There are few television events where the commercials matter almost as much as the show: The Super Bowl is one of them and the Academy Awards are another.
More than 20 million people are expected to watch the 92nd Oscars this Sunday, February 9, but they won't be seeing the commercial Frida Mom (a brand offering postpartum recovery products for new mothers) produced for the event.
Frida Mom says its commercial was rejected by ABC for being "too graphic."
The commercial begins with a baby's cry and a tired new mom turning on her lamp and rising from bed. She's wearing a tank top, mesh underwear and a large pad and is clearly still recovering from giving birth. She waddles to the bathroom with the pain of postpartum recovery and refills a peri bottle, a plastic squirt bottle that new moms use for toileting hygiene after giving birth.
She's wincing, she's bleeding, she's in pain and she's very, very real.
And the Oscars said no to this ad. The reality of the postpartum experience is too graphic for the event. Motherly has reached out to ABC and the Academy Awards for a statement but has not yet heard back.
Chelsea Hirschhorn is the CEO of Frida and a mother of three. In a statement to Motherly, she explains: "We launched Frida Mom to prepare women for the physical transformation that coincides with a delicate transition into motherhood. Our products help women navigate the otherwise daunting postpartum recovery process. In service of that mission, we created a raw and honest portrayal of what women can expect to experience. We had hoped to share it with as broad of an audience as possible because knowledge is confidence, and a confident mother is a better, happier mother. We've made such substantial progress in advancing the conversation around postpartum recovery. While this rejection of our ad feels like a step back, it certainly won't deter us from amplifying our message through whatever channels remain available to us."
Companies pay millions of dollars for 30-seconds of airtime during the Oscars, and past years have seen ads from brands like Budweiser, Hennessy, Kinder Joy and Verizon.
In fact, last year one of Verizon's spots featured a birth story. The spot sees a mom standing in front of a plain white background describing how she was able to video chat with her husband, who was deployed overseas while giving birth to their son. She described how her husband (and his military colleagues) got to witness her birth thanks to Verizon's network, but those viewing the commercial don't see anything but a beautiful woman talking.
It seems that it's okay to talk about birth during the Oscars, but not to see the reality of what birth does to a woman.
While it is the prerogative of ABC and the Academy Awards to say what is acceptable commercial content during their broadcasts, we would encourage these organizations to consider that postpartum recovery isn't "too graphic" for primetime.
In fact, the reality presented in the Frida Mom commercial is exactly what America needs to see right now. For too long we've been ignoring what recovery from birth is really like. And when we ignore how hard postpartum recovery is it is easier to normalize sending working moms back to their job within a few weeks of giving birth or forcing recovering mothers to resume unpaid labor by denying them support during this critical time.
It takes about six to eight weeks for the uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. It takes weeks for a mother to stop bleeding. For some, it takes weeks before they can resume toileting without feeling the burn that that peri-bottle helps to soothe.
America needs to see this because we need to understand that a mother's body needs time to heal after birth, whether it was a vaginal delivery or a C-section.
As Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor and Birth Expert, has said, "You would never expect someone to clean their house a few days after having surgery, or to run errands when they are getting over the flu—so why do we expect ourselves to snap out of giving birth? Pregnancy and birth are not ailments, but they are the real deal. Be gentle on yourself, and allow your body to heal."
Too many moms don't get the time to heal. And it's time for America to see that. It shouldn't take an advertisement to make us confront this reality, but we're glad Frida Mom is telling this story (even if the Oscars won't).