MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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A Mothers’ Breastfeeding Struggles Are Not Her Fault – Blame Society

By Dee Merrit

Mothers are warriors.

If you look back on the history of birth in the U.S., 95% of infants were born at home with midwives. Promptly after birth, the child was placed on the mothers’ breast to nurse. Today, many women seem to doubt their ability to give birth naturally and breastfeed. Often society does little to support them.

Many women desire to breastfeed and though the rates have slowly been rising research shows there is still a decrease in breastfeeding rates from birth to one-year. A quick google search will show you why there is a decrease. What is not listed amidst the CDC research is how women have been taught to not trust their bodies.

In America, it is more common (and comfortable) to see women advertised in lingerie and skimpy clothing. At the same time, a woman nursing in public can publicly shamed or experience feelings of discomfort, or be judged critically. Nursing mothers are still evicted from public spaces, restaurants, and they encounter rude comments when strangers express they do not want their child(ren) exposed to breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is what our bodies are designed to do, it can be awkward and has been referred to as something to be socially discreet about.

As a mother of three boys, I would rather have them grow up knowing breasts have a purpose. Women’s bodies are uniquely formed to feed babies and also to comfort them. Additionally, nursing a newborn helps with psychological development (and so many more other beneficial things).

In some communities, mothers have access to breastfeeding help through groups like La Leche, as well as breastfeeding cafes and mother support groups. Still, some mothers struggle. It could be that many mothers continue to get false information from health care professionals who are not educated about lactation, and though health care professionals mean well, they sometimes insinuate that mothers should not trust their bodies.

All breastfeeding mothers should have access to local references from lactation professionals and be free of cruelty and judgment. If an advisor is not available, then there are other ways to connect to professional consultants including email, phone, and video chat. Unfortunately, these options are not always promoted. Many health care professionals unintentionally perpetuate myths about breastfeeding. For example, I have heard of women being told that breastfeeding can hurt; NO! Breastfeeding should not hurt! If it does, then it is a signal that something may be wrong and the nursing mother should seek help from an IBCLC. There are so many myths that continue to be perpetuated. Here are a few listed online courtesy of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF [LINK].

Even with available resources, some mothers of young children struggle just getting out of the house. They’re tired, overwhelmed, and are dealing with a  mixed bag of emotions. If they have a messy house on top of that, they may not want to entertain visitors. Believe me, no one coming to support or assist a mother with nursing is spending their energy judging a messy home. (My own kitchen has been not been cleaned since I had my first son 8 years ago and yet, I continued to have more children)!

In this shared graph from Katie Hinde, an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University, and a researcher of lactation, she shares on this brief clip on Ted Talks what little we know about breastmilk compared to other subjects.

She shares this powerful message, “Many mothers do not reach their breastfeeding goals, that is not their failure, it’s ours.”

Do nursing mothers have rights? Yes, they do. But in 2019 some mothers still struggle with being told they can not nurse in public. As recently as this summer, a woman in Texas was told she could not nurse her baby at the public pool. Even though this mother knew hew rights, this issue escalated quickly and police were called to the scene. A breastfeeding mother has rights for a reason. These rights should not only be known by mothers but by public servants as well. Government employees as well as other facilities that say they support breastfeeding mothers need to be required to read and understand breastfeeding rights for customers, as well as their employees. This can vary from state to state. Mothers nursing in public helps to expose the general public to an infant’s needs as well as the very natural act of maternal nursing.

Even though some people in the general public may be hurtful, many other breastfeeding advocates will support you. We are mothers, we have the right to feed our babies as we choose, and we will not be silenced for choosing to breastfeed whenever and wherever our child is hungry outside the home.

Sources:
https://sites.google.com/site/historyofchildbirthinamerica/historical-resources/historical-timeline
https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/results.html
https://www.unicef.org/parenting/food-nutrition/14-myths-about-breastfeeding
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/11/health/texas-breastfeeding-pool-trnd/index.html

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

Why Don’t IBLCLCs And Dentists Agree
How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Moms
Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is
Gender Disappointment

Recent Press: Cayuga News about Dee Merrit at MOM

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Why Don’t IBCLCs And Dentists agree?

By Deann Shaffner

It can be very frustrating for parents to hear from a dentist, that breastfeeding at night, or night-nursing, caused your child to have cavities. The health benefits of breastfeeding are widely promoted, but information that it might cause cavities isn’t forthcoming. That’s probably because it is may not be true. It can be confusing for a parent to hear from a professional that has studied lactation to hear from a professional that has studied teeth that they simply do not agree. One argues that night nursing isn’t a valid reason to wean, and the other insists on weaning at night because prolonged night-nursing might cause cavities.

I’d heard rumors about people who experienced situations where the dentist suggested weaning at night, but when it came time for me to experience this first-hand, I was shocked. During a tooth brushing wrestling match with my youngest son who had recently turned 2, I noticed, not just 1, but 3 dark spots! There were THREE cavities on his front teeth. I instantly felt pangs of guilt. How could I have caused this? Then, I questioned if I was brushing his teeth enough? Was he getting too much sugar in his diet? Did I not have a good brand of toothpaste? Whatever it was that caused the cavities, I had to get him in to see a dentist immediately so we could understand our options and treat the problem.

When Liam’s father came back from the dentist, he told me, “Well, Liam has cavities because he breastfeeds at night, so you have to stop nursing him at night or brush his teeth when he is done. I guess breastfeeding is just as bad as drinking a soda before bed.”

I felt so angry, I yelled, “I AM SO GLAD I AM NOT A FIRST TIME MOTHER! THAT IS NOT TRUE!”

Of course, his father looked at me like I was crazy. I was just a mom saying that my dentist, who is well educated in the study of teeth, had no idea what he was talking about. Who the heck am I to question what my dentist said? I knew from all the books I had read, podcasts of IBCLCs I had listened too, that this was a topic brought up often, and it was always discussed as a myth. I knew the resources I had to navigate, to share with other mothers stating that this was not true (like here on Kellymom.com.)

I just kept saying to myself, “breastfeeding does not cause cavities!” But again, how could I KNOW this, but my dentist did not? I knew I had an appointment for myself in the upcoming months and I decided that would be the time for me to address all my questions and offer the information I had at my disposal. I liked and respected my dentist a great deal, even though I was angered by what he said. In the past, he had made our family feel comfortable, even though he was a very young dentist.

I asked my dentist a variety of questions on the day of my appointment. First, I inquired about what sources for education on breastfeeding and tooth decay he had access too. Then, I asked how he knew exactly what caused my son’s cavities? Lastly, I wanted to discuss why IBCLCs and dentists don’t agree.

Before answering my questions, I could interpret that he felt uncomfortable and that he was not expecting this kind of conversation. The direct questioning of his authority surprised him. He explained to me that he did not have any lactation education. He then shared a brief description from a study in 1984, of the relation of night nursing and cavities in the book Dental Caries: The Disease and It’s Clinical Management on pages 344-347. Then, he then also explained that when my son nurses at night, the breastmilk may sometimes pool around the front of the teeth, which may lead to the cavities.

breastfeeding baby

I knew what he was describing was baby bottle rot. This is because when breastfeeding, the nipple goes far enough to the back of the throat, which does not leave much room for breastmilk to go anywhere but down the throat. But, before I could say anything else, he quickly reminded me that he supports breastfeeding and that I just had to brush my son’s teeth throughout the night when he nurses. With my last question on why IBCLCs and Dentists don’t agree, he simply did not have an answer for me. This upset me because I felt concerned about other new parents (this was my second child) might interpret the conflicting information available to them.

The 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding states, “There is no evidence that nighttime nursing causes cavities. Other mammals with teeth nurse day and night, and they don’t get cavities.

Dr. Brian Palmer studied children’s skulls that were thousands of years old. These skulls were preserved prior to the invention of toothpaste. He found almost no evidence of cavities. Why would this be? One reason is that “human milk does not pool around the teeth during nursing; it is pulled instantly toward the throat and swallowed,” (Pg. 241).

A lot has certainly changed over millennia of human life, including diets and how we live. But, what hasn’t changed is a baby’s wiring to breastfeed, and to receive human milk. Can breastfed children get cavities? Of course, but saying breastfeeding alone is what causes problems, is incorrect. In my own experience, my breastfed son, who was also introduced to a variety of milk including soymilk, almond milk, whole milk, and was also eating whole foods, I probably did not brush his teeth as often as I should have been. My other son had nursed for almost 2 years and at 5 he never had a cavity. My Dentist did not ask me about Liam’s diet, but as soon as breastfeeding came up, the issue of cavities was blamed on that. I do not accept that reasoning.

I’m sure in both the professions of IBCLC and of dentistry, the newest scientific information is relevant and accessible. But, how often do dentists actually get updated on lactation research? And, how often are we studying this issue? There are breastfeeding-friendly dentists sprinkled throughout the U.S., but not everyone has the means to visit with one.

If you’re experiencing a recommendation to night-wean in order to avoid cavities, it might be best to look for the most recent research. Then, as with everything else, make as informed a decision as possible. Evaluate what works best for you and your family, and make sure you’re wiping your child’s teeth twice a day, especially at night. No matter how you feed your child, you cannot 100% protect them from cavities. But, you can help prevent them as much as possible. Cavities can happen to any child, but breastfeeding alone is not the answer to why children may develop dental problems.

Congratulations to Deann for a recent press article at Cayuga NewsDecorative Image Only

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Moms

Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Gender Disappointment

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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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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.

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Sociology Opens Our Eyes to New Ways of Seeing the World!

This summer, extreme weather rocks America and pundits debate while August arrives all too quickly. Since July 1st, accounting majors, economics majors, and students of literature have been increasing their knowledge and vocabulary about important issues that affect us all by studying sociology. These students are hard at work exploring theoretical assertions about race, class, and gender in an online summer intensive Introduction to Sociology course, specifically framed around the Sociology of Family.

Using texts that explore gestation, birth, and caregiving, authors Barbara Katz Rothman, Phyllis Chesler, Patricia Hill Collins, and Keisha Goode (to name a few), explore women’s experiences, racial disparities, and gendered labor. This week, we read the latest media stories on wombs, trans-birth, uterus transplants, and self-identified men as mothers. We have all been scrambling for new definitions and fresh ways of thinking about gestation as well as parenting.

As part of a service-learning portion of an Intro to Sociology class, students were asked to take a piece of construction paper or plain white paper and mark in bold words a minimum of 5 words that best describe “mother” and “father”. We have been complicating those basic notions ever since.

Thinking about the authors we are studying assert about biology and gender, coupled with recent medical and policy developments, motherhood is more complicated than ever! The students were invited to revisit their original posters and articulate some of the information that has influenced their perspective in recent weeks. Some of their notes are below:

Words Added:

–       Gender Neutral:

·      The readings from this week highlighted the problems associated with gendered parenting

·       Mothers struggle with work because of the perception that they are obligated to care for their home and children

·       Men do not feel obligated to do any parenting work but feel an overwhelming obligation to provide economically for their families

·      Both genders are equally capable of parenting in the form of motherhood and fatherhood

·      everyone including children would be better off if parental duties were split equally

·      All other words on the poster represent things my mother, grandparents, and stepfather did and that I wish my father had participated in

·      Not parenting is a personal choice not a gendered choice

–       Parent:

·      Added for reasons listed above

·      Parent should imply the same duties regardless of the parent’s gender

       Present:

·      Being present is an essential part of parenthood that I did not think about until I watched “Glen Henry got his Superpowers Through Fatherhood”

–       Care:

·      “Mothering is most likely done by a female due to our society’s definition of the word ‘mother.’ The action of mothering however is simply caring for another.” [Castaneda and Oware]

–       Guide

–       Educate

·      Guide and educate were both terms I did not think to put until I though in the context of parenthood rather than motherhood

·      Gendered expectations affect us all and are very pervasive

Assertion Statement:

Replace motherhood and fatherhood with parenthood

Father
• Tenderhearted
• Empathetic
• Compassionate
• Honest
• Supportive
• Sacrificing
• Wise
“A healthier masculinity can only be achieved if we acknowledge that “Tough” and “Strong” aren’t the only 2 characteristics men can be.”

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TRACKING THE COURSE OF MUTINY AGAINST THE TYRANNY

Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019 

Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.

This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.

‘All The Rage’ Isn’t About Moms Having It All — It’s About Moms Doing It All’

NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019

On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s

The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].

Feminism & Motherhood

As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]

There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].

This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.

So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.

Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.

Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.

So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).

Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK

” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”

The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.

TRACKING THE COURSE OF MUTINY AGAINST THE TYRANNY OF PARENTAL EXPECTATIONS

December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune

“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”

And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.

Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.

“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”

LINK to article

We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.

*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama