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In the absence of ‘the village,’ mothers struggle most

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Dear mothers,

I'm writing you today because I can no longer contain the ache in my gut and fire in my heart over an injustice that you and I are bearing the brunt of.

Though this injustice is affecting everyone, mothers not only feel its burden more than most, but we also feel disproportionately responsible for alleviating its pervasive and deeply damaging symptoms, which is adding hugely to the weight of the world we're already wired to carry.

The injustice is this:

It takes a village, but there are no villages.

By village I don't simply mean "a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area." I'm referring to the way of life inherent to relatively small, relatively contained multigenerational communities. Communities within which individuals know one another well, share the joys, burdens, and sorrows of everyday life, nurture one another in times of need, mind the well-being of each other's ever-roaming children and increasingly dependent elderly, and feel fed by their clearly essential contribution to the group that securely holds them.

I'm talking about the most natural environment for children to grow up in.

I'm talking about a way of life we are biologically wired for, but that is nearly impossible to find in developed nations.

I'm talking about the primary unmet need driving the frustration that most every village-less mother is feeling. Though the proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" has become cliché, the impact of our village-less realities is anything but insignificant. It's wreaking havoc on our quality of life in countless ways.

In the absence of the village…

—Enormous pressure is put on parents as we try to make up for what entire communities used to provide.

—Our priorities become distorted and unclear as we attempt to meet so many conflicting needs at once.

—We feel less safe and more anxious without the known boundaries, expectations and support of a well-known group of people with whom to grow.

—We're forced to create our tribes during seasons of our life when we have the least time and energy to do so.

—We tend to hold tight to our ideals and parenting paradigms, even when doing so divides us, in an attempt to feel safer and less overwhelmed by so many ways and options.

—Our children's natural way of being is compromised, as most neighborhoods and communities no longer contain packs of roaming children with whom they can explore, create and nurture their curiosity.

—We run around like crazy trying to make up for the interaction, stimulation and learning opportunities that were once within walking distance.

—We forget what "normal" looks and feels like, which leaves us feeling as if we're not doing enough, or enough of the "right" things.

—Depression and anxiety skyrocket, particularly during seasons of our lives when we instinctively know we need more support than ever but don't have the energy to find it.

—We feel disempowered by the many responsibilities and pressures we're trying so hard to keep up with.

—We spend money we don't have on things we don't need in an attempt to fill the voids we feel.

—We rely heavily on social media for a sense of connection, which often leads us to feel even more isolated and inadequate.

—We feel lonely and unseen, even when we're surrounded by people.

—Our partnerships are heavily burdened by the needs that used to be spread among communities, and our expectations of loved ones increase to unrealistic levels.

—We feel frequently judged and misunderstood.

—We feel guilty for just about everything: not wanting or having time to be our children's primary playmates, not working enough, working too much, allowing too much screen time in order to keep up with our million perceived responsibilities, etc.

—Joy, lightness and fun feel hard to access.

—We think we're supposed to be independent, and feel ashamed of our need for others.

—We make decisions that don't reflect our values but our deeply unmet needs.

Perhaps most tragically of all, the absence of the village is distorting many mothers' sense of self. It's causing us to feel that our inadequacies are to blame for our struggles, which further perpetuates the feeling that we must do even more to make up for them.

It's a trap. A self-perpetuating cycle. A distorted reality that derives its strength from the oppressive mindsets still in place despite our freedoms.

Here's a new mindset to try on for size.

You and I are not the problem at all. WE ARE DOING PLENTY. We may feel inadequate, but that's because we're on the front lines of the problem, which means we're the ones being hardest hit. We absorb the impact of a broken, still-oppressive social structure so that our children won't have to.

That makes us heroes, not failures.

No, we're not oppressed in the same ways that we used to be (nor in the ways other women around the world still are), but make no mistake about it:

In the absence of the village, we're disadvantaged like never before. We may have more freedoms than our foremothers, but our burden remains disproportionately, oppressively heavy.

Since the beginning of time (and until very recently), mothers have borne life's burdens together. We scrubbed our clothes in the streams while laughing at splashing toddlers and mourning the latest loss of love or life. We wove, sewed, picked, tidied or mended while swapping stories and minding our aging grandmothers. We tended one another's wounds (both physical and emotional), relied on one another for strength when times were tough, and sought counsel from our community's wise, experienced and cherished elders.

Village life fostered a sense of safety, inclusivity, purpose, acceptance and importance. These essential elements of thriving were built in.

Now? We're being forced to create all of that for ourselves within a society that has physically and energetically restructured itself around a whole new set of priorities. It's a profits before people model that threatens the well-being of nearly everything we mothers are wired to protect.

Though I'm optimistic and hopeful by nature, this dilemma has left me discouraged many times over the years. How does an entire nation of mothers shift a storyline this massive while individually and collectively weakened by the absence of the very thing we so desperately need?

Major cultural shifts in prioritization, structure and power are clearly in order (and I do believe they're happening, however chaotically). In the meantime, each of us has a choice to make:

We can buy into, make peace with, and conform to the way things are, or exercise the freedoms our foremothers and fathers won for us and commit to doing our unique and essential part in creating change, starting within us and working our way out.

You and I aren't likely to experience what it's like to raise children in an actual village, but that's okay. That's not what this generation is about. This generation is about waking up to who we really are and what we really want, and resetting society's sails accordingly.

Playing your part in the re-villaging of our culture starts with being wholly, unapologetically, courageously YOU.

Here are a few tangible steps you can take whenever you're ready:

1. Get really clear on one thing.

The fact that you're struggling is not a reflection of your inadequacies, but the unnatural cultural circumstances you're living within.

2. Own + honor your needs.

Most mothers are walking around with several deeply unmet needs of their own while focusing almost exclusively on the needs of others. This is precisely the thing that keeps us from gaining traction and improving our circumstances, both individually and collectively.

3. Practice vulnerability.

Rich, safe, authentic connection is essential for thriving. Cultivating this quality of connection takes courage and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. What you want most exists on the other side of that initial awkward conversation or embarrassing introduction.

4. Own your strengths.

What makes you feel strong and fully alive? What lights you up and gives you energy just thinking about it? Who would you be to your village if you had one? Tapping into your strengths and engaging them is one of the greatest ways to attract the kinds of people you want into your life, bless and inspire others, and build a sense of community in ways that fill rather than drain you.

5. Become an integral part of something.

Whether it's a knitting group, dance troupe, church, kayaking club or homeschool collective, commit to growing community around one area of your life that enlivens you or fills a need. Use the connections you cultivate within this community to practice showing up bravely and authentically and asking for what you need, whether that's support, resources or encouragement.

6. Do your part + ONLY your part.

Though it's tempting to fill our lives to the brim with commitments that make a difference, doing so only further disempowers us. Read Essentialism by Greg McKeown if you struggle with this one.

7. Learn self-love + self-compassion.

In a culture of "never enough" it is essential that we forge healthy relationships with ourselves in order to be able to fend off the many messages hitting us about who we're meant to be and what makes us worthy of happiness and love. In fact, I see self-love in action as the greatest gift our generation of mothers could possibly give to the mothers of tomorrow.

8. Speak your truth.

Even when you're terrified. Even if it makes you the bravest one in the room.

9. Imagine a new way.

Where we're headed looks nothing like where we've come from. Creating the kind of future we want requires envisioning that future and believing a new way to be possible. Get specific and think big. What do you want?

I've tasted village life.

—During college, when my tribe of idealists and dreamers were all within walking distance, and we'd yet to subscribe to "adult" social rules that told us what what was most important.

—When my young adult cousins lived with us for several months at a time. I've never enjoyed motherhood more than those days when I knew that the needs of the children, home and its individuals were joyfully shared among eager, loving souls.

—On retreat with other women, when each of us was reminded how very similar our struggles were and how very desperate we all feel for consistent support, everyday interaction, healing, lightness and ease.

—At outdoor festivals, when the village is re-created, if only for a weekend of camping, and everyone settles into a communal way, cooperative rhythm and lighter state of being.

—During the time I spent with Mayan mothers in impoverished rural Mexico. There I witnessed the blessings made possible by the presence of a tribe, however disadvantaged.

My soul was fed deeply during those time periods. Every time I get a taste of what we're missing, I become strengthened and hopeful again. THAT is the energy needed to create change. THAT is what the powers that be don't want us to feel.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know this:

We're supposed to be crying, celebrating, falling down and rising together.

We're supposed to have grandmothers and aunts and neighbors and cousins sharing the everyday moments, guiding us and helping us see the sacredness in the insanity.

We're supposed to be nurtured for months postpartum, cared for when we're sick, held while we mourn, and supported during challenging transitions.

And our children are supposed to cradled and allowed to grow within the social structures WE deem best for them.

Find yourself, then find your people. Or do it the other way around. Just don't settle. Don't ever settle for a way of life created by those who don't honor your soul and cherish your babies.

Change-making right alongside you,

Beth

A version of this article was originally published on Revolution from Home.

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It's 5 pm. You just got home from a busy day at work, dinner is nowhere close to being started, and the afternoon shenanigans have taken ahold of your little ones. They need some time to decompress from their busy day and, let's be honest, you need a few moments to transition into the last part of yours, too.

Your child asks, "Mooooom? Can I watch a show?"

Cue parenting inner-dilemma.

You want to say yes, but you also have fears about technology. How much is too much? Is it bad for my children? Will it isolate my children from me?

Sara DeWitt, the vice president of PBS KIDS Digital, said in her TED Talk that this last question is a big concern for parents. We desperately want to be connected to our children, and for our children to be connected to the world.

Unfortunately, she says, the "fear and skepticism about these devices hold us back from their potential." The truth is, high-quality educational screen time can actually build connections (more on that in a minute). Even more exciting, did you know that the right screen time can help your child develop empathy?

Empathy is a skill, but as a society, we are losing it. A shocking study found that empathy drops by about 40% by the time kids get to college. In a world fraught with inequities, divisiveness and conflict, rebuilding empathy is paramount. Motherly mamas agree. In the 2019 State of Motherhood survey, you told us that your top priority was to nurture kindness with your children.

But how do we do this? Telling our child to "be a kind person" is great, but in order to truly understand, they need to see empathy in context. By using digital content as a prompt for communication and conversation, it becomes one of the many tools we have at our disposal to help guide our children on the path to becoming empathic, kind people.

Enter PBS KIDS.

Raun D. Melmed, MD, FAAP, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and author of the Monster Diary series told us that, "our children have unprecedented access to wonderful educational opportunities through digital media. Interactive, nonjudgmental apps can enhance cognitive development (processing and organization, visual-spatial awareness, pattern recognition and even reading), social and emotional awareness, and even moral development."

When we control technology—and not the other way around—the potential is enormous.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it's critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS."

Researchers looked at the impact of watching PBS KIDS' series, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and the results were pretty inspiring. Children who watched the show for 30 minutes each day for two weeks demonstrated improved empathy, the ability to recognize emotions and increased social confidence.

But, here's the catch: In order to experience this growth, children needed to have recurrent conversations about what they saw with their parents.

Nicole Dreiske, Executive Director of the International Children's Media Center and author of The Upside of Digital Devices: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart encourages parents to utilize screen time "in the same way that they would use story time: to build trust, emotional intelligence, and empathy." By spending just 10 minutes discussing what happened in a show, children can experience significant benefits.

Knowing the science behind the benefits of screen time is great. But when that afternoon struggle hits, it can be hard to remember exactly what to do, so DeWitt encourages parents to make a plan—here's how.

How to make a screen time plan for your family

Ask yourself the following two questions:

1. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time?

Do you want them to have an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box? Pull up PBS KIDS ScratchJr. Is there something going on at home or in school that requires learning about sharing? Share the "Daniel Shares his Tigertastic Car" episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with them.

Consider your goals, and then choose media accordingly.

2. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time? How can it support our family schedule and priorities?

It is okay to factor your needs into the equation, mama. Deriving benefit from your child's screen time is no need to feel guilty. Go ahead and start dinner, or send that email, or yes (gasp), put your feet up and relax for a bit.

Once you've figured out your 'why,' it's time to consider the 'how.'

1. Communicate the plan to your kids (and be clear about limits).

Kids do best with clear boundaries and expectations. This will be especially important if you are implementing changes to how screen time is done in your home.

You could say, "You can play the Wild Kratts game for 30 minutes while I work on dinner, and then we are going to go outside and flap our wings as bats do! Do you think we should eat mosquitos for dinner like they do?!"

Before you start the show, Dreiske recommends planting the communication seed: "Today we're going to notice what we're feeling and what the characters are feeling."

2. Discuss what your kid played or watched.

When screen time is over, strike up a conversation. Dreiske suggests open-ended questions that help to "[create] a special space in which your child feels safe enough emotionally to confide in you about their experiences. Let the child's emotion or feelings 'lead' the talk rather than being obscured by your feelings." You can try the following starters:

  • How did you feel when… ? Why?
  • How do you think that character felt?
  • What if that happened to one of your friends?

3. Find a balance of activities.

Like everything in life, screen time is best in moderation. It is important that children know that screen time is one of the many options they have for activities. Exercise, outdoor play, reading, coloring and more are also incredibly important.

If there is a show or game your child particularly loves, DeWitt suggests finding the non-screen time version of it. "For example, if the kids in Dinosaur Train start a nature collection, suggest a nature walk through your neighborhood after they've watched. If your child likes Ready Jet Go!, use the Ready Jet Go Space Explorer app to look at the stars together and then continue exploring the night sky away from the screen. In other words, we can make digital media as a jumping off point for family fun!"

Sara DeWitt writes, "It helps to remember digital media is simply a tool, just like books, toys and art supplies. As parents, we have the power to decide how and when to use these tools with our kids."

When used thoughtfully, and with love, high-quality screen time is an incredibly powerful way to foster empathy and kindness in the next generation.

This article is sponsored by PBS KIDS. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's been a hard week of hard news. It's tough to hear about what is happening to the detained immigrant children and feel helpless (but you're not—you can help, mama) and sometimes our brains just need a break.

We have been updating information on this situation all week long, and so we totally understood when Chrissy Teigen took to social media on Wednesday asking for a feed that would only let you see happy posts.

"I would use that today," Teigen wrote.

Don't worry Chrissy, we've got you covered. Here are seven adorable video posts from our archive to make Chrissy and all the other mamas happy today.

1. Viral video of dad helping daughter hula hoop

#dadgoals 😍

(via parents @mayaturnipseed + @djkingseed)

This video has been viewed so many times on our Facebook page because it is just that good. Watch this and try not to smile, we dare you.

There is nothing sweeter than a dad playing with his baby, and there is a ton of scientific evidence showing that when dads are involved like this father is, kids reap all kinds of developmental benefits and can even end up with higher self-esteem as they grow.

One of Motherly's Facebook commenter's said it best: "This is the best video ever. The bond between father and daughter is priceless ❤️"

2. Adorable video of little girl meeting Mickey Mouse

This little girl's reaction to meeting Mickey will make your day. 💕

Seriously, turn the audio up because this is the cutest thing. We all get a little star struck when we meet a celeb and this 2-year-old is no exception.

"Hi Mickey!" she shouts (over, and over).

She just couldn't get enough hugs from the famous mouse (honestly, we would be super excited, too) who was a really good sport and sang to his little fan, making her day (and ours).

The Magic Kingdom really is magic.

3. Viral video of a dad adoring his newborn daughter

She's definitely going to be a daddy's girl. 😍

This is going to melt your heart. If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: There is nothing sweeter than a man loving his child, and this proud dad obviously can't get enough of his baby girl.

"You're the best thing that ever happened to me," he coos at her, making her smile.

"You're my best friend," he tells her.

A study found when parents chat with their babies like this it can help infants recognize people, places and things.

Another study found that when parents use baby talk, babies may learn to talk faster.

This is a daddy-daughter duo that is going to be having a lot of these conversations for years to come. This baby is beautiful and so is their bond.

4. Hilarious video of babies that scoot, slide and army crawl

Check out these babies who are just figuring out how to get where they want to go, by any means possible.

Whether it's a scoot, a slide, or a crawl that's not quite a crawl, these babies are finding creative ways to get mobile.

"There is a big age range for when babies start to crawl (and some never do), so don't worry if yours has not started," notes Dr. Tovah Klein.

She continues: "Being mobile is very exciting—[your baby] can move on her own and that is an enormous shift for her. Soon she will be able to pull up to standing, which is thrilling as well. She has more control of her world and being upright gives her a new view of her world."

These moves in the video may not be true baby steps, but they are baby steps to baby steps, if you get what we mean.

5. Viral video shows NICU 'graduate' in cap and gown

After 160 days in the NICU, baby Cullen Potter was carried by his primary care nurse, Jewel Barbour, as he "graduated" from the NICU, in attire fitting of such a momentous milestone: A tiny cap and gown.

The little graduate, Cullen was born weighing three ounces shy of a pound.and was no bigger than a can of soda. Over the next five months, the Potters went back and back and forth from their home in Florida to the hospital in Mobile, Alabama to be with Cullen.

Getting to graduation day was a big achievement for Cullen, his thankful parents and the amazing medical team who took such good care of him.

"It was an overwhelming sense of joy. It didn't feel real. We were going to walk out with our baby after five long months. We can never say thank you enough to the nurses and doctors as staff at the hospital. They saved our baby," Cullen's mom, Molli Potter told Motherly last year.

6. Viral video of a baby in a dinosaur costume will make your day

BRB, ordering all of our babies Dino costumes for Halloween.

Did you know that your kid's dinosaur obsession is really good for them? This little baby could be crawling toward an obsession that will serve them well.

A 2007 study published in the journal Developmental Research, found about 1 in 3 young children will develop an "intense interest" at some point, and dinosaur obsessions rank really high in what they are interested in.

"It makes them feel powerful," paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara told CNN. "Their parent may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority."

This baby can't say "dinosaur" yet, but they sure are a cute one.

7. Adorable video of dad pretending to have a conversation with his baby goes viral

Baby breaks the internet babbling to dad 😍

Motherly recently caught up with proud parents DJ Pryor + @Shanieke Pryor—about their adorable 19-month-old son Kingston who has warmed all our hearts. 💕

"I know every parent probably thinks this—but seeing his growth every day and how he interprets what he sees—it's thrilling to me," DJ told Motherly.

These two cuties went viral and then they booked a Denny's commercial! Talk about an adorable grand slam!

[Correction: A previous version stated that we had rounded up four viral videos, when in fact there were seven. We've corrected our error and regret to admit that we've never been good at math.]

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News

My oldest has been expressing herself with clothing, shoes, costumes, hats, jewelry, gloves and bows (lots of bows) for two years now, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. She's five, but her love for styling herself independently began around age three. She loves colors and patterns and prints. (Especially when there are lots of different ones together in one outfit.) Mixing and matching and over-accessorizing is her love language.

She will come out of her room and declare herself ready to go—in the MOST creative concoctions I have ever seen. Truly. Lady Gaga's got nothin' on this 5-year-old fashionista.

There was the time she wore her green frog dance recital costume (including the hat and gloves) with a Christmas Rudolph sweater over it and mermaid leggings under it—to the grocery store.

There was the time she wore a furry unicorn onesie with heart-shaped sunglasses that looked like they came straight out of Elton John's closet and clip-on earrings—to music class.

And then there was the time—oh wait, it's most of the time—when she layers (there are always so many layers). Because, honey, a t-shirt and leggings are just the base layer! After that, you need to add jean shorts over the leggings, a dress over the t-shirt, a cardigan over the dress and you must always remember to pack a small carry-on size back of backup outfits anywhere you go.

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Then, and only then, will you be ready for the day.

This place we are now—where my kids dress (mostly) however they want—took some time to get to. I have not always been comfortable with the layering (is that tank top really necessary over that long-sleeved shirt?!) and the mixing of colors and patterns makes my inner-perfectionist want to shout, "THAT DOESN'T MATCH! NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT!"

But, over time, I've trained myself to say instead, "You look awesome! Nice outfit!" as long as it's weather appropriate.

Because, it's their body they're dressing—not mine.

It's their way of expressing themselves—not mine.

It affects their mood—it should not affect mine.

I don't have control over their bodies and choices, and I don't want that. I aim to be their guide, helping and assisting when necessary. I have let go of aiming for or wanting control.

If it's good for them. It's good for me. They are learning how to make their own choices, how to dress and get ready for the day independently, and it takes one thing off of my very long to-do list. It's a win-win for everyone, really. (Let's skip the topic of dealing with meltdowns over not being able to wear your swimsuit and flip flops when it's snowing out for another essay…😂)

So to the mother who has let their child dress themselves today—I FEEL you. I see you. I am you.

I see that your child also has 5+ bows in their hair and a layer of leggings, shorts and a skirt on.

I see that your child has a Spiderman costume on with a shark sweatshirt over it and a PJ Mask cape attached to the back.

And I see that your child has every color of the rainbow on, plus their shoes on the wrong feet.

My friend, I salute you.

I know that your kiddo dressed themselves and I want to give you both a big high five. I know this life well. And I know you too might wonder, What are people going to think with this outfit on? That I'm not teaching my kids to look presentable? That I don't care enough to tell them that their shoes are on the wrong feet?

I know that's not the case.

I know you're showing your child what having control over their own body looks like.

I know you're allowing them to feel free creatively in their expression of themselves.

I know you're helping to shape them into confident humans.

I know you're choosing your battles wisely.

And I know you told them that their feet may be more comfortable if they switched their shoes around, but they swear they like how it feels that way.

We've learned over the past few years from my kid's favorite movie soundtracks, Annie, that "you're never fully dressed without a smile"—but little did those lyricists know they should have added, "and also at least three layers of various items of clothing, three bows and three additional accessories of your choosing!" (That doesn't have quite the same ring to it though, now does it?)

Happy dressing! 😉

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Life

If there's one day a year we can't wait for, it's Amazon Prime Day. We love a good deal (one of our editors *just* got through the dish soap she ordered last year!) and we prefer to do our shopping from the comforts of our home.

That's why we're even more excited about the news that just released—Prime Day 2019 will be two full days, starting on midnight (PT) Monday, July 15 through just before midnight on Tuesday, July 16. 🙌

Amazon announced that it'll feature more than one million deals, and some have already started. You can browse all of the Prime Day launches here. Amazon released these deal sneak peeks:



How to get the most of Prime Day 2019:

1. Check your membership

If you're not a Prime member yet, you can sign up here for a 30 day free membership to get in on the deals on Prime Day 2019! The annual shopping event is reserved for members so make sure you're logged into a Prime account to shop.

2. Browse Amazon products

While all of the deals aren't available, Amazon's products typically always go on sale so take a look ahead of time to know what you'd like to add to your list. We love the Echo Show for video calling grandparents, the Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet for indestructible devices for kids, and the Echo Dot for asking all of the questions.

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3. Track products + lightning deals

There are only a certain number of items that qualify for the deal and they can go fast. You can use the Amazon App to track upcoming deals and set it to notify you when that deal is about to begin. Sold out? See if there's a waitlist option—if an item becomes available, you'll be added to the line to be notified.

4. Make a list

It can be tempting to order all of the things because they seem like a good deal, but remember that deals happen throughout the year, too. To avoid having a million boxes showing up at your doorstep (guilty 🤷♀️) make a list of what you really need for the year. Think: Birthday presents, holiday shopping, household goods you always use, that item you'd love to treat yourself to, a stroller you desperately need. If it's on the list, don't hesitate to buy so you don't miss out.

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For a lot of mothers, the way they become mothers is different from how they imagined, and for House of Card's Kate Mara that was true. Her journey wasn't exactly how she pictured it, but it is one so many mothers can relate to.

Mara recently opened up about how her first pregnancy ended in an miscarriage, and her second ended with an emergency C-section and a blood transfusion. In a two-part interview for the Informed Pregnancy podcast, Mara told prenatal chiropractor, childbirth educator and labor doula Dr. Elliot Berlin about her experience, and it is definitely a story about the strength of mothers.

Kate Mara is refreshingly honest about her misscarriage 

Mara explains that she first told her husband, fellow actor Jamie Bell, about her pregnancy when they were stopped at a red light. "I turned to him and I was like, 'Is now a bad time to show you this?' " she tells Berlin. "I showed him the [test] stick. He was at a stop light, and he just burst out laughing and was like, 'Oh, my God. How is that possible?'"

"It was the first time I've ever been pregnant, and I've never had that excitement and shock of being an almost mom," says Mara.

She continues: "That just was such a special sort of reveal."

Unfortunately, about eight weeks into her pregnancy Mara learned something was wrong. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a blighted ovum, a type of early miscarriage where a fertilized egg doesn't continue to develop into an embryo.
Weeks later, the pregnancy officially ended with a miscarriage. "Everything just took so much time, by the time it was all over. It just dragged out forever," Mara explains.

Kate Mara's birth story didn't go as planned (but she wouldn't change it) 

After her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, Mara did get pregnant again but was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis, a liver condition that can make mothers extremely itchy in late pregnancy and can result in complications as serious as stillbirth.

Mara's medical team determined the safest thing to do was induce her a month early, dashing her dreams of an unmedicated home birth. Instead, she spent several days laboring at the hospital and did get an epidural. Eventually, though, things took a serious turn as her temperature spiked to unmanageable levels and she needed to be rushed to the OR for a C-section.

"Right before I went in for the C-section, that's when I sort of [felt] the devastation of it and the disappointment of not being able to experience a birth any way that I had hoped," Mara tells Berlin.

She goes on: "I was so scared to have the C-section, to have this surgery. I was genuinely terrified of what that meant and what could happen and all of these things, and then of course just being tired made me that much more scared, I think."

Once her baby girl was born and safe, it became clear that Mara was not. She'd needed a blood transfusion during the operation and was experiencing something a lot of C-section mamas know all too well—the post-surgery shakes. These tremors kept her from holding her baby.

"My husband brought her over to me and he kind of held her on my chest and it was amazing, but it was not at all what I imagined it would be. I could barely keep my eyes open to look at her."

Mara was sad that day because her birth experience didn't go as she'd hoped, but she also says that looking back, she wouldn't do a thing differently. Everything that was done was done for really serious medical reasons and her baby girl ended up with the best outcome.

It's okay to feel either sad, happy (or both) when your birth plans change 

Kate Mara's C-section story is like a lot of moms', and her feelings are totally valid, say experts.

According to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C-sections are super common, representing about 32% of all births in the United States, but emergency cesareans can be so stressful. "The emergency nature of C-sections leads [some mothers] to feel out of control, as well as fear that there will be harm to the baby or themselves," Dr. Sarah Allen, a Chicago psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.

Mara's worst fears did not come true that day, but her dream of motherhood did. And that is why she doesn't look back on her birth and regret the interventions. She was scared, but she was so strong and she's telling her story in the hopes of lending some strength to other mamas.

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