dance and community building for Black People and People of Colour. She is chiefly concerned with ways to dismantle oppressive institutions and the creation of racial equity in art and cultural institutions. She has performed and presented at the Barbican Centre of Art (London, UK); Chisenhale Gallery (London, UK); Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin, Germany); Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin, Germany); Sophiensaele Theater (Berlin, Germany);  The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Oslo, Norway); Rogaland Kunstsenter (Stavanger, Norway); and the Irish Museum for Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland). She is currently undergoing a Master of Art in Black British Literature at Goldsmiths University of London.

VIDEO TRAILER

LANGUAGE CLASS

Kimberly L. Becker, (written on Qualla Boundary; for C.M.)

Little by little

we are reclaiming the words

Just as the land was once large,

so, too, our voice

Some words lost on the Trail

have been found

They lived hidden in baskets,

in pockets, in the very tassels of corn

(Selu, Selu)

Now the words live again

See? When I say nogwo it is now,

both the now of then and the now

of not yet

The words work secret medicine

and strong, forming us

from the inside out

Language is our Magic Lake–

we walk in limping with loss

and emerge wholly ourselves

When Cecilia speaks

she bears with her

the future of these sounds

Listen: her voice is soft, but sure

Originally published in The Mom Egg Vol. 8 Lessons, 2010

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Mothers

By Deann Shaffner

According to the CDC among the infants born in the United States, 83.8% start to breastfeed and by 12 months the amount of breastfed babies is down to 36.2%.

“A more recent study that used costs adjusted to 2007 dollars and evaluated costs associated with additional illnesses and diseases (sudden infant death syndrome, hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infection in infancy, atopic dermatitis, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, childhood asthma, and type 1 diabetes mellitus) found that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion annually from reduced direct medical and indirect costs and the cost of premature death. If 80 percent of U.S. families complied, $10.5 billion per year would be saved. (Economic Effects).”

There are a variety of reasons mothers stop breastfeeding by 6 months including, concerns of milk supply, baby’s weight, issues with latching, unsupportive work policies, lack of prenatal leave, cultural norms, and lack of family support. So, what is a mother to do if she desires to breastfeed? In my previous post I gave an overview of the importance of seeking an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC); because they have received thorough lactation education. IBCLCs can be found in many areas, but many of them are employed in Hospitals, WIC offices, and Private Practice.

In Hospitals where an IBCLC or a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) are present, a visit to assist mom with a correct latch with baby, as well as address any breastfeeding concerns, is done during the mothers’ hospital stay. As the baby grows each week after his/her birth the breastfeeding experience can continue to change; bringing new questions on how to know if you’re doing this whole breastfeeding thing correctly! Most Hospitals will assist you during the entire course of your breastfeeding journey. However, some mothers forget that they can receive help from the hospitals IBCLC or CLC staff beyond the newborn stage.

Anna Kell Artwork Nursing_Install; MOM museum online exhibit

WIC participants benefit greatly from having the ability to contact breastfeeding support during pregnancy, after birth and up to the child turning 5. Many WIC offices have IBCLC, CLCs and Breastfeeding Peer Specialists; these specialists are experienced breastfeeding mothers that have undergone some training to assist mothers. At WIC, a parent could work with these available sources with the continued visits required at WIC for nutritional help. Although WIC is income-based and not available to every parent. As well as the fact, that some mothers report it is easier to access baby formula through WIC than breastfeeding help. (Source- Breastfeeding in the Public Arena Pg. 153 MJR).

Private Practice IBCLCs may face more of a challenge with assisting clients due to a conflicting relationship with insurance companies. Insurance providers have a variety of policy plans available to their customers. It may be in your best interest to call your insurance company during your pregnancy to see what is covered with breastfeeding supplies, (like a breast pump) or lactation visits, what documentation will be required, and the time frame you may face while waiting for coverage, if you have any, with your insurance. The information provided by your insurance company based on your plan, which can easily differ from other individuals’ plans, may help give you a better understanding of what you need to prepare for. Many insurance plans require an “in-network” provider, this means the lactation consultant has an agreement with the health plan to provide services. For some private practices, this may be easier said than done. An e-mail survey of U.S. IBCLCs in March of 2011 conclusion recorded that, “IBCLCs provide key care to a vulnerable population. However, we found that these services are not consistently reimbursed. IBCLCs poorly communicate their health care activities to insurance providers, but insurance providers also inconsistently recognize and reimburse IBCLC care.”

I recently interviewed IBCLC Heather Gansky, her practice is The Tree of Life Lactation located in South Carolina. She has also been a La Leche League Leader since August of 2016.

Question: Have you come across mothers experiencing difficulties nursing their baby and insurance companies denying coverage for Private Practice appointments with a Lactation Specialist?

Heather: Yes there are a ton of denials from insurance companies. Most moms do have to resubmit with different codes because each insurance seems to have it own way they like to do things.

Question: If a mother does not qualify for WIC, and is unable to attend La Leche League meetings, where do you suggest she go for assistance?

Heather: If I run into a parent who doesn’t have WIC or can not come to meetings I will either refer her to an IBCLC in our area, myself being one of them on a list about 3 others. Also, there are hospitals that have support groups, and some areas have baby cafés that anyone can drop into for help they need. It really depends on the situation and if she needs one on one help or peer to peer support.

Question: From your experience, how often do you think mothers seek breastfeeding help? Where is the best source for them to turn to address breastfeeding concerns? (Newborn stage, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 2 +years.)

Heather: I find mothers sometimes wait too long to seek help for breastfeeding issues. It’s only until they are able to throw in the towel due to pain or poor weight gain in their baby that they actually seek help, and sometimes that’s much too late. Generally, we see babies in the newborn stage-1 month; then again around 3 months when babies really need to be good and suckling and using their tongues and mouths correctly to actively get milk out. If we didn’t see a baby in the early days but see them in the 3-month range it is typically due to mouth abnormalities which went undiagnosed either due to moms oversupply/ overactive letdown and the baby was riding the huge letdown portion of the feeding session.

Question: Do you think insurance companies are helpful to mothers seeking breastfeeding help? Or does the process of waiting for approval leave moms in a position of crisis where they turn to formula feeding, even though breastfeeding was their first choice in how they wanted their baby fed?

Heather: Some insurance companies have staff on hand to help with common issues/questions over the phone. There are some IBCLCs that are in-network for some insurance companies, but most work in offices and don’t do home visits. Most parents need help right away and aren’t waiting for insurance approval. In the case where parents don’t have money to pay for a consultation out of pocket they sometimes can go back to the hospital they delivered at however they are put back in the same situation with the same providers who are time-constrained and didn’t help them, to begin with. Many parents just don’t want to go back to those providers.

Question: Do you think that if health insurance companies were more supportive on coverage for visits with a lactation specialist that there could be a possible increase in breastfeeding rates?

Heather: Oh I’m sure of it. Most families are living paycheck to paycheck. They can’t afford a lactation visit… especially when one or both parents are out of work for the birth of the baby.

Question: Do you think families would benefit from visiting with an IBCLC before baby is born?

Heather: Yes. Education before birth is one of the key factors in initiation as well as the duration of breastfeeding.

The cost of breastmilk itself can be free. However, breastfeeding may have some additional costs. A mother could get around not having a breast pump and could choose to hand express, but meeting with an IBCLC or other lactation specialists may be more beneficial in helping you reach your breastfeeding goals. A visit with a consultant may range in price from $100.00-$300.00 depending on your location, but this is still a very low cost compared to a months’ worth of formula which can cost up to $243.00 per month, or you can use this Formula cost calculator to determine costs. If you plan to breastfeed, and during pregnancy you read the books, attend the breastfeeding classes, you may still want to be prepared to visit with a lactation specialist after the birth of your baby. Requesting funds as a baby shower gift, holiday or birthday, to visit with a lactation consultant would be an amazing gift to receive if you feel you may need help with affording the cost to visit with a consultant. You may be lucky enough to even be reimbursed by your insurance company after these visits, but it is best to save up on your own for a visit to avoid a feeding crisis, then waiting for the insurance to get everything in order. Either way, if you want to breastfeed, that is your choice. Income and Insurance coverage should not be left to chance.

More on education:

Please see the Free Webinars offered through the United States Breastfeeding Committee. The next 11/20 Session: Building Relationships: a Key to the Rise of our Indigenous Breastfeeding Communities
will be presented by Amber Kapuamakamaeokalani Wong Granite, Breastfeeding Hawai’i Coalition.

O ke kahua ma mua ma hope ke kūkulu: First the foundation, then the structure can be built.
This Hawaiian proverb teaches us the importance of building relationships in order to ensure the rise of our people.

Whether we seek to influence fellow learners, patients, or customers, we must get to know them before we can ask them to make a change. Once we seek and understand where they come from, what is truly important to them, and then help them unpack their stories, the real work can truly begin. During this session, we will hear an oli, Nā ʻAumakua. This oli acknowledges our ancestors, our land, and our nation. It invites strength, knowledge, and power into our space. MOM founder and director, Martha Joy Rose has participated in these and found them educational and helpful. (See the certificate at the bottom of the page)

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

https://mommuseum.org/2019/10/31/breastfeeding-education-might-not-be-what-you-think-it-is/

http://www.babycafeusa.org/

https://www.treelifelactation.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52687/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23962773

https://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bfcostbenefits/

https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility-requirements

New Maternalisms, “Breastfeeding in the Public Arena”, Martha Joy Rose (Demeter Press 2016)

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Gender Disappointment

 

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Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

By Deann Shaffner

As a mother and La Leche League leader, I often hear stories from other mothers about their breastfeeding experience. The experiences they relay are often from their first few weeks after giving birth. Though every mother’s story is different, I have noticed an underlying issue many seem to face. I realize that many mothers, after leaving the hospital, are unsure of where to turn when they have difficulties with nursing.

The health care staff surrounding a mother during birth are extraordinary in their job. They care deeply about the well being of mommy and baby. But what happens when mom is about to nurse the baby and the newborn needs assistance? Each position of a health care provider during the mom’s transition from pregnancy to motherhood has an important role in assessing the overall health of the mother and the infant. Professionals are trained to prepare mothers for the birth process. However, when it comes to breastfeeding education, oftentimes things are left to chance. Why does this additional education matter? How do parents access information? These concerns usually surface once a mother is searching for help and she may receive a mix of confusing information; or sometimes, even though the mother is determined to breastfeed, she is given formula and told to use it to feed the baby.

Every breastfeeding experience is individualized and can be so very different. If breastfeeding is not working, a family can be forced to decide what is best for them and their child in the midst of a feeding crisis. There are many examples involving a new mother who is having nursing difficulties receiving conflicting information from a variety of well-intended sources. If her go-to people are the health-care providers she used for pregnancy and birth, and the information she needs to keep breastfeeding is not forthcoming, then she might not question the use of sample formula that was given to her upon her hospital release.

So, who has access to breastfeeding education? How much education is required? Why does it matter? Well, let’s start with OBGYNS and Midwives; I tried looking for an overall amount of hours in the breastfeeding education required during certification. I came across some articles that mentioned only a few hours of breastfeeding education were required. The basics are taught to assist the mother with the first latch. This education varies from state to state. Of course, as a patient, with breastfeeding-related questions, you can ask during your appointments with an OBGYN or Midwife, and they may direct you to a specialist in the field of lactation. After the birth of your baby, labor and delivery staff may also assist a mother with that first latch. Labor and delivery nurses are superheroes; however, they are not required to have any breastfeeding education when hired. Labor and delivery staff are encouraged to follow along certified lactation staff to gain more knowledge in helping mothers, and some hospitals provide basic breastfeeding education classes, twice a year to their employees, and also makes sure that staff watches the same breastfeeding videos they provide patients with.

If you notice your nurse is not able to address your needs with breastfeeding concerns, do not panic, they are doing their best to help you. You may also request a visit from a lactation consultant to get more in-depth information. Pediatricians, who see most of you and your baby, tend to get a lot of parents voicing breastfeeding concerns they also receive only a few hours of breastfeeding education. Again, they want what is best for your baby’s health, but it is your interest to find a lactation consultant to address potential nursing concerns.

A Certified Lactation Consultant has the most lactation education and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to breastfeeding. Getting help with breastfeeding, from a lactation consultant matters, since they have so many hours invested to become certified. From the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) website, here is a list of 3 different pathways a person can take to become eligible to take the exam: “IBLCE provides 3 ways that candidates, health care professionals or non-health professionals, can obtain the required clinical practice in lactation and breastfeeding care:

Pathway 1 – Completing a minimum of 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice in an appropriate supervised setting within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

OR

Pathway 2 – Completing an accredited lactation academic program that includes at least 300 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

OR

Pathway 3 – Completing an IBLCE-verified Pathway 3 Plan of at least 500 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice with an IBCLC as described in the Pathway 3 Plan Guide and obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

Please note that personal experience breastfeeding your own children and experience helping family members and friends cannot be used to qualify for the IBCLC examination.” (1)

Another position in assisting a mother with breastfeeding is a Certified Lactation Counselor. This position allows one to receive an abundance of lactation education, but it is not as extensive as the IBCLC exam. To become a Certified Lactation Counselor, one must attend a 5-day course, more information on the curriculum is here: https://centerforbreastfeeding.org/wp-content/uploads/HCP_Spring_2020_Flyer.pdf

Other positions that include breastfeeding education and personal experience are Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and volunteering La Leche League Leaders, some areas also have support groups or local meetups for breastfeeding moms.

All the health care providers that assist a mother during pregnancy, birth and after birth want the best for mom and baby when it comes to health if you are not sure where to ask for help after having baby, speak up! A lot happens in a hospital setting after your birth, it is understandable to forget information, once you are home with baby, You can call the hospital you delivered at, a WIC office, insurance company, or see if a local moms group can help direct you towards a professional that may be able to assist you. Some websites such as this https://www.ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc may help you find a lactation consultant in your area.

Breastfeeding can be hard, but with the support of other mothers, and receiving assistance from a person who has had extensive education with lactation, there may be a better chance for you to reach your breastfeeding goals.

WANT MORE?

See one of MOM’s USF intern’s mosts on breastfeeding last semester with additional resources here.

Also, Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Big Letdown which cites the economic and political influences of big business and breastfeeding in America, penned an OpEd citing multiple activists in the field including Museum of Motherhood founder, Martha Joy Rose in the  Washington Post – Read it here.

Image result for The Big Letdown

(1) Source: https://iblce.org/faqs-for-initial-candidates/

See Deann’s last blog on Gender Disappointment here.

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GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT: What it is, how it feels, how to handle it (LINK)

MEET OUR NEW INTERN! Dee Shaffner (Merritt) is a first-time college student at Cayuga Community College in Fulton New York. Dee is currently workings towards her Associates’s Degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology. She is a single mother to 3 wonderful (and extra silly) little boys, Lucas, Logan, and Liam. In addition to being a mother and a student, Dee also works at Mother Earth Baby and is a La Leche League volunteer.

We are thrilled to welcome Dee for a remote internship in blogging over the course of several weeks. She will be researching and writing on topics related to motherhood, gender, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. She hopes to gain additional insight from her research and share that knowledge. Her desire to support other mothers stems from her personal motherhood struggles as well as from questions and concerns, friends, mothers, even strangers have approached her about through the years, She will share some of her perspectives as part of her internship for MOM.

GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT: What it is, how it feels, how to handle it.

The day of the gender reveal during pregnancy can be an exciting one! When I went in for mine, I was so confident I was going to have a girl. The ultrasound technician concentrated on my belly as I lay under the thin cotton blanket on the table. Then, suddenly, pointing to the grainy image on the ultrasound screen, the tech announced in an excited voice that we were having a boy. My heart sank. This was not anything I was prepared for, no one ever mentioned to me that I could feel devastated about the gender of my baby, I felt so ashamed. All I could think of was how I was told in classes, and from other mothers, that all the effort and pain from pregnancy and labor goes away and nothing else matters when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. But, I could not imagine holding a baby boy. I felt shattered.

Lying on the table, hearing the technician’s words, I squeezed my partner’s hand and forced out a smile. After I got dressed and left the room, I convinced myself there could be a mistake. The images were so blurry. There was still a chance my baby would come out a girl. Months later, during the labor and then as my baby was delivered, I heard excited voices announcing, “Congratulations. You have a baby boy!”

I felt a wave of disappointment and a surge of shame. These were the same feelings of shame I felt the first time I was told I was having a boy. I didn’t dare say anything out loud. I forced a smile.

This happened to me 3 times. Yes, I am the mother of 3 boys. Over the years I hoped the desire for a daughter would disappear. I love my children and this is not something I need to defend, but my heart still aches for other possibilities. Gender disappointment by definition is when an expectant parent experiences depression or anxiety when the sex of a baby does not match their preference. As I find myself continuing to struggle with my emotions, I have since learned many mothers and fathers also have gender disappointment. Though the journey is different for everyone, complex feelings, sadness, and feelings of longing are all part of this syndrome.

Admitting to gender disappointment can be hard for anyone. A person may feel hesitant to say much about it because they do not want to be judged by others and be seen as ungrateful or neglectful parents. For myself, feeling ashamed was a heavy weight on my shoulders, I love all my boys, but the love did not come at first sight. I had to learn how to love them. Since exploring this topic over the years, I have come to find out that my experiences were not unique. While expressions of gender-fluid behavior are prevalent in contemporary culture, and a mother can still teach her son to sew and a father can teach his daughter how to hunt, some parents continue to experience a lack of connection. They worry that they will never be able to fully bond with their child.

Social pressure on expecting parents can add even more depressive weight. Hearing from a stranger in the grocery store who says things such as “you already have 3 boys, so you should just give up on trying to have a daughter,” makes my blood boil. I have come to assume that these people, in an attempt to make small conversation, just do not really know what to say and they just repeat what has been said in the past, to them.

Other examples, of perhaps well-intentioned individuals wanting to insert themselves into an individual family narrative, can ultimately be unhelpful or even hurtful. A few of these are:

(You do not have any children.) “Oh, when are you going to have children?!”

(You have 1 child.) “Oh, when are you going to have number two?!”

(You have 2 same-gender children.) “Oh, well your next one will be the opposite gender!”

(You have 3 children.) “You are going to have to even those children out!”

(You have 4 or more children.) “Oh goodness! Your hands are full, you should stop having children!”

The comments can hurt. I would always get so bothered when people would tell me, I am a “boy-mom,” no, I am not just a boy-mom, I am fully capable of being a mother to girls too, I am just not one, yet. And, I may never be, but whether I am, or I am not, the deeply personal decision to have a child or not have a child is not something that is up for public scrutiny, nor are the complex feelings many parents grapple with.

Thankfully over the years, there is more support and literature for parents struggling with gender disappointment. We all love and care for our children intensely. But for those of us going through this experience, these emotions might not ever go away. As a mother of boys, I focus on finding ways to bond with my children even if I am not a big fan of dirt, trucks or farts. I also recognize that as humans develop the nuances of sex and gender do not necessarily follow a binary path. I seek moments of abiding joy and acknowledge the importance of seeing every child for who they are, apart from their gendered behavior.

For me, seeking professional help was also very beneficial, Facebook has supporting group pages, there are articles on a variety of websites that share personal experiences. The book Altered Dreams…Living With Gender Disappointment, written by Katherine Asbery, was a source that had helped me at a time when Google had “no related search.” I have come to realize that it is okay to feel gender disappointment, even if it does not feel right to feel that way. Finding others to talk to about these emotions, cultivating a sense of humor, and reaching out for additional resources are all ways to navigate the complicated terrain of motherhood. It is important to not feel alone on this journey. That is why I am sharing my very personal story here.